Great Quality Notebooks for All Kinds of Art Media
by Mel G. Cabral for REACH
When I was poking around one of my local illustration groups online, I found a thread that talked about a sketchbook brand that almost seemed too good to be true. Was it really possible that there was a brand that was much cheaper than Moleskine, but offering a higher gsm paper weight? I had to go out and get one for myself, just to see if the hype around this notebook was well deserved.
This luxurious sketchbook boasts a flexible black leatherette cover with rounded corners. It is stiffer than Venzi sketchbook’s soft covers, enough to ensure the pages stay protected, which gives me more peace of mind. Unlike most notebooks, which have a flat garter-type material to keep them closed, Monologue has an horizontally-oriented elastic rounded strap. The right sides of the covers have a small tab cut into them, in which the strap fits snugly. It feels a lot more secure than even Moleskine's elastic strap, which tends to start loosening after a few years, even when kept in storage.
Strangely enough, Monologue sketchbooks don't come with an expandable inner pocket on the back cover. Considering its somewhat high asking price, I expected it to come with one, since even cheaper brands like Copelle and Venzi have them built in. As I worked with this notebook, I found it frustrating that I didn't have anywhere to put away the little notes, sketches, or studies I had strewn around my desk for a personal or freelance illustration project. It does, at least, come with the standard built-in bookmark ribbon, though for the price, I was hoping it would offer a more unique type of bookmark, like something woven, or made of different fabric.
The sketchbook contains immaculate white pages. As soon as you touch the page, you'll instantly find that it's smooth though it has a bit of tooth to its surface. However, it's not too coarse, so the texture doesn't show up as much, such as when using colored pencils for your artwork. This is actually a perfect middle ground, if you're the sort of artist who loves to change art tools every now and then. According to its packaging, the pages are surface treated with vegetable gel, which makes it suitable for a range of art media, including but not limited to charcoal, chalk, oil pastel, wax crayon, acrylic, oil, marker, and tempera. It's smooth enough to take ink and watercolor, while still rough enough to take colored pencils, pastels, and graphite. I was happy to find that ink does not blot or bleed on this sketchbook's pages. It’s also acid-free, so you can rest assured that your great ideas and finished illustrations will last for years to come.
This notebook looks thick, and rightly so: it contains 96 leaves of 140gsm pages. The paper weight is comparable if not thicker than Moleskine's art sketchbooks, though, for some reason, Monologue’s pages feel a bit thinner to me. If you hold up the page against the light, you can see the inks on the other side of the page quite easily. It's not as obvious as with Venzi's soft journals, but it's definitely more visible than with Moleskine's thick pages. Do take note, though, that for serious watercolor work (or if you tend to use a lot of water, like I do), you might find a sketchbook with a higher gsm will work for you. While it was able to handle light watercolor, I found that the paper still warped slightly after the paint had dried.
Monologue sketchbooks offer a good quality for your art and design requirements for around a third of the price of the legendary Moleskine journals. It is a notebook experience worth its name. If you have the extra money to spare, I would highly recommend getting yourself one of these sketchbooks. Last I checked, they are available for purchase at several branches of Fully Booked. They come in three sizes. A6 is perfect for super quick doodles, while A4 at 600 pesos seems more suited for home use, unless you only bring art materials with you wherever you go. At around 600 pesos, A5 is the sweet spot for ample space and reasonable added bag weight.
I have heard that Monologue is planning to roll out new versions of this sketchbook sometime within the year, and that it might cost a little more than the original. If you do spot one in the wild, get them before they're gone. They're so good, many artists tend to hoard a ton of them at a time. It’s a favorite of urban sketchers, who love to observe and try to recreate the environment around them, and for travellers who want to record their precious memories.