Anthony Zierhut

Storyboard artist and animatic artist for feature films


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Denik sketch books – a review

I tend to make my own sketch books, but I have been known to buy a sketch book now and again. So it’s always good to keep an eye out for something fun and rewarding.

The smaller and larger books together.

Recently the nice people at Denik asked me to review some of their sketchbooks and talk about their wonderful program that helps build schools in Mali, Africa and Guatemala.

The program. Five percent of the proceeds from the sales of their sketch books and journals goes towards three middle schools in three different parts of the world. They work with various non-profits to help fund these schools directly. I love this idea.

The artists. Another 5% goes to the artist who creates the cover art for the sketch book — and apparently they get many contributors from around the world as well. So this could be a great way for an artist to get their work seen by people and help contribute to a worthy cause.

The books. They seem to be of pretty high quality. The larger, 9″ x 11″ sketchbooks are double-wire spiral bound with sturdy covers front and back. The paper is 77lb (pretty thick), unlined and bright white with square corners. The smaller, 5.25″ x 8.25″ book looks to be perfect-bound with glued-in pages and radiused corners. The paper doesn’t seem to be as thick as what’s in the larger book, probably 30lb or so. The sample they gave me was lined, although, looking at their web site, the smaller book can be ordered with blank sheets as well.

Some life drawings in pencil, pen and watercolor in the larger sketch book; some fountain pen ink testing in the smaller journal.

Performance. I used these books for a few weeks, trying various media (roller ball pens, fountain pens, markers, pencils, watercolors, colored ink) and was pleasantly surprised how well the paper held up. The larger sketch books have thick enough (77lb) paper to accommodate almost all the media that I use. Pen and pencil worked best, and even marker didn’t bleed as much as some sketch or drawing paper.

My only complaint is that watercolor seems to buckle the paper if applied on a large area 4″ x 4″ or more. For small, “spot” illustrations of an inch or two across it seems okay, though. Since my main sketch medium these days is watercolor, this would be a bit of a deal-breaker. But everything else, including using various colored fountain pen inks which didn’t feather or bleed on this heavy paper, was fantastic.

Some notes, ironically enough, on how to make a couple of recent hand-made sketch books. Pen and watercolor.

The smaller, lined book with the lighter (30lb?) paper accepted fountain pen remarkably well, and only bled through with colored inks heavy with dye. Noodler’s Rome  Burning was the ink that bled through slightly when I tried it, while Noodler’s Black and DeAtramentis Archive Black didn’t bleed through at all. And the bleed through with the Noodler’s Rome Burning was minimal and would probably be acceptable for normal writing conditions. The fact that there was minimal-to-no bleed through with fountain pen ink is a testament to the quality of the paper Denik is using, even on this less-heavy weight paper.

My only caveat regarding the smaller book is that the perfect-binding won’t allow the book lay flat when opened. But that doesn’t bother many people and may be perfectly fine for note taking or even journaling.

I didn’t get a chance to try out their hardbound books, but they look like they might be perfect for Bullet Journaling, which is something I started doing about a year and a half ago (more on that later, perhaps). It’s nice that Denik offers the hardbound books in either lined or graphed paper, since the graphed version would be perfect for use in a Bullet Journal.

The bottom line. It seems like a win, win, win: you get a good sketch book, support a fellow artist, and help build schools by buying a Denik sketch book. I really love what this company is doing and wish them the best!

7 Elements of an Effective Portfolio Website

I just found this on Thomas James‘ site: 7 Elements of an Effective Portfolio Website. Excellent information there. I found it via Leif Peng’s Today’s Inspiration — a site I visit nearly every day.

Hey, I made my own sketchbook!

Lately I’ve been nearly obsessed with “building” my own sketchbook instead of buying one pre-made at the art store. I did a bit of research on-line (a couple of good starting points, if anyone else wants to try it, here and here, although I’ve changed a few things to suit my own way of doing it), and got a bit of help from my wife who took a book binding class a while back. This is the fifth or sixth book I’ve bound, each slightly different, as I experiment with different ways of stitching the signatures or gluing the spine, etc. So far this is the best sketchbook to date. I’ve come down to the last two spreads in my current sketchbook and felt the pressure to get a new horse to jump on to, so to speak. (By the way, I have only posted a fraction of those sketches — which I need to remedy. Stay tuned, as they say.)

Below are some of my notes on how I did made the book you see above. They’re not meant to be a how-to, by any means; but more like notes to myself for me to remember what I did this time so I can repeat it or improve upon it next time.

The whole process takes me about two and a half hours, start to finish, then letting the book dry overnight, clamped and weighted down. In the morning when I take the binder clips off it’s like opening a present! There’s something really enjoyable about making these sketchbooks that I can’t explain. And it will be interesting to see how it will be to draw in this new creation. Perhaps I’ll have more of a sense of accomplishment over the whole process. I’m not sure I’m ready to start making my own paper, though – ha.

Also I wanted to have a book that was a different size than what I can find in the art stores and on-line. This one is six by six inches — a square book to try out, and a bit smaller than the HandBook brand I usually use, which is a fantastic sketchbook. It’s good to know I have a great book to fall back on in case this little experiment doesn’t work out. But I’m definitely going to continue making them…

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