Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sketchbook Review: Lamali Lokta

This has certainly been a long time coming. Blame work; trooping up and down the beach and wading around in a salt marsh with a classroom full of superexcited kids tires you out like nobody's business :]P But, here it is finally. Hooray!


These beautiful, hand-made Nepalese blank books were news to me. I acquired them in a trade over FPN, and am SO GLAD I did -- these are fantastic! The slightly off white paper is made from the lokta plant, "an unassuming shrub with the ability to regenerate every six years", according to the insert. In addition, the making of this paper is old custom, and "every step in the production process is done by hand: from the harvesting of the long, sturdy fibers to the careful binding of every journal. Each resulting item is a piece of art, combining elegant design with a rustic yet soft look and feel.
Lamali Lokta is made by artisan workshops committed to social responsibility, environmental conservation and maintaining traditional Nepalese culture. A portion of all proceeds goes towards rural economic development projects."
Wow. Now that is cool. Perhaps there is some exaggeration there; but in all honesty, it looks as though purchasing this item supports some really great things. Great cause, great paper...Consider me on board!


The covers on these notebooks are fantastically gorgeous. They are made of what seems to be thick, stiff (lokta?) cardboard: Textured, slightly wrinkled, and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Open them up...


...and this is what you see (minus the writing/doodling, of course ;P)

The three sizes that are available are as follows:

Large: 5.25" x 8.25"
Oblong: 3.5" x 7"
Small: 3.5" x 5"


The binding is sewn--


AND, it lays flat :)


All in all, it seems extremely study and flexible for its size and build. Unless you REALLY abuse it, I can't imagine this notebook getting twisted or disfigured in your briefcase or (in my case) a messy, disorganized handbag.

Though they are referred to as notebooks, I really can't think of anybody using this as a notebook so much as a sketchpad (art notes?), due to both the construction and the paper that's in it. The blank pages feel smooth to the fingers, but definitely have tooth to them, typical of sketchpads (this paper has far subtler tooth than most sketchpads, though). It's nice and thick, good quality paper. How does it fare with fountain pens?


If you look carefully you can see areas where it looked as though the ink either feathered, or "missed a spot". Neither is true. That's simply due to the toothiness of the paper, making for uneven ink coating. This is a primary reason I wouldn't use this as an actual notepad; the inconsistency of the ink coating (as well as the drag) would bug me.
In addition there was no bleedthrough AT ALL. Even with the Sharpie there was mostly shading and less so bleedthrough. With all the other pens, there was zero shading as well as zero bleedthrough. Nice!!

HOWEVER! How does this paper fare with art materials? I am of the opinion that if it can survive water colors as well as fountain pens, it's a definite keeper and can stand up to pretty much anything else.


Done with watercolor, which I let dry and then attacked with colored pencils. Since I'm a perfectionist, and attempted to get the water shade even by diluting the watercolors with even more water and sponging it off, the poor paper suffered quite a bit of abuse under my hand. Even so, it held up amazingly well!

((Geeky art explanation here, skip if desired ;P))
If you'll notice, the four main parts of the painting -- the lotus, the leaf, the bud, and the lily pad -- are done in four different styles of watercolor. This was the result of me experimenting, having not jumped onto the watercolor horse in ages ;P

My workspace

The flower bud looks more like traditional watercolor, and I think it's my favorite style of the four (though nothing in the picture except the water is done in pure watercolor -- even this bud was accented with colored pencil). The big main lotus was outlined in Sakura Micron Pens and then colored in with light, washy watercolor. This I went over with colored pencils. My major mistake ("mistake") was to use marker to outline the striations in the petals, which, while accurate, should have been done more subtly with colored pencil or watercolor, and not with black ink. So, the realism factor was automatically slashed (to my disappointment). Making the best of it, I used shades of pink, red, yellow (for highlighting) and purple (for shading) colored pencils to make an almost surreal, artsy-style lotus (does it count as surrealism? I'm not quite sure).
The big leaf near the main lotus (the artsy one) looks more like my typical watercolor/colored pencil hybrids from eons ago; painted with watercolors and then using colored pencils to achieve deeper shading effects.
Finally, as for the'm not quite sure what to make of that. It looks almost cartoony, and I do not like it at all. So...yeah. That's more of a failed experimental fluke, than anything XD


Ta da!

There are 40 unlined pages in each journal.

I got my Lamali Lokta sketchbooks through a fellow Fountain Pen Networker, acquired through a trade. I....haven't actually been able to find places online where one can purchase them *embarassed*. The FPNer in question lives in Hawaii, and found them in a local arts store. Here's the web site, which is the only real info I've found about them:

EDIT: Also, fabulous blog reader Okami found this source for obtaining the notebooks, through

I know, it's a little obscure....but is it worth it? I think so.

To conclude, these mini sketchbooks are great for traveling. They're study, yet slim and reasonably flexible, and you can be sure that the paper won't rip or tear easily. No wonder that they're called "passport journals", then. I wholeheartedly recommend them, and if I can ever get a hold of that FPNer again, or find a place that has these, I will most definitely stock up. If you're an artist, or simply a notebook/journal/sketchbook junkie, give it a go!!

NOTE, however, that not all lokta paper is created equal. This particular brand using this particular paper-making process is fantastic for FPs and watercolors alike; however, I've heard very iffy things about other lokta-made products so far as FPs are concerned, and can't speak as to their quality as I personally have not tried them. If I do, I'll let you know :P

Rhodia pad
Rhodia pencil (I'm curious as to this one, myself)
Diamine inks (5): Pumpkin, Majestic Blue, Onyx

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful review! I've been using the Lama Li journals for a couple of years now. The Passports are fantastic. I'll agree about some of the others. I've used the Travel journal, which looks fantastic, but allows bleed through--it's a bigger journal good for quick pencil sketches, not much else. I love the Thick Journal but you have to adapt to the paper--it has too much 'character' to be easily subdued. The Flower journal is similar to the Passport, but it has a hardcover and doesn't lie as flat. Alas, I have a local art store (Art Media) that carries these so I can't help with finding them. Savoir-Faire is the company that carries them. Perhaps if people went to their local stores and asked for them?