Archive for February, 2010

For those of you who love Moleskine notebooks, but yearn for something special for the activities you are passionate about, you’ll be glad to know that Moleskine’s Passions journals will be hitting the store shelves soon. I have these on order and hope to have them at www.journalingarts.com soon and have a review planned in coming weeks.

Moleskine Passions is a collection of six different journals to record and recall memories, thoughts and notes about six different passions: Recipes, Wine, Book, Film, Music and Wellness. The black cover, one of the icons of the Moleskine brand, for the first time in the brand’s history is fully embossed with a tight texture of themed images and writings.

You can use them to collect information and reviews about books you’ve read, restaurants you’ve visited, concerts you’ve attended and dishes you’ve tasted. And once you’ve recorded this information you can share your discoveries with others or save it for future reference.

Each journal is a personal archive to fill in according to different needs and feelings:

  • Pages divided by printed tabs, with a themed layout for supporting you in taking notes.
  • Pages divided by blank tabs, that the user can personalize with the enclosed adhesive labels.
  • Blank pages for freedom of expression.
  • Enclosed adhesive labels, with words and icons.
  • Themed charts, calendars, glossaries, listings.

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I reviewed the Fiorentina Journal refill a few weeks ago using pen and ink, but at the same time, I also did a quick test of the most basic art mediums in the journal and wanted to share the results.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Color Test

I tested some of my favorite artist mediums in a lined Fiorentina Journal Refill. The results were better than I expected for a writing journal.

I used the lined journal for the test rather than the sketchbook because there are times when you want to incorporate art into a written journal and it is good to know how well the journal will perform. Also, I plan on doing a review of the sketchbook refill at a future date, so this way I can explore both.

The most basic art supplies were used for the test, including those that are the most portable, to give you an idea of what can be done while you are traveling with your journal. I tested a few others, too, but wanted to focus on those that are easy to carry.

The mediums I tested:

  • Watercolor Paint
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Tombow Dual Brush Water-Based Markers
  • Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers
  • Pen and Ink
  • Ink Wash
  • Prismacolor Colored Pencils
  • Aquarelles Water-Soluable Pastels
  • Rubber Stamps & StazOn Solvent-Based Ink

Top Performing Mediums

The best performers were the Tombow Dual Brush pens, pen & ink, Sharpie Fine Point Permanent markers and the Prismacolor colored pencils. Each of these mediums went down smoothly without bleed through, show through or paper curl. The colors were clean and clear and the edges were sharp.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Artist Medium test.

Most of the mediums performed well and did not bleed thorugh the back side of the page. The wettest paints caused some bubbling of the paper which is visible in the photo above.

Good Performers

The paints were overall good performers with only one issue; paper curl and/or bubbling. There was no bleedthrough or showthrough on any of the paints. Watercolor and ink wash caused the most paper distortion, but not nearly as much as I expected. Only the wettest  areas bubbled and warped. The acrylic paint caused minor buckling when the color was applied thickly, but this disappeared as the paint dried. The water-soluble Aquarelles did not cause any paper distortion until water was added.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Artist Medium Test

Only the ink from the StazOn ink pad bled through the backside of the paper. This is not surprising since this ink is designed to be used on non-porous surfaces.

Poor Performers

The only medium that performed poorly was the ink from the StazOn solvent-based ink pad. The ink impressed on the page using the ink pad directly as well as from the rubber stamps did bleed through the page. This ink is designed to use on surfaces including plastic, metal, glass, ceramic and leather, so the fact that it bled through paper is no surprise. I would not recommend it for use on paper of any kind unless the bleed though effect is desired.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the lined Fiorentina Journal refill works fine for artist mediums with some limitations. If you limit your mediums to pen and ink, colored pencil, pencil, marker and light paint washes, it will be more than satisfactory. It would not be the best choice for use with wet paints if buckling paper bothers you.

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I have heard from many of you who are uncomfortable starting an art journal who are worried that your ideas and first sketches are ugly or unattractive. If you experience this, don’t worry! They all start out that way. An art journal is all about the process and not every page in your journal is destined to be a work of fine art. If you focus on the process and forget about the final result, you will enjoy art journaling more and your journals will be filled with unique and interesting art that is meaningful and thought-provoking.

I thought it would be interesting to show the steps I take when illustrating a page in my art journal so you could see the process. This 2-page spread is from a journal on abundance I am in the process of working on. If you compare it to the final illustration at the end of the post, you will find it is only a rough representation of the final image.

Art Journaling Abundance in Moleskine Watercolor Journal

This is the rough, pencil sketch for the abundance concept. Notice the images and text is loose and incomplete, only there to indicate position. This sketch will be painted over or erased during the process of journaling. It is only a guide that can be changed as the illustration progresses.

Many beautiful journal pages start as dirty-looking, gray scratchings on the page. In my journal, I started with rough pencil sketches. Notice that these are not perfect little drawings, just basic images and indications of what I see in my head.

Art Journaling Abundance

I used more precise pencil lines as a guide to cut the shape of the reflections from the tape. The lines were dark enough to be visible through the tape.

Once the rough sketch was in place, I started to make the pencil lines more detailed. Since I wanted to create glare on the water that would be white in the final piece, I had to find a way to make these areas white. Since I didn’t want to add white paint, I decided to use masking tape to mask the areas I wanted to be white. This protected the paper from paint, creating white areas wherever tape was used. Using the pencil lines as a guide, I cut the tape and removed the tape on areas that were to be painted. Once these areas were taped, I could paint background colors that had a continuous flow, giving a more uniform appearance.

Art Journaling Abundance

You need to exercise care when cutting masking tape that has been place on your paper. If you cut too deep, you could go through the paper or paint might collect in the small cut you made. If you are new to this, you might want to practice on a scrap piece of paper to see how much pressure you will need to cut to the correct depth.

Removing the tape requires some patience and care. If you are hasty, the surface of the paper will be removed. If this happens, don’t worry, it can be concealed if it causes a problem. In many cases, it is simply not visible in the final product.

Art Journaling Abundance masking

Use care when removing the tape. If you pull too hard or too fast, you may remove the surface of the paper. The pencil marks can be erased once the tape is removed so they don't show through the paint washes.

Once the reflections had been masked, I filled in the background with a blue wash with varied tones. To make it more interesting, I made the lower left corner much darker. This would draw the eye from the lower left into the center of the image where is was much brighter.

After the background was dry, I carefully removed the masking tape to reveal the white reflections.

Art Journalng Abundance watercolor

I painted the background while the masking tape was in place for a smooth, consistent look. Once the tape was removed, the background and fishes contrast with the white reflections. Although I tried to be careful removing the tape, I did manage to pull some of the paper up, but the watercolor paint covered my mistake without a problem, so you really don't notice it. If you right-click the image and choose View Image, you can see a larger version of the image.

I used a metallic pen to write the text I had roughed out on the original pencil sketch. I chose metallic pen to simulate the reflections on the water and to give the piece a little bit of flash. I used a cursive text to mimic the shape of the reflections. By doing this, your eye is tricked and it is not obvious at first glance that this is writing.

Art Journaling Metallic Pen

I used metallic pen to simulate the reflections in the water. I didn't want the words to be obvious at first. The cursive style was used to mimic the shape of the reflections.

The final art, while far from detailed or visually accurate, communicates the graphic, figurative image I wanted.

Art Journaling "Reflections of Abundance" in a Moleskine Watercolor Journal.

The final illustration is titled Reflections of Abundance and is just another set of pages in my abundance journal. I like the upward movement and the flow of golden fishes and it encourages me to continue the journey on the next page.

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Fiorentina offers a complete line of Italian journals produced by small artisans as well as a fully established manufacturing plant that has supplied the gift industry for more than 30 years. The journals range from contemporary, pocket-sized journals, to elaborate, hand-crafted journals which ooze traditional, Italian design. They all have excellent paper, high-quality workmanship and beautiful design.

Fiorentina refill

A 5" x 7" Fiorentina refill is moderately priced at $10.99. It can be used with Fiorentina's line of refillable, leather journals. If used without a journal cover, the outside can be decorated with collage, paint, paper, fabric or a variety of art supplies for a custom look.

I chose to review a 5″ x 7″ Fiorentina refill for several reasons including:

  • The paper is beautiful and handles most mediums with ease
  • The price is reasonable and the quality high
  • It can be customized on the outside for a completely unique journal
  • There are lots of pages, 128 leaves, 256 sides
Fiorentina Refill Lined Pages

Fiorentina's 5" x 7" refill has 256 ivory, lined pages which have a slight tooth on the surface. There are 22 lines per page spaced approximately 7 mm apart. There is a small, screened logo at the bottom center of each page.

First Impressions

The paper is lovely. It is ivory in color, fairly opaque and has a a very slight tooth on the surface. I am not sure of the exact weight of the paper, but it feels comparable to the weight of the Cartesio journals, which is 110 gsm. The surface feels porous to the touch and there is no evidence of a coating. The binding is tight, even so, I am able to open the journal flat when working.

The pages are ruled with 22 gray lines that are about ½ pt. thick and are spaced about 7 mm apart.  The lines stop about 7 mm before reaching the left and right edges, leaving small, vertical margins. The refill measures approximately 4¾” x 6½” and fits Fiorentina’s 5″ x 7″ journals.

Fiorentina Leather Journal

This refill is designed to fit a variety of Fiorentina’s 5″ x 7″ journals. Pictured is a refillable, recycled, leather journal I received as a sample about a year ago when I was considering adding some new items to my store. Other refillable journals including a sunny yellow Smile Journal are available.

The Pen and Ink Test

For the writing portion of the test, the pens I tested on the paper include:

  • Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen, 0.5 mm point
  • Sensa Ballpoint Pen
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliner
  • Tombow Fountain Pen with Medium Nib and Foray Ink Cartridge
  • Tombow Pixie Ballpoint Pen, 0.7 mm point
  • Pilot Precise Grip Fine Point Marker
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pen, Fine Point
  • Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker

Please note that you may get different results using your pens than I do with mine. A lot of variables can come into play here including pen type, ink type, pressure used, nib style and environmental conditions, etc. I will do my best to be specific when possible and to include all of the relevant details, but sometimes these things vary.

I was quite pleased by how well the paper in the Fiorentina refill performed. The words on the page appeared clear and the depth of color was similar to others I have tested, with plenty of contrast for good readability. The inks went down clean without drags, skips or picks and the paper was a joy to write on.

The edges of the words written with the Pilot Precise Grip marker and my Tombow Fountain pen appear clear, but not as sharp as those written in the Rhodia Web Notebook. The difference is slight, but if you look very closely,  you can see it. I am guessing this is because of the difference in the surface of the paper. The Fiorentina paper is more porous, so the ink settles into the paper and dries more quickly, while the ink on the Rhodia paper sits on top a little longer and dries more slowly. This difference in the Tombow Fountain pen sample could be because of a difference ink. For this test I used a budget, Foray fountain pen cartridge in my Tombow pen and have found it to perform a little bit different than the original Tombow refill that came with the pen that was used for tests in other journals.

There was little showthough and no bleedthrough using any of the roller, ballpoint and fountain pens, so the showthrough was comparable to the Rhodia Webnotebook I tested in an earlier review. What really surprised me was how well the paper resisted bleedthrough from Sharpie Fine Point Permanent marker. While it did bleed through where I started the down stroke of my letters, most of the letters did not bleed through at all.

None of the ink samples had raised areas on the backside of the paper. It performed better than Rhodia’s Webnotebook which was my previous best performer.

I tested the paper using a variety of pens from several manufacturers. Overall, the paper was a top performer. The words written with the Pilot Precise Grip and Tombow Fountain pen are almost as clear as the samples in the Rhodia Webnotebook, but not quite, due to the porous surface. Because of this, wet inks dry much faster than on Rhodia's paper.

Fiorentina Refill

The paper is fairly opaque so there is little showthrough. While there was bleedthrough with the Sharpie Permanent Marker, it was only slight and much less than any other journal I have tested with exception of Leuchtturm journals produced after August 2009.


  • Clear text even when using a fountain pen and markers, although not quite as clear as Rhodia’s Webnotebook when using the wettest pens
  • Thick paper has very little showthrough
  • Pages lay flat when opened
  • No raised areas on the back from writing
  • Lots of pages
  • No bleedthrough except a small amount from a Sharpie Permanent Marker
  • Porous paper accepts ink nicely and dries quickly
  • Pale ivory color is easy on the eyes
  • Good for use with ballpoint pens, roll pens and some fountain pens
  • Can be used with a variety of Fiorentina’s refillable journals
  • Reasonable cost


  • Heavier paper and higher page count makes the notebook thicker than the other samples tested
  • The ink from wettest pens not as clear as those in the Rhodia
  • There is a screened logo in the lower portion of each page
  • This is a refill and a cover will be an additional cost unless you create your own cover

Final Thoughts

For my uses, I like the paper in the Fiorentina refill better than any other I have tested to date because of the lovely paper and quick drying time. The paper is reminiscent of fine stationery and because of its thickness, it handles pens and other mediums without bleedthrough unless you are using a wet, permanent marker. Even then, bleedthrough is minimal. The page count and heavy paper does give you a journal that is thicker than many, but it is a reasonable tradeoff for the high-quality of the paper.

A large variety of pens will work well on the paper although this may vary somewhat depending on your pen and ink choices. If you use a wet fountain or roll pen, this journal may be a good choice for you if you want to avoid showthrough and bleedthrough. In my experience, I was able to use my fountain pen with great success, but since inks and nibs vary so much, you may have different results than I did. Who knows, your pen might perform even better! If you have had an experience with a Fiorentina journal or refill and you’d be willing to share with us, please email me at cynthia@journalingarts.com. I would love to hear from you.

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Melinda is the host this month for the Seventh Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper! Be sure to check out the latest reviews of pens, notebooks and pencils at her blog, at School Supply Dance. There is a great review by Ryan Wolf of the environmentally friendly ecosystem notebooks and a review of a budget friendly fountain pen that retails for just $3.00.

If you have a review you’d like to share, be sure to submit your article to the next Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper but going to this link: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_7671.html

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