Part III Stillman and Birn Alpha Review and Creating a Font

To read this review starting with Part I, click here.

Somebody wrote to me yesterday and asked, "Isn't part of the pleasure the feel of the paper itself?  Wouldn't gessoing it, or adding any other sort of prep to it ruin that?"

It's a really great question! Yes, the feel of the paper is important to me, and in fact, most of my sketchbooks to date have been done with traditional sketching media directly on the paper. I will definitely be including that kind of work in a future installment of this review. Perhaps I should have done that first, since that's how most folks use a sketchbook! But I am really eager to branch out into different types of page layouts and materials, so my current need is to find a sketchbook that can not only work for traditional dry sketching media and watercolor, but for other types of page preparation as well --- acrylic, pastel ground, collage, etc.

As for the preparation of the surface ruining the feel of the paper, it really depends on how much is applied. A very light coating of acrylic or acrylic ink, heavily diluted with water so that its only use is to lightly tint the page, has surprisingly little effect on the paper. The more pigment and medium you add, the greater the change, and of course gesso would totally transform the surface. When I did the watercolor over the shimmery iridescent acrylic, I purposely selected a heavily painted page to test the limits of the combination of materials, even though most of the time I'll be working on a surface with so little acrylic on it, if any, that it won't matter.

I do plan to also review the book with examples of various types of pencils, inks, watercolor, and ink and wash over just the plain paper, since I'll be working that way as well. Issues such as paper smoothness/tooth and transparency do become much more significant then.

In my previous journals over the past six months or so, and in this one so far, I'd mostly used a writing font that had been sent to me by a calligrapher friend. It was a really nice tall, informal font that was quick to write. I found it pretty ideal for my journal writing to accompany the sketches. But one thing I found out is that it didn't photograph very well. It was a very thin, monoline font, and was sometimes difficult to read when photographed and posted. I also wanted a font that was more personalized, so I spent a few days developing Jamie's Journaling Font! I wanted the font to be clean and easy to read, with bolder lines, few flourishes, and no serifs. I'm sure that I'll make a couple of changes to it; I still need to make some decisions regarding the upper case Y and lower case r and d. Other changes will probably evolve too as I use it. My plan is to use it while I do this experimental journal, so that it will be flowing better by the time I move to a larger one. Here is the unveiling of my new font!

The letters are rounder and bolder. It seems to work well with both italic and round nibs, and with or without a slant. I can't wait to try my flex nibs with it, but haven't had a chance to do so yet.

I wrote out the font with various pens and inks on a page that had been previously prepared and then coated with Matte Medium. Using a template, I drew the lines for the writing with pencil. I learned two things while doing this page:

  1. Pencil lines over Matte Medium are almost impossible to erase. I gave up and decided to leave the lines on the page. But much more importantly
  2. The Matte Medium will destroy my fountain pen nibs! It was like writing on sandpaper. Just the other day, I took a scratchy-writing fountain pen and dragged it across a piece of very find sandpaper in a few different directions to see if it would improve the nib, and I totally ruined the pen. Matte Medium puts a lot of tooth on the paper, much like a very fine sandpaper. So please, folks, do not use fountain pens over Matte Medium!

I started wondering what would happen to the stitching and binding with all these extra layers of medium on the pages. The paper itself handles it great, but by thickening so many pages with extra mediums, paint, collage, etc., I knew pretty soon the book would not be able to close completely, or might die in trying!  I thought it would be wise to start removing some pages to allow extra room in the book. I'd already prepared pages beyond the center of the first signature, so I went to the center spread of each remaining signature, where the stitching can be seen, and carefully removed the middle two-page spread from each. I'll see as I go through the book if I need to do more than that or not.

After all this testing in the studio, I was really eager to take the book out on the road and apply all of this to a real sketching situation. Experimentation in the studio is one thing, but working out on location is quite another. Other issues come into play, which I'll be discussing in tomorrow's post. Click here to go to Part IV.

1 comment:

  1. My, my, you've been busy testing!!! My head is spinning! I'll have to reread your posts again when I have a chance. Thanks for sharing your results. Michael just sent me a hardbound Alpha & a spiral one to try. I'll have to see if I get as good results as you.