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Review: Accordion Watercolour Sketchbook by Chapter & Star

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Special thanks to Peggy and Annette Chung for giving me this sketchbook during the Urban Sketchers Symposium that happened in Manchester a few weeks ago.

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This is a 3.75 by 5.5 inch accordion sketchbook with 185gsm Arches coldpress watercolour paper. It's made by Annette who's the artisan bookbinder and creator of Chapter and Star.

There are several designs for the cloth-bound cover.

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This is a nice compact sized sketchbook that can be easily put into a large pocket. There are 60 pages in total. The interesting thing about this sketchbook is the pages are actually all from one full sheet of watercolour paper. It was cut at three places and then folded. See how it's done in this video below at the 2 minute mark.

Because of the way the paper was folded, the pages do not lay out flat totally. There are three sections where the fold is horizontal rather than vertical (that allows for flipping left to right). So at these three sections, you can't draw across them.

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Because the paper comes from a full sheet watercolour paper, some deckled edges remain.

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After you paint on it, and fold it, you can see a white edge at the folds. This is not surprising and watercolour paper is usually thick and when you fold them, their surface is likely to break open. It's not an issue when painting. The thing to note is not to fold the pages against the original fold or you will make the other surface break also, and this will make the paper tear easily.

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I'm not sure if it's because of the way the paper is treated, some parts will have the white speckle showing through after watercolour is laid over.

This paper is very dry and requires you to always mix more than enough paint so that you won't run out. Because this is the first time I'm using this paper, I kept running out of mixtures because my usual workflow is to mix just enough and perhaps slightly more. With this paper, I always underestimate the amount of mixture I need. It's incredibly thirsty, just like Saunders coldpress cotton watercolour paper.

I prefer Arches hotpress more than coldpress. This sketchbook is currently only available in coldpress. It would be awesome if there's a hotpress version which I think is going to be perfect for sketchers.

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Here I've tested different pencils and pens on the coldpress textured surface to see which works best. Because of the sandy surface, it tends to wear out felt tip and graphic pencils rather quickly. My favourites would be to use roller ball pens, fountain pens or mechanical pencils.

Shown above are some colour swatches. It's very easy to create rough edges on this paper, and if you use your brush quickly, you can get dry brush effect easily too. To get sharp edges, you have to go very slow.

I also find that the paper dulls down the colours slightly. Maybe it's just me or the way I mix my colours. But this is not something that I feel when I use my Arches hotpress paper.

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When you lay out the pages into one spread, you get 8 pages measuring a total of 5.5 inches tall to 26 inches wide. It's a really wide format to draw on and it's great for panoramic scenes, or collages. However, because of the format, it's best if you can work on a hard surface like a table. I drew all my sketches on my lap and it can be quite awkward. I clipped the unused section of the paper to make sure the pages don't fly around when there's wind.

Small size of the pages does affect the impact of the artwork but it's really convenient size to bring around.

The paper buckles when watercolour is used, but it gets flatten easily when you use the elastic band to hold the pages together.

Below are the four sketches I drew in this sketchbook. Click for a larger view.

I used only one side because the paper is 185gsm so it's not really that thick and if you draw on both sides, when you scan, it's easy to get an impression of art from the page behind. And it's not easy to scan accordion sketchbooks.

Overall, I think it's a nice format for a sketchbook. If you like the paper and this format, this sketchbook is for you.

To get this sketchbook, just visit