Review of the Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketchbook by Sandra Strait
“I’ live in Fairview, Oregon, U.S.A. I have no formal education in art, just my 10,000+ hours of practice. My father was a zookeeper, who often brought home wild animals for us to raise. While all the other children in my neighborhood had cats and dogs for pets, I had lions and tigers. I think this gave me a different perspective on life which shows in my artwork. Though officially retired, I’m busier then I’ve ever been. Every day of the week, I do a painting on a Hahnemühle watercolor postcard to slip into my husband’s lunch bag. Recently, I started a series of Fun & Easy Landscape tutorials and each week I publish step-outs and lessons showing people how to draw plants and animals that range from the everyday to the fantastical. I’ve started a Facebook group for people to share the art they create using my tutorials.
You can find more of my work at my Life Imitates Doodles blog.
A while back, I asked Hahnemühle if the paper used for YouTangle.Art tiles could be found in larger sizes or in a sketchbook. The answer was no, but I was told that the Nostalgie sketchbook had similar paper.
It is true that the paper in the Nostalgie and YouTangle.Art tiles have a similar surface, texture and hardness to sight and touch, but they do handle differently. Read on to discover more…
Size: A5 8.19″ x 5.77″
Paper: 190 gsm, natural white, fine-grain
Shipping Weight: 6.7 oz.
No of Pages: 40 sheets/80 pgs,
The Nostalgie sketchbook also comes in Portrait sizes: A6, 4.13 x 5.83 in & A4, 8.27 x 11.69 in and Landscape: A6, 4.09″ x 5.77″, A5, 5.77″ x 8.19″ and A4, 8.19 x 11.58 in.Suitable for all dry-painting techniques in addition to wet colors.
Look and Feel
This sketchbook is cloth-covered and hardbound with sewn binding. It is one of the lightest hard bounds I’ve encountered, making it a lovely weight and sturdiness for a carry. The textured cloth gives the book a handsome look that is equally suitable for the office, school or home use. The front has no branding or illustration nor does the back except for the Hahnemühle rooster debossed at the bottom. The covers are larger than the body with squared corners. The signatures are sewn together so that the pages are neat and flush with one another.
The binding is also sewn neatly with no handing threads or uneven stitching. The ribbon bears some notice. It’s a beautiful red and a different fabric from any other sketchbook I have. It has more memory than most – you can fold it in half and even crease it and it just goes back to its former shape instead of developing a bend like most ribbons.
Despite being hardback, you can fold the book all the way back. There is a bit of a slope if you do this, but you can stand holding it in one hand this way.
The book lies completely flat when opened. The paper is a fine-grained natural white color with a hard, smooth surface.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that the paper in this sketchbook looked and felt similar to the YouTangle.Art tiles, so I’ll start the Performance section with the two mediums – colored pencil and watercolor – where I noticed the most difference.
Out of all the mediums I tried for this review, colored pencil is the one I liked the least in this book. The surface of the paper, though not actually slick, is a bit hard and smooth for complex layering and blending.
The colors go down bright and bold and there is a quality to the appearance that I like. In many ways, I felt as though I were using marker pens rather than colored pencils. That may actually be a plus for many people who don’t spend time layering and blending.
I don’t think I have another non-watercolor sketchbook that takes watercolor as well as this paper does. I kept painting with wetter techniques and I love the way it handles. The first painting, I just rolled a little bit of tape, sticking one piece to the top outside corner and one to the bottom. There was so little curling, buckling or dimpling that I didn’t do anything to hold the paper flat after that. When the paper dries, there is minimal dimpling and the texture of the paper has hardly changed at all.
I started my first painting by scribbling with masking fluid, which soon turned into the bones of ancient birds, and once dried I slapped on color at random. When the masking fluid was removed, I used a Platinum Carbon fountain pen with a super-fine nib because I knew the sharp point would catch on any torn or damaged paper.
I liked what had happened with this first painting and regretted the random nature, so I tried the experiment again. Almost the same technique, but I used more water and added more wet paint into the wet paint. I used the same fountain pen, and then added some brush pen to get bolder lines and more of a cloisonné look.
Same results – no curling or buckling. Barely noticeable dimpling and I couldn’t find any damage in the paper.
I decided I wanted to try a fully developed watercolor painting. I did use some wet-into wet on the background, but this time I went more for glazes, letting each layer dry and adding more color once it did. Here I found that after a glaze or two, it was harder to get crisp edges, and some of the brush strokes showed in the lower layers. I don’t consider this a weakness, but they are limitations to work with. I like the sort of swirling motion that developed from the brush strokes in the background, and I used it to get the striations on the tulip’s petals.
In my opinion, this paper would be fantastic for plein air/urban watercolor sketching.
Technical Pen/Brush Pen
I prefer a softer surfaced paper for my pen, so I can build up a wider range of values, but I also like to vary how I work. This is the sketchbook I’ll grab when I want crisp, bold lines and sharp contrast. I used both technical and brush pens in varying nib sizes to draw this. The pen glides across the paper and it was a true delight to watch and feel the lines appearing on the page.
Mildliner (highlighters) and Fineliner pens
This drawing was done using Mildliner pens, which are a larger-nibbed marker style pen originally meant for high-lighting text, but which give a softer color than most marker pens. I used a smaller nibbed fineliner pen for the line work.
As with the technical pens and brush pens, the pens went on the paper smoothly, with little streaking. The ink dried quickly and there was little color shift (lightening or darkening of a color as it dries). The colors went down bright and bold.
I hadn’t really meant to do another fineliner drawing for this review, but shortly before Easter, my five-year old great niece asked for an Easter Octopus. I quickly drew one and her short attention span satisfied, she wandered off. I decided to keep going. I don’t think this is still an Easter Octopus – more like an alien, steampunk octopus I think. I really layered the colors with this one, using squirkling and hatching methods to blend the colors, and I think I could have gone on forever with no problem from the paper.
Alcohol Marker/brush & technical pen/fabric-tipped markers (my Bleedthrumanade tutorial is here)
To finish off, I decided to do a Bleedthrumanade, where I color the entire page with alcohol markers then draw something on the front of the page. Once done, I turn the page and use the color that has bled through to the back to create a totally different drawing. The color from alcohol markers will bleed through on almost any paper except extremely heavy or specially formulated paper. I’d say about 75% of the color from the front bled through to the back, which isn’t bad. On the front, the color from the alcohol markers was vibrant and glowing so I used brush pens for the line work, and dabs of white paint marker for the highlights.
On the back, I used fabric-tipped markers to even out the color and carve out the negative shape of a lady in a hat. You can see that the marker in the color left streaks, which is natural for markers. There are methods to avoiding it, and more for using it as shading or texture (but that’s a whole different post!). I used the streaking to add texture and make it clearly stand out from the lady.
I finished off by using technical pens for the line work.
The Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketchbook is a handsome, well-balanced sketchbook. Even though hard-bound, it is light enough for carry. It handles various mediums well but shines the most when using pen and markers. It handles watercolor, even wet-in-wet, better than most non-watercolor sketchbooks.