Monday, April 21, 2014

Review of the Paperblanks Maya Blue Ultra Journal #Paperblanks #MayaBlueUltra #Zentangle

The Maya Blue Ultra Journal is part of Paperblanks Silver Filigree Collection.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful journal I've ever owned.  You know that statement reflects my personal preferences, but I guarantee this is a journal that will have people 'oohing' and 'aahing' when they see it.

As with so many beautiful things, it was difficult to photograph.  I hope I've managed a photo that conveys the beauty.


Specs
Size: 7" x 9" (17.8 x 22.9 cm)
No. of Pages: 240
Paper: Blank, White, acid-free, sustainable
Binding: Smythe-Sewn
Extras: Antique finish metal clasp closure, decorated edging, memento pouch pocket, ribbon marker,
NOTE: Paperblanks come in several sizes, shapes, and variations--planners, notebooks, journals in lined, graph and blank paper.  I am reviewing the Ultra size, blank paper.  If you decide to buy one pay particular attention to the details so that you get the product you want.

Look & Feel
The moment that I saw a journal in the Silver Filigree collection, I was in love.  I put off getting one though, because I thought that the filigree, the silver, was a metal mesh on top of the cover.  While pretty, I thought a mesh like that would catch on things and get bent.  I kept talking myself out of buying one.

I kept looking though.  First came the Natural, then the Blush and the Shadow.  When the Maya Blue came out, I had to have one, no matter how delicate.

Imagine my surprise! There is no overlay!  While the cover does have a slightly raised texture, the cover is one piece, and the depth an illusion of clever painting.  What a relief--the journal was both beautiful and practical.

I'm not sure you can tell what it is really like from this photo.  The shading really does create an illusion that fools the camera--and the eye, until you get up close.


And, if this weren't enough, look at the beautiful edging painted around the book!  The antique clasps keep the book closed tight, so even after you've written or drawn on some pages, you won't get gaps in between that will disrupt the edging.


I consider those clasps a mixed blessing though.  They're gorgeous, and fit the look of the book to a tee.  The beauty of the edging would be lost without them, as use and handling always distorts the pages, just that little bit.  However, the clasp isn't very secure, so they come open easily.  Sometimes, they get in the way as you are writing or drawing.  Often, I set the journal down for just a few minutes, and realize the clasps are in the way, needing to be closed.

It's a minor annoyance.


This won't be a journal for mixed media or collage.  The clasp won't allow any expansion for glued items and it would be a shame to ruin the edging with drips and splashes.

In fact, I was intimidated to begin with, not sure what I wanted to do with these pages, and afraid I'd mess up.  That hasn't happened for a long time, lol.  I got over it.

The journal has the standard pocket for Paperblanks in back.  The frontispiece is the same golden brown, with the Paperblanks name and 'Silver Filigree' printed in small letters.  The back piece has a short history of filigree written in English on one side, and in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese on the other (I'm guessing at these languages. Please forgive me, if I guessed incorrectly).


The paper has a smooth, slightly gritty feel to the fingers. You can't see it unless you hold it to the light (which I did for the photo) but there is a definite pattern to the texture.  It's a semi-hard surface, but flexible paper--not like cardstock.


The journal is heavy at 1.6 lbs. and probably not one that you'd toss into your backpack for travel (unless you wanted to awe somebody when you pulled it out, lol).  The Smythe-sewn binding is sturdy and beautiful in its own right.  It allows the journal to lie flat and be folded back completely, though with 240 pages you get some slope towards the middle.


I wasn't sure how the paper would perform for my drawings.  Paperblanks uses several different types of paper in their books.  I've always found them to be good quality, but sometimes they perform better with some media than with others.

Performance
Fountain Pens
The first thing I wanted to check was how the paper performed with fountain pens.  I was expecting a substantial amount of show-through but there was virtually none! I got a dot of bleed-through from the Rouge Hematite where I saturated the ink in the circle.  It was so tiny, I couldn't get it to scan.

There was no feathering and drying times seemed a bit faster than usual.  This is fountain pen friendly paper.


Alcohol Markers
One of my favorite things to do with alcohol markers is to color one side, then turn the page and make a second drawing from the color that bleeds through.  (I call this a Bleedthrumanade--got lemons, make lemonade.  Got marker bleedthru, make bleedthrumanade)

As with the fountain pens, there was far less bleed-through than I expected from my markers.  The paper in the Maya Blue doesn't feel highly coated, but there is something that keeps the color from going through, because I only got about 25% of the color, even where I applied several layers.  One of the colors I used was very light, but the Mint Green was dark enough that I would have expected more.

The colors were bright, but not brilliant.


For the back of my bleedthrumanade, I was inspired by a video on drawing Kawaii characters (think Miss Kitty) and when I saw the shape formed by the bleed-through, I saw the beginnings of a Kawaii turtle.

This is me drawing, however, and I'm incapable of drawing something so cute and simple. The back of my bleedthrumanade became a Mutant Kawaii Turtle, lol!


I did another drawing using Sharpie Brush Markers, which have the same ink as the classic Sharpie, but a different tip (another review in the future!).   This was an experiment where I added some acrylic interference paint over the color in some areas, and I'm not super pleased with the result, but that's why you experiment, lol.  I used the technique to better effect elsewhere.

(Notice the wide margins I'm leaving.  I was being super careful not to get marker or paint on the edgings!)


The paper held up well to the paint, with no curling.  There was some dimpling where I added the paint. 

I used darker colors for this piece, so the show-through and bleed-through was more noticeable, but still only 25-30% of what was on the front.  I decided not to do a bleedthrumanade on this so you could see exactly how much was coming through.



Technical Drawing Pen
I used Sakura Pigma Micron Pigma pens on my mutant turtle.  I had expected them to work well on the paper, and they did.  So I drew another piece with the same pens.

The paper allows for a lot of value to be built up.  Normally, I would have gone for some very deep dark black, but I'm trying to spare my wrist of late.  You do have to saturate the paper with several layers to get a saturated black area.  This wouldn't be the journal for lots of drawings in stark black & white.


Watercolor pens
As I keep saying, it would be a shame to splash or drip anything on the edging, so I really don't recommend watercolor for this journal, but there are lots of pencils, pens, and crayons that allow you get watercolor effects without too much mess.

I tried out some Akashiya Watercolor brush pens (yep, another review in the not-too-distant future).  I was using my non-dominant hand, so forgive the wobbly lines.  I didn't add water, but just used the color straight from the pens.  No dimpling, curling, drips, splashes, show-through or bleed-through.


I've used my Pilot Hi-tec Maica gel pens to get a watercolor look before and it's pretty easy to control the color.  I knew this would allow me to see how the paper works with water without having much chance of spill-over.


I got a tiny bit of bleed-through with the darkest colors inside the rim of my cup.  That dark was the result of overlaying 3-4 colors wet-on-wet.  There was some curl that flattened easily after the book was left closed with the clasps fastened.  The texture of the paper changed and it makes that crispy sound the paper often gets after being wet and dried.  There was some dimpling.

The colors are bright but not brilliant.

Overall
The Paperblanks Maya Blue Ultra Journal looks and feels like a vintage book in mint condition.  The beauty and quality is amazing.  The paper is flexible enough to handle different mediums. However, the design of the clasps doesn't allow for expansion so it is not a book for gluing photos or collage items.  It takes a little work to saturate the paper for deep darks when using a technical pen.  This has the advantage of allowing you a wide variety of values, but might be too much work if you draw primarily in stark black and white.

It's a heavy journal, so not the best for traveling.  But, oh so, beautiful for the coffee table or desk.

The price tag is around $30.00 and I think it's worth every penny of it.

Disclaimer: I received this journal as a thank you from Paperblanks, but was not asked to review it. But how could I not?  It meets my criteria for extreme beauty, but your opinion may differ.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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