One of the expenses of living in Quebec City is shipping. I have to order most of my art supplies online as there simply isn’t a place to buy what I need here. So, when I get the opportunity to visit places like Ottawa and Toronto I’m like the proverbial farmer who comes to the big city. I’m looking for stuff… lots of stuff.
At the top of my to-buy list this trip was “Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.” Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I use them almost exclusively as I appreciate their quality. In short, they make me look better than I am and I need all the help I can get. One of my first stops in Ottawa was a big disappointment as the stored looked like they were going out of business. If empty shelves can make a retail store money, they are doing great.
But Toronto is a different place. It’s the location of two of the largest online art stores in Canada. Both stock S&B sketchbooks and both have physical stores in Toronto. I had a plan. Curry Art Supplies is located only a 15 minute walk from our hotel so that was my first stop. While they did have some S&B, they didn’t have the sizes and paper types I wanted. Very disappointing.
But after a romp through the Silver Snail, a comic book store just down the street, we headed for Above Ground Art Supplies, another 15 minutes of walking. Above Ground has got to be one of the coolest art stores on the planet. It’s a large, beautiful, three-story house and each room of the first two floors is filled, floor to ceiling, with stuff. Cool stuff. Great stuff.
I was so excited that I nearly ran up the stairs to the second floor where the sketchbooks were located. You have to see the sketchbook room to believe it. They’ve got hundreds of sketchbooks. They’ve got so many that their inventory spills out into a hallway and dribbles into a room containing modeling materials. I’m sure I spent half an hour just looking at all the sketchbooks. Most important, though was that they had the Stillman & Birn Beta series books that I was looking for. I needed some to get me through the summer. I wanted to buy them all but in a rare fit of rational thought, I limited myself to buying three of them. I added some incidentals to my pile and checked out. The credit card was only mildly warm as I left this great art store.