Tuesday, November 18, 2014

sketchbook :: squash and other thoughts


This is the first sketch in my new Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. I used up the Strathmore watercolor sketchbook and was curious to try something else. Compared to the Strathmore sketchbook, the Stillman & Birn paper in the Beta is a little smoother in texture and a bit brighter white. Although I liked the paper's texture in the Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I am thinking that the smoother paper in the Beta will better lend itself to a greater variety of media. (Something I keep saying I am going to do in my sketchbooks but rarely happens) They both take watercolor well, however is is a bit easier to lift the pigment from the Beta paper. Actually somewhat too easy at times. I do use very soupy washes of color and enjoy dropping pure color into very wet areas and letting the paint mix on the paper. I like a paper that will hold onto that initial puddle of color and continue to accept additional color dropped into it while still wet. Nothing really does that like a good cold pressed paper but both of these sketchbooks, the Strathmore watercolor and the Stillman & Birn Beta, are the closest to having that quality that I have found in a commercially made bound sketchbook.

The Strathmore watercolor sketchbook that I was using was the soft bound cover in the 7.5 by 9.5 inch size. This Stillman & Birn Beta is a hard bound cover 5.5 x 8.5 inch sketchbook. They both lay flat when opened, which is important to me. Now the soft cover of the Strathmore was a treasure to hold and the 7.5 x 9.5 inch was a very comfortable format for me to work in, even if it didn't fit my scanner bed. The 5.5 x 8.5 inch size of the Beta does fit my scanner (yay!) and you get a nice 8.5 x 11 inch format when working across the page spread. Yet I do wish Stillman & Birn had more size options in the hardcover Beta sketchbook. Something a little less rectangular, more of a square sized format, but that's just my personal preference. I know they have a square format in the spiral bound but I can never warm up to a spiral bound sketchbook the way I do with a hard (or soft) bound book.

Now I know I can always return to making my own sketchbooks. And by doing so I can choose a paper I like and make a format that I prefer. And I just may do that again at some point. But my book binding skills are not so great and there always remains a gap where the signatures come together. Plus I tend to treat my hand made sketchbooks as being a little too precious, approaching every sketch as I would a finished painting. I needed a break from that mindset. For some reason, when using a commercially made sketchbook I feel more free to have messy unresolved pages right along with a few nice sketches. So I will see where this Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook takes me.

The squash pictured above were sketched with watercolor only and are on the menu for tonight's dinner.

5 comments:

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

I only have a few handmade sketchbooks, and they are empty because I don't want to ruin them :p

great use of blue for the shadows :D

CrimsonLeaves said...

Great squash with natural colors, Ann. I wish I knew how to make my own sketchbooks. Not that I'd probably use them the way things have been going with me...

Jennifer Edwards said...

Wonderful review of these sketchbooks! I've never tried them before, but now I shall have
Have to give them a go! Perhaps I'll ask Santa for a couple of them...:) and beautiful squash here...just beautiful!

Celia Blanco said...

Beautiful mix of yellow and green and love the add blues too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the sketchbooks. They are rather expensive,its good to know how they will perform before making the investment.

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Ann - those squash look good enough to eat and sounds like they will be tonight. Thanks for sharing your experiences with both of these sketchbooks. I have several but am always wanting to try something new. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving.

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