During the break I took over the last few weeks, I learned that Stillman And Birn, makers of wonderful sketchbooks, had featured my watercolour paining of Dryburgh Abbey, not only on their website, but on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages as well. I am not an affiliate, so imagine my joy at the news!
I wanted to take a painting project with me to fill the long hours of travel time on the plane while travelling to England. Of the places we visited in Scotland, Dryburgh Abbey is one of my favourites. I enjoyed the tranquil moment standing alone in front of this aged and wet stone abbey chapter house ruin so much that it became the subject of my painting.
You can read about the artist statement I wrote for the feature on Stillman And Birns’ blog.
I am really very excited about it all. So I thought I do a full review of the Stillman And Birn Beta Series paper and on why I love working with it.
At the time of my travel I didn’t have a travel-size sketchbook. I am very heavy-handed with water when it comes to watercolour, so the new sketchbook had to be able to handle that. During my research, I came across Stillman and Birn. Their Beta series sketchbook with 270 gsm weight paper seemed ideal to me. I also like the white paper of the Beta series instead of the ivory of many others.
The Stillman And Birn paper stayed smooth despite my water usage. I didn’t see even the tiniest bit of the lint-like effect that other papers get when used with watercolour. It also warped very little, which I was able to easily fix once the painting had dried.
The Beta series is not rough like cold press watercolour paper, neither is it as smooth as the hot press ones. It has an in-between texture. I love to play with different painting media and the texture of the sketchbook handled them all beautifully. I pulled out a few examples so you can get a good idea.
The Dryburgh Abbey painting was done with watercolour pencils. The picture above shows how much I had finished on the plane using a waterbrush.
Markers typically work best on smooth paper, but this paper was smooth enough for me to blend and lift off paint with ease on this marker landscape and canoe painting.
Note – if you use markers, the pigment does seep into the back of the page. Therefore, you won’t be able to use the back side. I only use the right side of a sketchbook, so it was not a problem for me.
The sketchbook is great for quick, fun, comic-book style marker and ink sketches too. I was able to layer different markers and blend them without hard edges showing. I used a Micron pen to draw the black ink outlines.
The paper has enough grain for pastel pencils to work just as well.
I used Winsor Newton watercolor markers to paint these rusted tiles.
I worked with mixed media on this one – markers, ink and pen.
Water soluble Winsor Newton Ink gave me the vibrancy I needed for the steampunk Fleur-de-lis and the blue background. I also used pens and pencils for the details and shading.
Of course, it does superbly well with watercolour. Once I painted the background, I went over with more saturated paint for the details on the trees, finishing the painting off with white paint for the snow.
When I originally posted this painting, many of you chose this one as your favourite and wrote lovely words about it. Since I prefer colder temperatures, I used this one as the watercolour example.
If you are looking into trying out sketching, painting, or journalling, I highly recommend the Stillman And Birn Beta Series sketchbooks. You get 25-26 sheets per sketchbook. It is thick paper, which makes it suitable for both dry and wet media. As you see, I have used all kinds of painting media along with pens on this paper. Currently I am working on a travel journal, hopefully I will be able to share more with you soon.
Since I have written this review I have worked on very wet on wet paintings. The paper does not handle that kind of the water at all. It becomes too soft and starts to lint severely. It was an exersize in frustration. I suggest using 100% cotton Fabriano or Fluid paper. Fluid is a cheaper option of the two and does very well with wet on wet paintings.
Other than that Stillmand & Birn is quite a versatile sketchbook.
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