First up: my apologies–this post got REALLY LONG. But I have a feeling I may be referring people to it so wanted ALL the info in one blogpost. So here goes: many moons ago, the generous folks at Stillman and Birn sent me a sample pack of their six papers because I didn’t know what to order in a sketchbook, and the sketchbooks aren’t exactly inexpensive so I didn’t want to buy six. I decided to do a controlled test on the samples using various pens, pencils, inks and watercolors. The paper comes in two weights: 100 lb and 180 lb, two colors: white and ivory, and three finishes: vellum, cold press, and smooth. Vellum is a velvety finish (not like drafting vellum which is like a heavy duty tracing paper); smooth is comparable to hot press. Here’s the S&B information:
And some useful links:
- Stillman & Birn website
- Dick Blick offers S&B sketchbooks here and here.
- Binders Art Supply in Atlanta carries the sketchbooks AND the paper!!!! Awesome customer service (see below)
- Goulet Pens has great fountain pens, a massive selection of inks, a billion instructional / informational videos and (DRUM ROLL of epic proportions please) they sell SAMPLES of the inks. You can get about two cartridges worth out of each sample…so I have ordered and used about TWENTY samples. But that is a separate blogpost for later.
- Online classes with Val Webb, probably the best art teacher I’ve ever had; she helps all of her students achieve more than we could ever dream!
- Online classes at Sketchbook Skool with Danny Gregory, Koosje Koene and various guest teachers
Here’s a photo of the six pieces of paper in my Stillman & Birn sample pack:
Here are close-ups of each of the six papers showing how my favorite pens and pencils behave on each offering:
I’m just finishing up my first S&B sketchbook, an Epsilon 7 x 10 wirebound. I LOVE IT! So much that I ordered some individual sheets to customize my sketchbook for my trip to England. Before that though, here are some sample pages from my Epsilon sketchbook so you can see how it handled various media.
I also got lucky: I emailed Stillman and Birn (they are SO responsive!) to ask if they had ever considered making a “sampler sketchbook” as the samples were small, but I didn’t want to buy six sketchbooks! Turns out they had, but they didn’t sell well so won’t be making more of these samplers. The guy told me that Binders in Atlanta might still have some, so I called them up a couple months ago since none of the sampler sketchbooks were listed on the website. The nice lady at Binders (which also has OUTSTANDING customer service) went to look in the shop as the computer showed they had four left. I bought three of them, two as gifts, one to use myself.
The sampler sketchbooks are the small size (6 x 8 ish, with 5 1/2 inches of usable width on the page) with four sheets/eight pages of each of the six papers. Sometimes I like wide–enjoyed the format of a Moleskine accordion fold, but not that paper. . So I bought some of the Epsilon and Zeta paper sheets and make myself some 2-page and some accordion fold “extensions” to tape into this journal in the sections I’ve reserved for art. I’m not as fond of ivory paper, so I used the vellum ivory Gamma pages to write down essential information for my upcoming trip: lodgings, emergency contact numbers for insurance, lost credit cards etc. I’ll do some watercolor washes on the Delta cold press and may use that for both watercolor and collaging in trip ephemera. The Alpha pages will be for my trip “calendar.” The Beta, Zeta and Epsilon pages will be for artwork.
And using more of the single sheets of paper I’m going to draw a map and then illustrate it as the journey progresses. I’ve cut it to about 11 x 14 inches so I can glue one corner to the inside cover for opening out easily. On the last page, I’m taping in a printed-out map, also that can be folded up nicely.
Then my hand-drawn illustrated map will be taped/glued to the inside of the back cover. With the wire-bound, there is enough room to add these extra pages without having the rigid covers “splay out” much if at all.
So thank you if you’ve manged to read through this massive tome! Really loving my Stillman and Birn, as well as great classes from Val Webb and in the Sketchbook Skool, and the fabulous customer service and responsiveness from S&B, Goulet Pens and Binders.