Jackson’s Lay-Flat Hardcover Sketchbooks have acid-free, pH buffered lignin, chlorine-free Alpha cellulose paper, and are suitable for a range of dry and some wet media. In this Customer Review of the Month, Wales based artist and illustrator Holly Reynolds explains how the unique features of these sketchbooks have made them indispensable for her practice.
Review of Jackson’s Lay-Flat Hardcover Sketchbooks
by Holly Reynolds
As artists, I think most of us are on the hunt for the elusive ‘perfect’ sketchbook. My sketchbook needs to be versatile and a place I feel comfortable working in: sturdy enough to hold up to whatever media I want to throw at it, but inexpensive enough that I’m not afraid of “ruining” it with messy sketches.
This sketchbook ticks those boxes. I’m a big fan of the whole range of Jackson’s Lay-Flat Hardcover Sketchbooks, but the square 21 x 21 cm format is a particular favourite of mine. The long, letterbox-like format of a double page spread gives you enough room to work across without being a daunting space to fill. When closed, the sketchbook is compact enough to be thrown in a rucksack for drawing on location, and a comfortable size to hold while drawing away from your desk.
The paper is 100 gsm, neutral white and smooth with a very subtle texture, making it perfect for pencil work. You get some ghosting through the pages, but I actually appreciate it; it makes me approach my work with a more relaxed mindset and reduces any apprehension about starting on a fresh blank page. Gouache and acrylic paint apply well and have not presented any issues for this sketchbook. Although a paper of this weight is not designed to facilitate large amounts of wet media, I have also used ink and light watercolour washes and have been pleasantly surprised with how well the paper has responded. Bearing in mind the price of these sketchbooks, I find them to be great value for those seeking affordability without compromising too much on versatility.
The design of this sketchbook prioritises functionality over aesthetics. I much prefer a sketchbook that doesn’t feel overly luxurious, as it encourages me to stop being precious or overly cautious about sitting down and actually using it! I appreciate the straightforward aesthetic of the greyboard cover and have found it more than rigid enough to protect my work and lean on while working away from my desk. The flat-lay binding is also a must for me as it allows for seamless work across double-page spreads and facilitates easy scanning of artwork.
The Jackson’s Lay-Flat Hardback Sketchbooks have quickly become favourites of mine, joining my rotation alongside other reliable choices such as the Royal Talens Art Creation Sketchbooks and Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbooks. Jackson’s Lay-Flat Sketchbooks address certain gaps for me; the distinctive large square format is absent in many other brands, and I often favour the white paper of the Jackson’s books over the creamy-yellow tone in Royal Talens when doing work in colour. For work that doesn’t require a more substantial paper weight, Jackson’s also proves a more practical choice compared to pricier options, such as Moleskine. All in all, this is a well-rounded sketchbook at a very competitive price point.
About Holly Reynolds
Holly Reynolds is an artist and illustrator originally from Birmingham but now living in South Wales. She graduated from the University of Worcester in 2019, having developed a love of visual storytelling and a particular interest in fairytales, mythology, and folktales from around the world. Holly has since provided a portrait of Cillian Murphy to the BBC, used in the advertising campaign for season 5 of ‘Peaky Blinders’. She has also self-published an illustrated anthology of dog-related folktales, Canine Tales of Britain, and her first commercially published book, a Chinese translation of Anna Sewell’s classic Black Beauty, is due to be published in Spring 2024 by Great Star Media.