Product Review: Strathmore’s Mixed Media Art Journal

0v11195000000-st-01-strathmore-hardbound-art-journals-mixed-mediaThe winner of the journal is Cynthia Morris! Congratulations, Cynthia. Send me your mailling address, and the journal will be on the way.

Yes, there is a giveaway, there wasn’t room in the title.

I’ve seen the Strathmore art journals with the spiral binding, and I like them, too. But the spiral binding is a problem for me, because I like to travel with a journal, or even carry it in my purse. A wire binding is not only bulky, but in my purse, with a hard-case for glasses and at least one pen, the wire binding can get bent and distorted, making it almost impossible to turn the pages without tearing them. So when I saw these hard-bound journals, I had to order several. (Told you there was a giveaway.)

paperDetails: Mixed media art journal (also available in watercolor paper).
Paper: 90-lb text stock (190 gsm), Strathmore 500 series paper. Acid-free, 100 percent cotton.
Page size: 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches. (14 x 21.6 cm)
Number of pages: 64, on 32 sheets.

Price: Shop around for a good price, I’ve seen them vary from $10.00 to almost $30.00. When I couldn’t find them in any local stores, I went online and bought mine for about $10.00 plus shipping.
What I like: The pages of the Strathmore journal are bound with Smyth-sewn binding.  This binding (also called section-sewn) is durable and a sign of quality. Library books, which take a beating in use, are Smyth-sewn so they can be opened flat. The pages are sewn in signatures and the signatures into the binding, with thread, instead of trimmed and glued, as in most paperbacks.

The pages are sturdy, a slightly cream off-white, and unlined. Ready for a wide variety of work.

MoonThe cover is a leather-like substance that doesn’t scuff or mar easily. The pages for the mixed-media journal are heavy enough to take light watercolor washes, acrylic paint, pen, and Pitt markers. Alcohol markers, like Copic, will bleed through. Heavy watercolor work will cause the paper to wrinkle a bit. The area around the moon in the photo above, which I re-worked several times, is a bit wrinkled on the back. No problem. Let it dry, iron it down and the page is fine again. Strathmore makes good paper.

You can’t scrub them hard, but you can do most water media (particularly acrylic) with no problem and the pages stay flat. Big plus over some others I’ve tried.

The books are fairly thin. I don’t like 300-page journals because they are hard to manage, hard to work in, and hard to carry. The slimmer, 64-page (32 sheet) Strathmore journal is slim and portable.

FeathersWhat I don’t like: I was surprised that my Nano-Liner marker bled through a page. (You can just see it on the left side of the page, paler in this shot than in real life.) It is a 0.5, and puts down a heavy line of ink, but I was still surprised to see a slight bleed through.

The journal doesn’t have an elastic to keep it closed, which would be useful. I recycled the gold elastic band from a box of Godiva chocolates, and it works fine, although I have to remember to pick it up when I’m ready to close the journal. Not a problem at home, but in the park or at a coffee shop, I’m more likely to tuck the bag in my purse and leave, forgetting the gold elastic. I’ve had a crow steal the bright gold band right off the table, but that’s not the journal’s fault, it’s just made for a really odd look on my face.

There’s a lot to like with this journal. I’m also going to try their hardback watercolor journal (Series 400 recycled paper) and I’m a huge fan of their watercolor ready-cut paper. But I can see myself becoming a fan of these as a go-to journal.

Giveaway: Leave a comment if you would like to be entered in the drawing for the journal. I’ll spring for overseas shipping on this one, so anyone can enter. The winner will be chosen on Wednesday, 19 December. Closing for comments is 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Phoenix time. The name will be posted at the top of this post.

Here’s how I do the drawing: I divide the total number of comments by 6. I bring out the dice, and roll one to find the section with the winner (1 through 6). I repeat this action till one person wins. It’s more fun than the random number generator.

Disclosure: I purchased the journal, they were not donated. I am not being paid for or compensated in any way for this post.

91 thoughts on “Product Review: Strathmore’s Mixed Media Art Journal

  1. OMG! I’m so excited! It’s such a simple pleasure to win something, a real treat!

    Thanks, Quinn! I will fill the journal with lots of love, color and juju. Can’t wait to try it out!


  2. chunks is very real to me, how about #7 (hehe) on the die, but seriously I would really like to win the Journal; the bleed through for now, for me, would not be an issue…and the rest is lovely. Thanks for the chance!

  3. Hi Quinn, Would love to win one of these journals–give me the kickstart to really try ART journaling instead–OK, in addition to–pen and spiral-bound notebooks. Thanks so much for enlightening us on what’s good for art and not good for art (especially for us beginners.

  4. Well, I have very little artistic talent, though I’d still like to be entered to win 🙂 Your stuff is always so pretty. It’s very inspiring! I only have used a dry media sketchbook before, and I thought it wouldn’t matter so I tried watercolor pencils with it but it didn’t work at all hehe.

  5. Another amazingly generous offer by you dear Quinn. And you offer us so much each day with your thoughts and writing. I’d really love to try one of these journals if the roll of the dice picks me! Thanks again for all you give.

  6. Thank you for your blog. I’ve only recently discovered you and have come to appreciate your insights, perspective and encouragements. I was recently very moved AND motivated by the quote you posted by Chuck Close… reading it ACTUALLY got me into the studio that I’d been stuck only contemplating working in since the death of two family members. Thank you. And thank you too for the opportunity to win a new journal!

  7. I love the reviews you do for the different products. This would make a great door prize for one of my adults during next years Adult Summer Reading Program at the library. I would love a chance to win a journal. Thank you for sharing so much detail in your reviews. You are the first reviewer I have read that really puts the products to work and treats the good and bad equally when writing about your experiences.

  8. I’d love to give one of these journals a try – especially because I want to start a new art journal but have been procrastinating about it because I don’t have a good journal to use for it. Many of my past art journals have been spiral-bound, and it would be very nice to work in a bound book again – bound books have much more of a permanent feel to them than spiral-bound journals.

    • Thanks, Heather. It was how I was taught to review something when I worked at a newspaper. Use it, then describe what happened–good and bad. Too many “reviews” today are paid for by the product maker. Not much help in that.

  9. Thanks for the chance to try one out. I’ve heard the paper’s the same as their wire-bound Visual Journals. Love the paper and hate the wire! You’re so generous Quinn!

    BTW…. Your random number generating dice are the best!

  10. Years ago I read a book called The Dice Man…every desision he made in life ,big or small took a roll of the dice…..on Wednesday you can be The Dice Woman for a little while!! Would love a new journal for my birthday…very soon….and writing about the new life I find myself in..and drawing and making meaning out of art!

  11. Excellent review, Quinn! I love spiral bound and hard bound journals but I can see where the spiral wires could be a nuisance when out and about. For the most part, I use the spiral-bound ones at home and take my Moleskines out and about.

    A very generous giveaway too….thank you. 🙂

  12. I’m a huge fan of hard-bound journals but I find them rather expensive where I live, so I generally made them. It’s not the same but it still works for me. I love the way you’ll be drawing the winner.
    Thank you for your generosity.

  13. I carry several “journals” around with me. I don’t know that they’re actually journals or if they’re more about catching some thought/scene/idea/quote/image/whatever. I normally use Pentalic books inside a leather Oberon journal cover.

    My journals have a binding on them, mostly because I don’t like the holes in my paper, but the Oberon journal covers might be the trick you need for those pesky spiral problems!

    • It it catches thoughts, ideas, quotes, or sketches, it’s a journal. And the best kind, too! I have an Oberon journal cover, and love it. But it does not fit over the big round spiral in most of those wire-bound journals. Which is why I prefer hard-bound, or hand-made, which do tuck into the cover. Incidentally, the covers start at about $55, and get spendy.

  14. Just as an aside, I bought two Strathmore Art Journal kits for my granddaughters–they’re ages 7 & 4–they’re spiral bound, and bound in are some suggestions on how to get started, plus some really nice art papers (various prints and textures) and solid colored papers. They’re really nice, and I hope to inspire my grannies to start art journaling, too. They’re $10-11 on Amazon. I can hardly wait to see their faces when they open their gifts. I’ve been doing some collating with them, and you know? We can learn so much from our young’uns–they’re so spontaneous, and open to new ideas, fearless of the blank page, and totally untrammeled by what’s the “right” or “wrong” way to create art.

  15. This looks like a fantastic journal – and a great one to start the new year with! Thanks for your continual inspiration and this opportunity to win. Enjoy the season, Quinn

  16. I want to like the wire bound journals, but hate that the wire gets caught on so many things, loses its shape and tears the pages. I’m impressed that the Strathmore lies flatter than other journals, especially since I like two-page spreads. Thanks for the review and the opportunity!

  17. This is perfect timing. I’m looking for a new watercolor notebook. I’ve been using the Moleskine ones but want to try a notebook with a portrait orientation instead of a landscape one.

    I will look into the Strathmore with watercolor paper journal.

    I love your review. The moment when the crow stole your elastic cracked me up. The perils of journaling! Everyone wants a piece of your pretty.

    Thanks, Quinn, for this and other great information.

  18. I’d love to try this one out, as I love the paper in the wire bound ones,not sure a fan of the wire. I haven’t seen those around here yet, can you share where you were able to buy it from? As I’d love to get one to try it out.

  19. Quinn,
    I love writing, sketching, painting, doing a collage on Strathmore paper and truly love their journals. Those journals with wire bindings work for my at home, on a desk or table writing, yet they are for me, like you, problematic for use as a traveling companion. I always look for a good price on them and buy a few at a time. It would be lovely to win one from you, however, I just won a grand book on origami in the last month and it seems not a fair thing to have my name in the draw this time around. It will be a delight, I am sure for the winner to begin to use and enjoy a great Strathmore journal.

  20. I look forward to your weekly posts. The reviews are always helpful and informative. Thanks for putting so much effort into your work for readers like myself who are just sticking our big toes into the ocean of journaling. i would love to win this journal!

  21. Thanks for taking the time to review these journals so thoroughly. The only journals I’ve tried have been the sketch variety, so the mixed-media ones are intriguing! I work in mixed-media, so it’s good to know what will hold up to scrubbing, etc. Maybe I’ll be lucky and the dice will roll in my favor!

  22. I appreciate your posts with quotes and have used them in my teaching.
    Thank you. And thank you for introducing us to products like the Strathmore journal.

  23. I love testing out journals and putting together pages I’ve worked on in my own fashion. But, having a ready made journal to pop in my “go” bag is wonderful. I think the sturdy cover on this one would be nice to have since I really dislike scraggly looking covers. Thank you for reviewing this one and I’d love to win it! Will have to look for them when I’m out early in the new year at the supply shoppe.

  24. I would have liked to see what the book looks like when it is flat. It didn’t look flat in the picture. I am a big fan of the spiral journals!

    • Both photos of the drawn on pages show the journal opened. It does not open as flat as a spiral-bound, but the Smyth binding allows it to open flatter than most journals. And, of course, the more you use it, the more you flatten it out. But if you are a fan of spirals, Strathmore makes great spiral bound Visual Journals for both mixed media and watercolor, too.

  25. I love trying out new journals and papers too. Each one has a different feel to it and inspires me in different ways. I would love to win a new journal and this one sounds really nice. Thanks.

  26. As there’s overseas shipping on offer I’ll play too. What can I say? My name is Linda and I’m addicted to stationary! I’d love to try one of these and I’m just wandering off to see if I can buy one of the watercolour ones in the UK. Love the quirky number generator too!

  27. I have tried Strathmore wire bound journal and I do like them but you are absolutely right about the wires getting bent when you carry it in your purse. i haven’t seen any of these journals yet.

  28. I love Strathmore journals! I’ve only used the spiral-bound up to now, but will be looking for these. One tip for carrying these (and other) journals–I have purchased a Mary Kay “Satin Hands” kit for treating my painfully dry winter hands. It comes in a very sturdy bag, which (it just so happens) is the perfect size to carry such journals, some Pigma or Micron pens, a couple pencils, and eraser. And, boom! A lovely art kit, with handles at the top, even!

  29. I think there must be a story in there somewhere, about Crow stealing your bright gold band. Did you get it back, or did he/she fly off with it? Somewhere there’s a crow’s nest decorated with sparkly gold…

  30. I’ve been using the Strathmore spiral bound and thought it was fine, but this new one sounds too good to be true – more like a $50 journal! Thank you so much for your reviews and for the “fun of the draw”. Have a good week.

      • Randomness is a pretty interesting concept. Not everybody is convinced it even exists — for the most part “unpredictability” is what we’re really after. Many computer-based random number generators are “pseudorandom”, which doesn’t mean “less random”, but a random outcome based on a deterministic process. And there, by the way, is the basis of some of the dissenting opinions about randomness: is there such a thing as a nondeterministic process?

        I wonder if this will work:
        &9856; &9861;

          • Pete, you always have such interesting things to say! My dad was (among other things) a mathematician and math genius. I remember getting up with him at 6AM to take “Sunrise Semester” classes on probability & statistics, and one on Aristotelian logic. One of my favorite memories of him–thanks for triggering it for me!

        • I’ve read a lot about true randomness and the difficulty in making it happen with a random number generator. It was one of the reasons I chose the dice. I figured that by throwing the dice several times, it made it slightly more unpredictable (in my unscientific view) and more equal among the “chunks” or replies.

          • What you want is not necessarily true randomness, but unpredictability and lack of bias in a statistical sense. I’d say that additional throws don’t increase unpredictability, which is a constant with (honest) dice, but the more trials the more you average out any short-term bias — the thing dice players notice when over a short term there might be repeated identical rolls.

            Another possibility would be choosing one number from that day’s or week’s lottery drawing.

  31. Wow! This is very generous of you! I would love to try this journal! I whole-heartedly agree with you about spiral bound. Its nice that they lay flat and all but once that coil gets bent or distorted – it’s a pain!

  32. This would be nice to have considering I’ve never had a real journal before. Mostly I’ve used plain or quad pads — avoiding wire binding for sure.

  33. Okay, I need a new journal like I need a hole in the head, but you can’t get these anywhere around here and I’ve been so curious about them! Good mixed media journals are so hard to come by. I do like the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbooks, although they are far from perfect, but they work good enough for me. So anything better than that is welcome.

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