Sunday, October 25, 2009

Exacompta Basics Sketchbook Review - Part 3 of the Exaclair Swag Fest

I finally managed to get a good sunny day to take pictures of several types of media I tried out in the Exacompta Basics Sketchbook mentioned earlier. Like the previously reviewed Quo Vadis Habana and Rhodia Webnotebook, this was part of a package sent by Karen Doherty of Exaclair, the enviably responsive US distributor of products in the Clairefontaine family.

As beautiful as all the notebooks were, this was easily the most striking and most pleasant to hold in the hand, owing to the leather-like Madeira cover. Usually fake leather feels really cheezy, but not this. It's warm and flexible to the touch, and lightly embossed with a faux grain and stitching.


The book itself is clothbound with a cardboard cover, very much like the Clairefontaine "Age Bag" notebooks I've used over the years. In fact, other than the imprinted logo and slightly narrower format, you could easily mistake the two - except for the multicoloured ribbon marker, gold edging, and most importantly, the paper.


Rather than the smooth white 90 g paper you'd normally find in a Clairefontaine notebook, the Exacompta sketchbook contains a 100g light cream laid paper. This is produced in the same plant that makes G. Lalo stationery, thus the paper is lightly textured, one side more markedly than the other. Both sides are highly compatible with fountain pen inks.


However, it is a sketchbook - so I pulled out several pencils and pens to see how the paper behaved. Caveat: I am not an artist. I am someone who scribbles on notepaper during lectures and napkins while waiting for a meal, and I use sketchbooks as a rationale for buying colorful pencils and many pens. That disclosure aside, here are some charts with various media. All pictures are clickable to larger pictures at Flickr.

I tried:

0.35 Rapidosketch with India Ink
superfine Pitt Artist Pen in black and sepia
0.3 mm Pilot drawing pen
0.5 mm Sakura Pigment Micron
Pentel pocket Brush pen for calligraphy

Neocolor II watersoluble crayons
Derwent Inktense watersoluble pencils
Derwent Graphitint pencils
Winsor & Newton watercolours (I think).




Since the pictures are pretty clearly labelled, I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow of every single one, just summarize to say that colours stay beautifully bright and clean, with a minimal of buckling when wet. It's easy to pick up colour from one area and transfer it to another. The slightly muddy looking colours in the brush pen page is more an issue of having not cleaned my paint box recently, and nothing to do with the paper.

All pen inks went down smoothly with clean, sharp, lines, and none bled through or feathered. The only potential drawback is that due to the slight texture of the laid paper, I don't think I would use a pen much narrower than the .35 mm Rapidosketch - that is probably the smallest size I would feel comfortable with on this paper.

The paper is ideal for pencil, as well. I tried a 4B and HB Staedtler lumograph and the slight tooth was perfect for pencil use. The only potential drawback is that the texture makes it somewhat difficult to erase cleanly, but that occurs with many other papers and not a major drawback to the overall quality of the paper.

The laid texture does show up more prominently on one side than the other, which means that depending on where you are in the signature, you will have either the smoother or laid side facing you. It may or may not matter to you, but you certainly have the ability to choose which side to work on if you wish. The centre of the signature, however, will only show you the smoother side if you wanted to do a double page spread.

All in all, this is a book that I really enjoyed testing and continue to enjoy using. If I were the sort of girl to hug a book to my chest and spin around in delight, this is the book that would make me do that. However, I'm not, so instead, I just stuff it in my bag and carry it around and shout "don't touch that" whenever a member of my family ventures near it.

I have plenty of sketchbooks, all of which I use at some point or another, but among the virtues of this one is that it lies flat WITHOUT hateful spirals that drive me nuts, or the annoying hump in the middle that some notebooks have. I thought at first that the gold edging and ribbon marker, not to mention the vibrant Madeira cover would make it seem too "nice" for everyday use, but that hasn't been the case at all. It's just the right size to carry around, the right balance between flexibility and stiffness, and the paper seems happy to take anything you care to throw at it. I've already ordered a few for my children, one of the rare times that I actually order something from out of the country. I like it that much.

Read more reviews on this sketchbook at:

Dizzy Pen

Lung Sketching Scrolls

Spiritual Evolution of the Bean

The Inkophile

Many thanks again to Karen of Exaclair for the chance to try these wonderful products!


Anonymous said...

Excellent review! I particularly enjoyed the in depth art portion of this review. Oh that I were even half as talented.

Anonymous said...

Try Boorum and Pease 2100 series columnar notebooks. I'm pretty sure many of the older R. Crumb sketchbooks were drawn in these books.

They're larger than the typical notebooks you see these days, and lined.

Acid-free paper. Opens flat. Solid, solid, solid construction. Made to last.

Sophie_vf said...

Charles - is that you? :)

I can see using these books as a journal, not so much as a sketchbook, though. Would you have any examples of how they take pencil, paint etc?

Anonymous said...

When i first found them in NYC years ago ,these books came (ref 992) with its own leather like- cover , not the cardboard one of today. I still have a few of those original ones . I had spoken to them about continuing to make them, but they must have decided on the slip cover instead.
Pity-but still a great book -I paint in watercolor happily in them.