I was reflecting on my sketching adventures of 2016 and it occurred to me that one 2016 product changed how I approach location sketching and how weird it was. You see, since 2011 I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks almost exclusively as my quality sketchbook of choice. I’ve written about why. I’ve talked about my preference for 10×7 spiral-bound Alpha books and how great they were. But I don’t use them any more. I still have an empty one sitting on a shelf and it’s been there for over a year, untouched.
I’ve moved on… a better product came along in the spring of 2016. It’s the new softcover books from Stillman & Birn. Same fantastic papers but they’re thinner, lighter, and they hold up to my abusive nature. These books also added 3.5×5.5 portrait format to their line. I’m convinced that all my whining about the lack of a small portrait book with good quality paper (the Moleskine sketchbook is horrible) is why they are now producing this book. They wanted to shut me up (grin). I love these little books.
S&B also added an 8×10 softcover format that I’ve fallen in love with. It fits better in my bags than the more typical 8.5×11 or 9×12 formats but more important, with Beta paper, it weighs only 412gm while a hardcover version weights 870gm, though the hardcover does have a few more pages. What this means to me is that I now carry 3.5×5.5 and 8×10 (portrait), and an 8.5×5.5 landscape books with me and all three weigh less than a single 8.5×11 hardcover.
These are the S&B softcovers I’ve used in 2016. The numbers are simply volume numbers that I assign chronologically to my sketchbooks. And because someone will ask, I use S&B exclusively for my non-casual sketching but I do use cheap sketchbooks when I doodle while watching TV and when quick-sketching people on the street. Number 52 is actually a 9×12 wire-bound S&B Beta book, but the others (53, 54, 56, 58) are those cheaper books. I cut 60lb spiral-bound 9×12 sketchbooks in half on my bandsaw, creating two 6×9 books. These provide me with LOTS of cheap drawing surface. These are full and on the shelf, products of 2016, but #61 is still ‘in progress’ and rests next to where I put my butt when I watch TV.
But it’s the Stillman & Birn softcovers that are the subject of this blog post and, as Tony the tiger used to say, They’rrrre GREAT! They should get a product of the year award, or something.