Editor’s Note: Today’s blogger, Less, was one of three winners in our Stillman & Birn Art Journal Giveaway, and received the Stillman & Birn Alpha Side Spiralbound Art Journal. She readily volunteered to write a guest review for our blog, and we’re thrilled to host her words, images, and videos today! Love what you see? Let her know in the comments!
The sketchbook arrived to me well packaged and once the wrapping was removed I was quite impressed with the sketchbook. The covers feel very heavy and sturdy. Unlike some other sketchbooks I’ve bought they were not bowed and so far even with the oppressive Massachusetts humidity, they have remained flat and rigid. The black covering is black plastic with a nice faux leather grain. The back cover is debossed with the Stillman & Birn logo as well as Alpha, the sketchbook series. The coils are made of nice sturdy wire and painted black to match the cover. The holes for the rings are standard sized squares. They aren’t too tight nor are they sloppy, pretty much just right.
Inside the covers are 50 leaves or 100 pages of 110 lb (150 gsm) heavy paper. The surface is a lovely cold pressed finish. When I looked at the paper I was surprised to find that Stillman & Birn refer to it as a cold press finish, as I generally think of CP paper as quite a bit rougher than these pages. It is a very subtle cold press finish. It’s quite smooth but has just enough texture to be interesting with a variety of materials. The paper is warm white in color without leaning into ivory.
I’ve tested a variety of materials on these pages and have been nothing but impressed. My fountain pens all love this paper. Ink looks great. Every color out of every pen just looks wonderful. The warm white shade really shows the colors off. Black is a nice deep black color, red pops off the page and my greys look perfectly silvery.
Officially Stillman & Birn rates this paper as “good for light washes.” Of course I had to throw that caution into the wind and really slop some watercolor onto the page. With light to moderate washes I noticed some cockling of the paper, that mostly relaxed after drying, leaving only slight waves in the pages. The pages I dumped heavy amount of watercolors reacted pretty much as expected, lots of cockling and plenty of waves even when dry. The waves in the pages did decrease after closing the sketchbook for a few hours.
A surprising thing is that with both heavy amounts of ink and watercolor there was no soak through to the reverse side of the page. Which left me with both sides of the page being useful. The only soak through that I experienced was with spray inks when applied heavily and regular bullet point Sharpies. It felt great with a variety of pencils, I was able to lay down thick layers of pencil to create deep darks without the paper falling apart. Erasing pencil was great too, the paper stood up to my erasers and erases cleanly.
Overall I’m very pleased with the Stillman & Birn Alpha series paper, it works perfectly with my style of sketching and art journaling. I have no doubt that it would survive the abuse that most mixed media art journalers would throw at its pages. I will be getting more.
Meet the Writer: Less Herger is the owner and writer behind ComfortableShoesStudio.com and co-founder of PutitonPaper.org. She’s been making art for as long as she can remember and can’t imagine a day without her pen and ink.