Sunday, August 19, 2012

Searching for the ideal Sketchbook - Part 2

Breaking into the New Stillman & Birn Sketchbook.

Whenever I start using a new sketchbook, the first thing I do is to put a stamp on the first page.

Reward Stamp on Page 1

It's a stamp that reads: "Reward! If found, please contact Mike Daikubara" with my phone/email information on it. It's just one more peace of mind when carrying around probably one of the most important physical possessions - my sketchbook.

The first sketch starts on on the 2nd sheet (page 3), then continues on using both sides of the page as shown. I've never drawn my Brompton folding bike so I drew the 3 folding stages to get warmed up. The things I learned at this stage were:

Size: This sketchbook is 1" smaller in height than the Cachet Sketchbook that I have gotten too used to over the years. Being a narrower format, I noticed the sketches were drawn in pretty tight where I still hadn't physically understood how big to draw the images. On the 3rd page I was more conscious of this so the balance of the image and negative space was much better.

Paper/ Ink: There was some resistance felt when laying down my fountain pen ink since the surface had a little bit of tooth to it. It wasn't bad though and after the 1st sketch, the resistance didn't bother me. The pen/ ink I've been recently using is the Sailor Fude De Mannen fountain pen and Platinum Carbon Ink.
 New Fountain Pen & Ink

Paper/ Water color: The paper took the water color wash pretty well. The sketches didn't have too much color but I believe I put on 2~3 coats which I could not do before with my Cachet sketchbook since the paper was so thin. The page did buckle a little bit but minimal. I typically use a Holbein water brush and Sakura Koi watercolor kit:

Front/ back cover mistake: The sketchbook is all black with a little discreet embossing of the company logo on the back side and nothing on the front. After sketching 3 pages, I notices I had the book flipped upside down and started sketching from the backside! oh well, not a biggie, but I believe this is what happens when not paying attention and when the front/back looks too alike.
Back side of Stillman & Birn Sketchbook with logo on bottom

Cover material: This was also not a big point but I noticed the cover corners were quite pointy and poked into my legs when sketching.

So I sketched for an additional week then scanned in the images to see how they might come out on the computer screen and was quite happy with the results.
Church in Norwood 
Garbage Truck
With my old sketchbook, the page would have buckled more especially on the top portion of the page with the sky thus creating more unnatural shadows which I did not like. The garbage truck sketch even took on additional layers of blue and shadows for the clouds and the page buckling was minimal - I was happy with the results.

Sketching outside, I notice a few times the page wanting to turn due to the wind. I thought about using large binder clips or hair clips to keep the pages open but also remembered my old sketchbook had an elastic strap attached to the back which came in handy in times like this to keep the pages open. I decided to slightly modify the sketchbook - I drilled 2 holes, inserted a black elastic band into the 2 holes, put a drop of hot glue into the holes, then used masking tape to cover up the holes on the inside.
S&B Sketchbook modification
The elastic band really helped the next time I sketched outside.
It was easy to modify, looked very professional and was very happy with the results!

Dividers: Another thing I have been doing over the years is to have a divider between the recently completed sketched pages to keep the ink/ color from not transferring onto the next page. This was especially necessary when I used to use the Noodler's ink since it dried much slower than the Platinum carbon ink that I'm using now.
The 2 sheets of heavy watercolor paper is cut to the size of the sketchbook page (10" x 7"). It's then taped on both sides of the page using packing tape and folded. When this folder is used to cover up the sketch, it protects 4 sketches and the excess ink/ color gets absorbed into the watercolor divider. You can see that this sheet has gotten usage over the years and it's been great.

Paper quantity: The sketchbook has 50 sheets and since I sketch on both sides, that's 100 pages. My old sketchbook had 160 pages and I typically finished one up in 4~6 months and I liked that pace. I'll be completing this sketchbook much faster so I'll have to see how it feels couple months from now.

Moving forward: I'm very happy with this new Stillman & Birn sketchbook and will definitely continue using it as my primary sketchbook. So far it's cleared everything I've been looking for in a sketchbook (except maybe for the elastic strap) and also addressed my need in switching to a new sketchbook in the first place (looking for a sketchbook with minimal paper buckling due to water & not being able to see through to the other side). Other than that, only time will tell in terms of how it will work out in the long run but so far it feels really good. 

The only down side to continue using the Stillman & Birn sketchbook in the future is that I have 5 brand new Cachet sketchbooks that I already bought that I won't ever be using......

Go to Part 1