Sunday, July 3, 2011
Stillman and Birn Delta Series Sketchbook
Stillman & Birn Delta Series Sketchbook is a top quality, archival, super tough all-media art journal with teeth! If there's a Bruce Willis of sketchbooks, I think I just met it. This handsome 6" x 8" double wire bound multi media book stood up to everything I tried on it and just kept asking for more. Begging for more, no matter how much I soaked it, the rough tooth ivory paper kept its grip on pastel and watercolor pencil marks until washed or smudged.
Recently I received five beautiful sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn, one each of all five Greek letter archival sketchbooks. Each one is archival and top quality, what varies is the type of surface - rough, medium, smooth, the color and the weight of the paper. Each of these top quality sketchbooks is best for different types of media but all of them seem flexible and tough enough for a wide variety of uses - including my favorite sketch and wash. So let's start with the Delta.
The first book that attracted me is the Stillman & Birn “Delta Series” with extra heavy weight rough ivory paper. The color’s very pleasing, a light soft ivory that’s just dark enough a white accent would barely show up, giving a warm cast to any colors I put on it. The paper is super heavy - 180lb or 270 gsm. Thicker than standard 140lb watercolor paper, its enhanced wet strength is suitable for mixed media rendering.
I wanted to know if it would stand up to anything I threw at it.
My first test page has a sketch of a white horse done with Derwent Watercolour Pencils and washed. The rough, toothy paper took the color as strong and deep as the Aquabee Bogus Recycled Rough paper, it’ll be wonderful for pastels, pastel pencils and oil pastels. I added several layers in some patches for mixed color before washing them, felt as if I could’ve added even more if I wanted to.
I washed that with a wet Niji waterbrush, squeezed heavily and gave it quite a bit of water in some spots. No cockling, no trouble, the paper absorbed the water easily and nothing bled through to the other side. I love this paper!
Below the horse picture, I chose a dark purple pencil and tested how well the multi media paper erases. I went very heavy, achieved full deep coverage quick because the rough toothy paper held the color easily. This will be great for colored pencils sketching even with the softest pencils like Coloursoft or Prismacolor.
I had no doubt graphite would come up easily, so I picked the toughest pencil to erase and lighten - dry soft Derwent Watercolour pencil. I used a Faber Castell pencil eraser to cut through the color all the way down to the paper.
Wow. It did erase completely where I gave it the most work. The paper surface doesn’t feel damaged in the erased patches either, even though I went heavy with the eraser using one that often damages weaker papers.
Delta Series paper is extremely tough. I love it. But I’d only washed it with a water brush. What would happen if I wanted to do big soggy wet in wet washes in my journal? Clouds with dropped in color or splashy drips and backruns?
I used a 1” flat brush to soak the back of the white horse page up to 1/2” from the edges. Had water floating on it and shiny at first, then got out Daniel Smith watercolor sticks and doodled into it.
My, the Delta has thirsty paper. No sooner had I started sketching than the big soggy initial wetting sank in and I was working on barely-damp paper. That was surprising, but gave me a chance to see how the toothy surface handled DS Watercolor Sticks. I love it. I got good strong color.
Slight warping occurred in the heavy washing, but it flattened out again pretty fast. With the same big brush, I laid in another big wash area above and below the ammonite doodles, then picked up color from the ends of Ultramarine and Sap Green Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks to add swirls and swooping soft-edged watery shapes. THis worked, I did get some soft edged passages especially putting color into an area that already had two water washes and a color stroke. It still soaked up the water fast!
Last, to see how pastel pencils responded on the dried surface, I added a few linear and smudged elements with Carb-Othello Stabilo Pastel Pencils. Color laydown was as fast and soft as with the Derwent Watercolour Pencils and smudging to softness as easy as a quick swipe with my fingers. The multimedia test doodle is 100% successful.
I can do whatever I want on this paper. It’s perfect for mixed media. I’d have no hesitation at gluing in photos or clippings, carving it up with a razor blade to get sparkles, splashing it with acrylics or repeatedly melting areas with a spray bottle. It just keeps taking the punishment and performing beautifully. All that washing didn’t reduce the tooth one bit.
Remember the Eraser Test in the earlier image? I did that before turning the page to drown it before doing my Ammonites Doodle, Looking at it now - exactly the same. No matter how much I poured into it, the paper didn't get damp enough on the side previously used to activate the watercolor pencil eraser test. It's still dry on dry. I can be fearless about turning the page and using both sides even if I'm using watersoluble mediums and want to keep them dry or undisturbed.
This art journal is perfect for outdoor sketching in watercolor or anything I feel like using. Even heavy washes don’t bleed through to the other side of the page and the cockling is minimal - it took a good third of a cup of water to begin to make it cockle. There was none at all from just using the Niji water brush.
This super paper is 87% alpha cellulose, not a rag paper but plant fiber nonetheless. It's forestry certified for woodland ecology and conservation. Highly uniform fiber distribution means there's tooth but no distracting texture like a rough watercolor paper often has - fine clean lines in pen or wash and smooth hard edges are easy. Internal and external sizing is probably why my purple watercolor pencil erasing experiment didn't get wet from the super soaked Ammonite Doodle. At 180lb, it's beefier than standard artist's weight watercolor paper and cockles less.
I'd have no trouble gessoing a few pages to do oils in the field or just doing acrylics right on the paper. This really can take whatever I want to do with it and I know with this archival quality, my color studies and field paintings will still be good years later when I want to do studio paintings from them. I used artist grade supplies because I know the paper will last.
The Stillman & Birn Delta Series Sketchbook is a top of the line artist’s grade sketchbook or art journal. Tough, beautiful, sturdy multi-media paper within heavy board covers in a spiral binding, the Delta is my choice when I want to be able to choose what to use on the spot. So far it stands up to anything I throw at it with so much tooth that oil pastels, pastel pencils or dry pastels would behave just as well with it.