Friday, August 23, 2019

Apologies to My illo Sketchbook: A More Nuanced Review

After some soul searching and daily sketching I have realized that I was too judgmental in my initial review of the illo sketchbook. I was too dismissive, too hasty. I should have waited because ever since I clicked "publish" on my previous post, I have been reaching for that little 8x8 square sketchbook more often than I ever expected. I have used Micron pens, Copic and Prismacolor markers, glitter gel and nail stickers  (don't judge!) as well as a variety of colored pencils, and I am embarrassed that I dismissed it so easily. I actually love this book!

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What is so awesome about the illo?

My first attempts to test markers revealed that they can bleed pretty easily through the paper, but in my subsequent experiments I noticed that when I layer alcohol based marker over layers of colored pencil, I have a buffer to prevent excessive bleed-through. Granted, the smooth paper will accept a  limited amount of colored pencil layers, even fewer if you use the Prismacolor Premier or other wax-based pencils. I used oil-based pencils for my doodles, which I will share with you shortly.

Faber-Castell Polychromo and Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils are the oil-based brands that I use. In my experience, oil-based pencils seem to work a little better on the smoother papers, but I get the best results when I give it a final pass with a waxy pencil, like a Splender Blender or a white Prismacolor. So far, I have experimented on the illo with portraits. I was able to build glassy-smooth skin tones using the Polychromo and Polycolor pencils to build tones in thin layers with a final burnish using a white Prismacolor Premier Art Stix .

image of Little Boy illustration by Pumibel
I used colored pencils, Micron Sakura fine liner pens, and the Uni-Ball Signo white gel pen (U-153) on the illustration of the little boy. (By the way, these Uni pens are a necessity for most artists, just check YouTube!)

I also used all of these products for the two-page illustration of the the blue haired beauty (below). Originally, the hair was all colored pencil, but it looked too dull in my opinion. I think this was because I used darker shades. The illo's paper texture seems to make dark colored pencil look duller, so I broke out the Copics and Prismacolor Premier double-ended Art Markers I had stored away to see if I could improve the piece. It was a risky move, given the potential bleed-through, but I am very happy with the result.

image of Blue haired beauty illustration by Pumibel

I had forgotten how beautifully Copic markers perform! I only have a handful of colors, and they are probably over 9 years old, but they still worked like brand new (one of many valid reasons why they cost a fortune). I advise using a piece of scrap paper or paper towel under the illo page in case you have heavy bleed-through. As I stated earlier, I was layering over colored pencil, so I had minimal bleeding. Also, alcohol markers are not as bad about this as the water-based kind.

Important note: I keep a paper towel between the pages of the two-page illustration when I close the book so there is no transfer. I had to do this even before I added marker because the colored pencil will also rub and transfer. If you use both sides of every page, you may want to keep a piece of tissue or tracing paper between every finished page. The illo sketchbook has an elastic band to hold the book shut, so there is less friction and rubbing between pages, but I would still protect back-to-back artworks, especially if you use mixed media.

Water Media in the Illo

I want to highlight how the illo sketchbook handles mixed media work, even some water media. I know that some of the artists on YouTube create watercolor pieces in their illo books, but I still think the paper is unsuitable for heavy washes and wet-on-wet techniques. I was able to work with my Derwent watercolor and Inktense pencils using a controlled amount of water without encountering large scale buckling. However, I used a water brush (from an Arteza water brush set) and allowed each layer to dry fully before adding the next. It worked out well, and the page dried completely flat. Any excessive water-based media will likely make the paper pill and buckle, so be sure to test your media in small areas to see how the paper reacts.

A recap of the mediums I have used in my illo sketchbook:

  • Graphite
  • Colored pencil
  • Gel pens
  • Alcohol-based marker
  • Water-based marker
  • Acrylic paint (only for highlights)
  • Nail stickers
  • Electric eraser (works well when used sparingly)

Okay, I am going to touch briefly on the nail stickers. These are tiny and can look pretty nice, but if you want to take them off, there will be consequences and swearing. I was happy with the little flowers I placed in the girl's eyes, but I didn't want to keep the other ones. I was not able to remove some of the unwanted stickers without damaging the paper and the art itself.

image of Closeup of blue haired beauty by Pumibel
If you look closely, you can see the little
flowers in her eyes

So I was premature in my original review post, but I am glad I gave this sketchbook another try. Many artists, including me, have multiple sketchbooks in their collection. There is definitely a place in my collection for the illo, even if it is a bit more expensive than my regular sketchbooks. Have you ever changed your mind in favor of an art product that you initially dismissed? Please feel free to discuss it in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I just bought my 2nd illo...I was skeptical at first, but the way it's built and the paper itself is fantastic whether for an avid student or seasoned artist. It's an enjoyable sketchbook nonetheless