Monday, October 15, 2012

Sketchbook Snob



I admit it...I'm a bit of a sketchbook snob. I have been sketching for so many years that I've become very set in what I like or maybe more importantly...what I don't like. 
I use two different types of sketchbooks. The first one is a spiral bound book I make. This sketchbook is 10 x 11inches and has watercolor, pastel and drawing paper. You can read an earlier blog post to learn more about this sketchbook. But right now I want to talk about my other sketchbook, my illustrated journals.
Recently I was contacted by a company and asked if I'd like to try their sketchbooks. I like to keep an open mind but I have been disappointed with samples before. Within a couple days I received a
box filled with a generous assortment of sketchbooks from Michael Kalman, at Stillman & Birn. I opened the books and felt the different paper surfaces. Each book was unique unto itself but I was especially taken with the Beta Series, Cold Press, 180lb. paper! The book was stitched bound and opened completely flat…and the perfect size 8.5 x 5.5, which means it opened to 8.5x11.inches. It came in natural white (Beta Series) or ivory (Delta Series). This sketchbook got my hopes up!
I was getting ready to take a trip up north to see my son in Trinidad.  I tucked the new sketchbook away and decided I would play with in on the trip. You
can read about the trip and see my sketches in my last post "Bitter with the Sweet". I was able to tuck the sketchbook in my purse along with my small travel palette, pen and waterbrush.

Last week I really put the Beta sketchbook to the test. Most sketchbooks can handle pen and a light wash of watercolor but this book can handle a lot. I am more than impressed!! The sketch of the pomegranates shows how well the paper held with multiple wet washes
without warping, pilling up, or bleeding through. I highly recommend the Beta or Delta Series for watercolor! The books come in a variety of sizes, bindings and paper surfaces. My favorite is the Beta 8.5 x 5.5. 
Stillman & Birn's focus is on the paper, point blank.
They recognize that art journaling is now becoming its own art form, and the sketchbook is no longer just a transitional tool from the field to the art studio, it's becoming its own fine art. They created the highest quality art journal possible.  

To find a  retailer near you click Stillman & Birn. To see the NEW hardbound "Beta Series"  5.5 x 8.5 or 8.5 x 11 click here.

Happy Sketching!
Brenda


29 comments:

  1. I have both of these sketchbooks and feel the exact same way...I love them!!!

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  2. thank you! I would like to try it with recommended size.

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  3. I am trying to figure out exactly what you have. I see it NOT spiral bound of course.
    At Dick Blick the only series in Stillman and Birn NOT spiral bound seems to be the Alpha (100 lb) the Epsilon (100 lb) and the Gamma series.

    The 3 surfaces available are Vellum, Rough and Plate (not listed as cold pressed). It's kind of confusing. the Beta series is wire bound (180 #) and is only in rough paper. Could you take a look at it and see what's what. Maybe I need to order from somewhere else. Too bad as I had some other stuff to order at Blick and I wanted to try one.

    Incidentally I am signing up to take your class at Dillamn's Resort in WI which is just 15 minutes from our cabin in Lac du Flambeau!!! Can't wait!

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  4. ps I went direct to their website and they do say the Beta series is now in hardbound but I do not see the 8.5 x 5.5 size.
    Look at http://www.stillmanandbirn.com/beta.html

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    1. Ginny,
      Look at the top of the Stillman & Birn page, it say NEW in red bold lettering...click on the image and the books come up. Also here's the link http://www.stillmanandbirn.com/beta.html
      I'm delighted we are going to meet at Dillman's this June!
      Happy Sketching!

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  5. Hi Brenda,
    I just discovered your blog, and have been admiring your work. I do not know how to describe it best, but I'm in awe at your style and technique. My heart warms and I'm thinking: I want to be able to do that too! I'm gonna get myself one of those dvd's! Thank you for sharing your beautiful work, and your experiences with the sketchbooks!

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    1. Thank you, Koosje! I never tire of hearing those wonderful words!

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  6. This illustration is classic-Brenda, as in "incredibly gorgeous"! I've read other reviews on this sketchbook series; yours has convinced me to give them a try. Thanks!

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    1. Vicky, I really think you'll like the books! The 180lb paper is wonderful!!!
      Happy Sketching!

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  7. Hi, I also am new to your blog. I am in awe of your work it is so beautiful!
    I have been reading many of your past blogs and learning a lot. Thank you for sharing some of your talent with us. I so appreciate your tips too,very inspirering! These sketch books sound great!
    God Bless,
    Sharon

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    1. Sharon, Thank you for the nice comments. The blog is here for YOU and all who want to know about this wonderful thing called...WATERCOLOR !

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  8. Hi Brenda, I just received my two journals today and can't wait to paint in them. I love the feel of the paper and the size.(Going to save one for Italy). I bought mine from amazon. I just want to say that I think of you every day. I read Heidi's updates and feel encouraged by her words. I continue to pray for their strength, endurance and Dan's speedy recovery. Karla

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    1. Hi Karla, Glad you got your hands on the sketchbooks. I was delighted to find them! Thank you for following the updates on Daniel. I am grateful to know he has a good chance to beat this!! Hugs

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  9. Fantastic site, wonderful and inspiring work.
    Thanks for sharing.
    :)

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  10. Brenda, could you describe how you did the beautiful background to your pomegranates? Some of the shadows seem to have to have leaf shapes to them. I struggle with how to incorporate the background into my sketches.

    thanks

    Prayers for you and your family too.......

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  11. Cathy, The background was handled with a technique called "Negative Painting". Here is a link to my blog page that describes and demonstrates the technique.
    http://brendaswenson.blogspot.com/2012/03/negative-painting-with-watercolor.html

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  12. I continue to pray for your son and family. God speed good health and good wishes your way!

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    1. Thank you! I would love to know your name ;)

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  13. With Stillman & Birn's help, I found the Beta hardbound sketchbooks at utrechtart.com and their service was great. I'm new to watercolors and sketchbook journalls and I'm in love! I found your blog through Pinterest and I would like to improve my sketching, painting and negative painting style with you. How can I find out about all of your upcoming classes/workshops? Will you be doing another 75 sketches in 75 days challenge?

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    1. Bobbi, I am delighted to hear about your new love of watercolor! You can begin the 75 day sketch challenge at any time. just let me know the start date. I have workshops happening all through the year except in December. I am finalizing next years workshop schedule and will be adding new dates soon. please check my website for a complete list of classes at: www.swensonsart.net or email me directly at SwensonsArt@gmail.com
      Happy Sketching!

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  14. Wow, thank you! Excellent post, and so glad I found your blog! :)

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  15. Beautiful sketching and thank you for the information on the books. i am ordering today.
    aloha,
    bobbie

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  16. Stillman and Birn have become my favorite sketchbooks, and mixed media journals too.I love the sizes that are available and the paper is just the best! Great article. Thanks for posting !

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  17. Marie, Yes, the books are the best!!! I have had the pleasure to speak with Michael Kalman (owner) numerous times and he is so helpful and genuinely interested in what artists think and want. Happy Sketching!

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  18. So this is the one you told me about in the workshop today. I guess I should have checked out the blog page first. This link will make it so much easier. BTW, I'm really loving the workshop. And, I feel that I am learning to apply things that I "know" in theory and haven't really seen for myself and applied consciously. Thank you so much.
    Theresia

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    1. Theresa, You are gonna love the sketchbook..,I sure do!
      It's great having you in the workshop.,,you're doing wonderful work!
      Brenda

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