The Anatomyst

Art and Illustration

Follow-up on the Back Pocket Notebook


It’s now a little over two weeks since I started trying out the Back Pocket Notebook so I wanted to give a review of all the drawings I’ve been doing in it, which I’ve been posting on Twitter @TheAnatomyst, as well as giving some thoughts about how the Back Pocket Notebook is performing under real world conditions.

To recap, I’ve been trying out the Plain Kraft Back Pocket Notebook. This has 36 cross grid 120gsm Conqueror Brilliant White pages measuring 140 x 90mm within a 350gsm Nomad Kraft cover.

Dip Pen, School G nib and Sumi Ink

Trying out a dip pen with sumi ink

I had a lot of fun with this one. As I’d already seen, the paper in the Back Pocket notebook is lovely and smooth, which is perfect when you’re starting out trying a dip pen. I use Japanese sumi ink, which is rich and dark with a slight shine to it. I have a little portable ink well so I can have this as a perfect little outdoor drawing set. On the other side I’ve just got some sketches of forearm anatomy.

The Pilot Parallel Pen

Next I decided to try out my Pilot Parallel Pen. This is a really popular pen for lettering, calligraphy and drawing. I have the 3.8mm wide nib so it can draw lines up to that width. This pen can drink ink if you let it so I’ve refilled the proprietary cartridge with De Atramentis Archive ink, which is permanent, waterproof and archival quality.

Lettering and drawing using the Pilot Parallel Pen

This is another great test of a notebook; using the pen on its edge to get a fine line can be scratchy and on its wider side it lays down wet lines. I didn’t encounter any problems with the paper fibres clogging the nib or the ink showing through the pages.

Urban Sketching in the Back Pocket Notebook

Being able to carry a notebook in your back pocket means you can capture a scene when you’re sat in a cafe if you’ve got a spare moment.

Urban Sketching in the Back Pocket Notebook – Sheffield using the Tachikawa Manga Fountain pen

The sketch above was drawn using my favourite Tachikawa Manga fountain pen with a School G nib. I liked the strong lines and overlapping nature of the buildings.

Below is another opportunistic sketch capturing a tray of biscuits as we were eating them. I can get a good amount of detail in my work using a fine nib.

Sketch of a pack of biscuits. Sketching these meant I had less time for eating them!

It was around this time when I began struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome; there’s a difference in the quality of the linework between my Sheffield sketch and the biscuits.

Dip Pen and Rotring Isograph

I wanted to use pens that would need zero pressure to lay down good inky lines since I was having trouble with my wrist. I have a tendency to press too hard even when using a fountain pen so I brought out the dip pen again.

Dip pen and sumi ink sketch of a “Powerball” – lots of ink but little bleed through

In the sketches above I loaded up the Nikko School G nib with plenty of ink compared to my earlier piece using the dip pen hence the thicker lines and more variation in width. The Back Pocket Notebook did really well showing little sign of ink bleeding through the pages. I also found the sumi inked dried quickly enough so as not to smear.

Trying out a Rotring Isograph technical pen in the Back Pocket Notebook

The piece above was drawn using a Rotring Isograph technical pen with a 0.7mm nib and the Rotring ink. Not so commonly used these days as fibre-tipped drawing pens and computer-aided design have taken over but I still like this. It uses a weighted needle to open and close the feed so just needs the lightest touch against the paper to get ink flowing. Again I had no issues with using this for my daily sketch.

Wrap Up

I’ve been using the Back Pocket Notebook for a little over two weeks now and found that it has worked well with whatever pen and ink I’ve thrown at it so it’s ideal for everyday sketching. Over and above the ability to use any sort of pen, I think the slightly unexpected benefit has been the change in attitude you get from being able to carry a notebook everywhere. I’ve definitely drawn more opportunistically. The Back Pocket Notebook has been perfect for this as it’s not too big or too thick and the cover is still holding out well. The other plus point is that it folds open completely flat so it’s great for scanning.

I want to finish off by getting a few more standard pens out. I doubt many people have a manga fountain pen or a Rotring Isograph as part of their Everyday Carry! I also want to see what would happen if I try to add watercolour.

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