Saturday, January 14, 2012

stillman and birn sketchbooks

gouache, prismacolor, inktense, and derwent 8B pencils in stillman and birn 4" x 6" gamma sketchbook

i am teetotally in love with a stillman and birn 'gamma' sketchbook as my new 'daily book'... you can truly do light washes in it, pencil and pen are beautiful on the paper, and calligraphy ink does not bleed through to the other side of the page.

this post is mostly about the 4" x 6" 'gamma', but towards the end i'll also say a few words about the 'delta' sketchbook (extra heavy paper). they make a series of five different books (i.e. different bindings and types/colors of paper).

the info that came with the 'gamma'...

the ivory paper is *beautiful*... a colored pencil face on the left and a watercolor face on the right. most of these pics were taken in full sun when i was out walking/drawing...

the left page is another colored pencil face, and on the right page i used mostly inktense pencils (with water). the rays coming from the heart are ivory mccaffery's penman's ink, which is a dense ink that didn't begin to bleed through (or buckle) the page.

j. herbin's 340th anniversary ink 'rouge hematite' here... my sister just gave me a bottle of it with a glass pen! woo!

the back side of the page with the anniversary ink on it - as you can see it didn't bleed through. if you look very closely you can see a hint of the writing on the other side, but it's faint.

prismacolor pencils and an .005 pigma micron pen... the paper has a bit of tooth, but the pen moves across the page beautifully.

and, maybe the most important thing, the book lays open flat no matter where you are in it! yes!

getting ready to walk home, the book resting on a tuft of grass... i'm using a sari ribbon to keep it closed while it's in my pack.

watercolors, goauche, oil pastels, and inktense pencils in stillman & birn delta sketchbook

the 7" x 7" spiral bound 'delta' is the only other stillman and birn sketchbook i've tried... mostly i wanted to see how watercolors did on the 'extra heavy' paper. i wondered if the colors would be vibrant and if the paper would buckle. the colors were fantastic and the page didn't begin to buckle. you could use plenty of water on this paper with no problem. i think this paper can handle *anything*!

both the extra heavy paper in the 'delta' and the heavy paper in the 'gamma' (my daily book) have the perfect amount of surface sizing for me. you can move paint around easily with little or no staining, and the surfaces are resilient - they don't disintegrate easily.

so yeah, investigate stillman and birn sketchbooks if you're looking for a new and improved journal! for me it's a real joy to work in a book using colored pencils, ink, and watercolors without preparing the page in any way.

you can go to their website to see if there's a retailer near you, or here are a few online sources:



wet paint

jamie williams grossman has written extensive reviews of stillman and birn sketchbooks on her blog hudson valley sketches. here's part 1 of her review of the 'alpha', which is the same as my daily book except with white paper.

please feel free to ask questions if you have them!



  1. thank you for all the great product reviews!! so happy to see you link to wet paint, my very favorite store in the world!! so lucky to have it close!

  2. I am still looking to purchase these wonderful art journals and sketch books! Yours is making me drool :0)! Have a great weekend! Peace, mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  3. OOOH, OOOH - I have to go draw!!! thanks, Lynne, love, sus

  4. how wonderful that Stillman And Birn recognized your wonderful talent and audience and gave you their awesome books and papers to experiment on and share with us. i will be looking into them. I loved reading everything you shared with us and glimpses of your wonderfully unique and inspiring art.

    hello ~

  5. To page through your journals and sketchbooks must be quite an experience. The last watercolor is exquisite! No better advertisement for Stillman and Birn.

  6. You should teach for a living if you don't already. This is a great post Lynne. And can I say you make florals quite prettily! I am I need a little tiny sketchbook for my purse for those waiting room blocks of time. Or when I am stuck at a train.
    : )

  7. oh what a yummy post this is. i saw it last night at mom's on my iPhone but didn't want to tick tick tick on my mini keys...and i wanted to see these treasures, up close and personal on the big screen. i love your instructional post...i always learn so much from you because you have the gift of caring and sharing. i just adore those posies and that leaf...I'm call that page ani even if it doesn't have a name, that's my favorite little page your showing here but then i'm jaded about leaves. and now i have a little moleskin of my own that i'm doodling so maybe someday i'm gonna do a show and tell too. i had to laugh because i said to myself - oh, she did that photo on her pogo! see, something else that is new to me. i wish i could go out and sit on look but my bottom would stick to the ground - frozen butt-ox. xox love this page.

  8. very cool..I will have to see if they are at my local Utrecht store. Thanks for the review! BTW how do you like the inktense pencils? I have been thinking of trying them.

  9. Hi Lynne,

    thanks for your review. I am always looking for journals with great paper that open flat. I will be looking for someone in my area that sells the Stillmand and Birm products. :) I love to use wet media and sketchbooks don't normally cut it for me.

    I have a glass pen and some j. herbin ink too and you have inspired me to get it out and play. I was so impressed with how well the glass pens write. Who would have thunk it!

    Another great post.

    luv ya

  10. hi kay, you're welcome for the review! about the intense pencils, the funny thing is that before i got the stillman and birn journal i was thinking about giving them away! since the s. & b. journal i've used them *a lot*. i put the pencil on the page dry, and then with a filbert brush spread a little water around on the color. it doesn't take much water to 'activate' the color. i'm really loving them for a light wash sort of look. so now i've totally changed my tune and am finding them most useful!! they sell them individually at dick blick (and maybe utrecht?), so you can always try just a few. i love the red oxide, mustard, tan, and amber. oh yeah, and payne's grey....



  11. Thankyou for the fab post. sounds like you are having lots of fun. You must be over the Moon with all your new goodies to try out. I LOVE inktense pencils by the way, also their paint sticks. I have just decided to try a Moleskin, pretty flash for me. Cheers, Marg. ox

  12. Thanks for sharing the very detailed info:)

  13. I purchased both the Delta and the Gamma yesterday and I loooove them.

  14. Oh how I lOVe to look inside sketchbooks! Thankyou for showing us this!
    Jess xx

  15. patti - i am happy to hear that!! xoxo

  16. Might just have to get me one or three of those! thanks for sharing...xxoo

  17. Do I see a deer on the cover of one of the books? Like it so much, Lynne.
    and i want some ink. some rouge 340 year anniversary ink , its such a gorgeous bottle, I'm sure it has magic properties...

  18. your sketches make me happy. thank you.

    This sounds like my kind of journal. i never use amazon but i'm going to look at barnes and noble, and elsewhere until i get a chance to check this baby out.

  19. they should put you on commission!! i really love the botanical paintings :)


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