Stillman & Birn Softcovers: An Exciting Announcement

Via Giphy.com

I am so excited to be writing this post.  As many know, Stillman & Birn, my favorite sketchbook company, released a line of softcover sketchbooks not very long ago.  Sadly, what most also know is that there were manufacturing problems with those books and they had to recall all of them, at great expense, from around the world.  I applauded them for this as it hit their bottom line hard, but they didn’t want we artists to bear the pain of the problem.

Excepting the manufacturing problem, these softcover books looked like a dream come true.  Available in all of Stillman & Birn’s great papers, in a variety of sizes, and with cover colors that reflected the paper type.  The covers had an almost suede-feel to them.  They weighed only 55-65% of the weight of the equivalent hardcover and they were much thinner.  A dream come true for someone like me who carries several sketchbooks and walks a couple hours a day to sketching locations.

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Well, they’re BACK!!!  Or at least almost back.  Stillman & Birn says they should be available ‘real soon’ and they sent me a couple of their prototype books to get my opinion about whether the problems are fixed.

To that I can say, they are fixed and then some.  I’ve gone through both of my prototype books, one page at a time, and the problems we saw with the initial release are gone.  But it’s better than that.  These books lay flatter than their early softcovers and certainly better than the hardcovers.  I didn’t have to bend them backwards as you do with the hardcovers to get them to lay flat.  They just do, though I still recommend going through each page, folding it out flat before using the book.  I do that with any sketchbook, regardless of brand.

As I said, the books they sent me are prototypes.  They came with Delta and Gamma paper so I could check both the 150gsm and 270gsm binding.  The covers are the same material as the production versions but these aren’t color-coded; they’re prototypes.  Still, they are amazing books and I’m downright giddy that I have them to use.  I was planning to get somewhere to do a sketch for this blog post but a snowstorm prevented that.  Truth is, everyone knows how great Stillman & Birn paper is so I decided it was more important to get this announcement into the ether.   So here it is, without a sketch.  Here’s the money shot of the books laying flat. Ain’t they gorgeous?  Coming soon to an art store near you.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.

 

Clowning Around With Thursday Sketchers

We were back at it on Thursday, as we met at the museum to sketch.  Winter may drive us indoors but it doesn’t slow us down much.

clown toy

Canson XL watercolor, Pilot Prera, DeAtramentis Document Brown

I found this little, three-inch high clown sitting in the bottom of a small display of early children’s toys.  His right foot was missing but I made one up.  He was lots of fun to draw.

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Canson XL watercolor, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

This lantern was nearly invisible and I have to wonder if it’s a forgotten exhibit.  It was hanging on a dark wall, in the dark and it was black.  Hard to see but it whispered ‘sketch me’ as I walked past.  And so I did, or tried.

When I finished Claudette and Lisette were chatting, making plans to have tea and while they were packing up I did this quick sketch of a top hat in the case where we were standing.  Then we headed for tea and had a great discussion about the value of sketching whenever we have a few idle minutes.

top hat

Canson XL multi-media, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

 

February Sketchcrawl At Maison Dorion-Coulombe

Celine, Yvan, and Rene drawing the Great Horned Owl

Celine, Yvan, and Rene drawing the Great Horned Owl

We did it!  Our numbers were small, but we were mighty.  I think a lot of people decided not to come because it was so cold (-40) and the news was warning everyone of the extreme cold.

Only six of us show up at Maison Dorion-Coulombe to draw last Sunday.  One of them was my daughter, who is home from school.  That was a special treat for me.  When we arrived, Cassandra, staff member for the Société de la rivière Saint-Charles, greeted us and let us set up stuffed animals however we liked.  For us, it was just nice to be warm.

Celine, Pierre, and Jodie

Celine, Pierre, and Jodie

Popular subjects were the Great Horned Owl and the Northern Loon but some ink was spilled documenting the river otter as well.  I did a quick drawing of Cassandra at her desk.   There was more chatter than normal between the sketchers, probably because we were so tightly clustered but that was fun.  Generally we have to wait until lunch to talk.

Celine drawing the otter

Celine drawing the otter

I’m including one sketch from each artist and displaying them smaller than I normally would.  To see them larger, click on each photo.  Sketchcrawls in winter are hard to plan because the venues are so limited but I hope you’ll come out and join us because they’re fun.

Pierre_loon

Pierre’s Loon

Yvan_owl

Yvan’s owl

Rene_owl

Rene’s owl

Larry_loon

Larry is a Loon

Sketching Too Quickly – Follow Up

In my post of yesterday I mentioned that I could “improve them by adding some shading” but that I was posting the quick sketches ‘raw.’  I’ve had a couple requests, asking me what I meant and/or what I did.  Truth is, there are a lot of things one can do but in this case I kept it very simple.  Here are three of them with some color added.  Doesn’t change things much but it adds a bit of spice I think.

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Sketching Too Quickly

I’ve found it amazing to watch the likes of Veronica Lawlor drawing dancers.  It always seemed impossible.  Then my friend Yvan started attending sessions at our museum where dancers and choreographers were practicing.  The drawings he was producing were spectacular.   I kept saying “Maybe I’ll come along” and always I chickened out.  As a slow [understatement alert] sketcher this seemed impossible and I guess I was trying to avoid the frustration.

But I finally did attend one of those sessions with Yvan and two things became clear.  The first was that I was right.  It IS impossible.  The second thing was a big surprise.  I loved it and can’t wait to do it again.  My sketches are sloppy and barely look like the women I sketched.  One woman was wearing a huge African head scarf and she had bells covered with scarves on her ankles.

In all, I covered 14 pages with scribbles.  Some of them look almost like people and I’ve never moved my pen so quickly, never strained my visual memory so much and after two hours I was completely exhausted.  I could improve them by adding some shading but the point of the exercise was to draw quickly, without the time to think about it so I thought I’d present these as they were done, in the moment…in a moment.

I did some sketches of spectators.  They didn’t move so much.

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The rest of these came as a blur, or so it seemed at the time.  If you squint a lot you might enjoy them.  An open mind and closed eyes might be the best approach (grin).  I can’t wait to do it again.

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