This is the first time I’ve tried out the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and took it out to Edinburgh on bright autumn day for a test run.
Coming from using moleskine sketchbooks for so long, I’ve been meaning to try something new. I’ve been working around the waxy texture of the paper for so long I’ve got used to it but at the back of mind I’ve been wanting to use watercolour a bit more freely. So I was keen to give the Stillman & Birn books a go as I heard they were especially geared to using watercolour. I tried one from their Zeta series, its a really heavy duty sketchbook specifically designed for colour washes.
The first thing I noticed was the book opens up flat so you can do double pages, there are so many books that don’t do this it’s a really nice surprise they got right.
The paper itself is a really thick 180lb, I threw quite a bit of paint at it, it really holds up well. It was a new experience not having the paper buckling with each wash I did. In fact I could do washes in one go was new in itself, usually I scrub the paint into the page, taking a few goes to get right. I’m not too keen on the surface of the paper, its very smooth almost like Bristol board paper so there isn’t as much character as I’d like. Because there is no texture to speak of paint does tend to glide over the surface. I don’t really like the bright white of the paper. It might be worth trying out a different series as they have textures and different shades to the paper.
The smoothness of the paper can also cause the paint to sit on the surface, so it does take a bit longer to dry.
I also wished the sketchbook had more character. Its a solid black book but could do with more personality, reading about them coming from Europe to New York sounded like a really interesting story but doesn’t really come across at all. It was as if they designed a book to address artists and illustrators wish list on what they wanted from a sketchbook on a purely practical level. There’s also an aesthetic aspect that seems to be missing, it could do with a few nice details to appreciate.
I think I’ll persevere and try and keep drawing and finish the book, sometimes it could just take awhile to get used to a new book.