Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stillman & Birn: The Paper

I was so thrilled and surprised when Dion offered to send me a Stillman & Birn sketchbook for review. She uses S&B exclusively and actually is one of the artists that they feature on the front paper flap that encircles each sketchbook. Her specific painting hasn't been revealed on the flap yet, it's a secret which painting will adorn the wrapper and I have to admit, I'm so thrilled for Dion and excited to see her art on a Zeta cover banded sketchbook! Click here to see a sneak peak of the art that will adorn the cover bands.

I did several paintings in my new Stillman & Birn
Gamma Series Sketchbook. I wanted to test
its Multi-media capabilities.
Stillman & Birn sketchbooks come in two bindings, wirebound and hardbound and in a wide range of sizes for each. There is a large amount of choice in kinds of paper too. Here's a chart to help you choose...
• Vellum – distinctive tooth, suitable for all dry media, and will also accept multiple washes
• Cold Press – Substantial tooth, enhanced wet and tear strength, suitable for multi-media
• Plate – smooth surface, suitable for pen & ink, colored pencils, and water-based markers
Dion sent me the Gamma Series 100 lb Ivory Vellum surface sketchbook. The actual color of the paper is a very soft ivory, to me, it's kind of like an off white so it's not as stark as pure white paper. Sometimes I feel a little intimidated with a pure white page and this paper made me feel a little calmer when I first put pen to paper. I didn't find that it affected the color of any of the paintings that I did at all and that was my only concern about the lovely colored paper. The paint came out the exact color that I expected it to, no yellowing at all from the ivory. In fact, as you can see in the painting to the left, the Campbell's can is white and red, I don't think it looks "off" at all, do you?

No buckling, even though I threw a LOT
of water at this piece.
I was pleasantly surprised at the great strength of the paper, since it was 100 lb, lower than I usually work on (I usually work on 140 lb), I was thrilled to see the paper hold up to everything I threw at it with minimal buckling. I really hate it when paper "crumples" so badly that watercolors slide around where you did NOT intend the colors to go but the S&B Gamma paper was really great. I also loved it's texture. I'm used to cold pressed paper and this vellum had less tooth than that, which made it easier to get straight lines with both pencil and pen. I found it had some tooth, just enough not too be so smooth that I felt there wasn't enough drag, does that make sense? As a lefty, I find a little drag in both my paper choice and my pen/pencil choice is really helpful to control where exactly my lines go.

On the subject of being a lefty, the one thing I will do next time is get the hardbound sketchbooks. This is a personal choice. The wirebound gets in the way of my left hand as I draw and paint. So, only for that reason would I get the hardbound. I'd have to give up the convenience of being able to rip out a page if I hated it, lol. The paper in the wirebound books moves over the wire expertly, no pulling or sticking, this actually shocked me. I normally hate wirebound books of any kind. I'm always worried that the little paper bits will rip and then someday I'll lose a page out of my sketchbook. I didn't worry a bit about turning the pages in this sketchbook, so cool. Well done Stillman & Birn!

The paper let me erase pencil lines without pilling and all the multi-media I threw at it showed the terrific quality of this paper. I used pencil, archival ink, watercolors, Neocolor II's, Twinkling H2O's, pencil crayons, Copic and Prismacolor markers, charcoal and even gel pens on this vellum surface and as you can see, it all came out wonderfully. I had absolutely no problems with any medium. In fact, I'd have to say that this paper didn't "streak" as much as some other cheaper papers have when I liquify any watercolor pencil crayons with a water brush. The vellum surface handled everything really excellently.

The great thing is that the series of six kinds of paper, from Alpha to the new Zeta, all come in a plethora of sizes. In fact, if you can't find a size for you I'd be really surprised. I'm putting both the Beta and the Zeta hardbound sketchbooks on my birthday wish list. I want to try even wetter media and also acrylic paint and Silks on the thicker paper. I'm so glad to have the Gamma already so now I only have two to wish for!

Thanks again to Dion for sending me the Stillman & Birn Sketchbook, I'm so happy with it. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a Zeta hardbound 8.5 x 11 inch sketchbook, not only because I want to see Dion's artwork on the cover band but because I'd love to try their hardbound books, I'm thinking they'll end up being my goto sketchbooks too.

Stillman & Birn Links:


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  1. LOL... I think its safe to say you like the paper.... I will have to remember all your pros....the book sounds wonderful....I especially loved your cupcake.... LOL


  2. That paper sounds wonderful. As a leftie myself, I totally understand your pain with the spirals. I have found that spinning the book around so the spiral is on the right side makes it easier to use. You're working upside down but still on the correct side of the paper, you can work from the back if the paper is double sided. I like to be different and being a leftie working upside down or backwards suits me to a tee. Give it a try cos who wants to be boring and normal anyway.
    Von xx

  3. Ahhh haaa! Now I know what's wrong with my art...I'm not a Leftie!
    I've always wanted to be because everyone knows that lefties are special and have a just have to find what that talent is! Well we can see you've found yours Jenn, ;D
    This post is so jam packed with wonderful info that I'm going to have to take my time over all that you discuss.
    Thanks so much for posting and for your amazing artwork. I'm going to try and draw with my left hand just to make sure I'm not a leftie!
    Well I can hope! :D

  4. love the cupcake... and I am looking forward to a Zeta sketchbook as well... I think it will be my perfect paper... and glad you are taking some time out for your work...xx


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