Product testing: Stillman & Birn softcover

This week I’m trying out the softcover versions of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. I seem to remember that there was a problem with the binding of these books when they first appeared last year, but the issue has been resolved and the books I have are the new ones, both the Beta and the Zeta series. These work best for me because they are the thickest papers and since I throw a lot of water around, thinner paper like in the Alpha Series book doesn’t cut it for me. I like this format for everyday sketching — the horizontal 5.5 x 8.5 book fits in my small sketch bag and I have to admit that the softcover is much easier to hold than the heavier hardcover books. Today I used the Beta series for my sunflower sketch, and even with all the water I used, the paper is still flat. I like the pebbly texture of the Beta series, the way it maintains the vibrancy of colour and the way it lays flat on the scanner. More tests to come tomorrow when I take it on the road to my favourite market.



43 Comments on “Product testing: Stillman & Birn softcover”

  1. Dory Rice says:

    Hi Shari,
    Glad you’re back! Hope things are ok.



    • Hi Dory,
      I’m happy to be back drawing. My dad was in hospital for almost six weeks and he passed away last week. He would look at my blog every day, read all the comments on his iPad, call me when he didn’t agree with what someone said… I will miss him so much. I thought I would be able to draw in hospital but I couldn’t. I am finally feeling like I can relax enough to hold a brush and do some sketching. So again, really happy to be back.

      Thanks for writing.


      • Barb says:

        i wrote my last comment before reading of your loss . condolences . You must have been having some very happy memories to use such wonderful happy colours .Memories are so important and you are fortunate to have them. They make a loss bearable and last much longer than the pain. That and beauty are yor legacy.


  2. Soni says:

    Hi Shari,

    Welcome back – you’ve been missed but many prayers & good thoughts sent your way.

    This is beautifully done – I love the soft cover Zeta . Our painting group just returned from Stonington, Maine, & this makes me want to tackle all flower shots. We thought of you with all low tide rocks, pilings, harbor boats & coves. The scenes were stunning giving us a far larger respect for your selective compositions and colors.

    Continuing best wishes for you & family.



    • Thanks so much Soni. I had to look on the map to see where Stonington was. As with all Maine coastal towns, it is very beautiful and reminds me so much of Rockport. I hope you did some great paintings.
      It’s wonderful to be back drawing. Read the previous comment and you’ll see where I was these past weeks.

      Happy to hear from you.



  3. what a bright and beautiful painting, a touch of sun shine after our very wet and windy day here in western Canada


  4. Liliane Partikian says:

    Hi Shari, glad to see you’re back…..hope that everything is ok with ou and your family… were missed! Your sunflower painting is beautiful and vibrant.Thanks for sharing.


  5. Monique says:

    I have been thinking about you also..I m so sorry for your loss.
    I hope your dad did not suffer Shari.
    How dear he read your blog and the comments❤️
    This is a beautiful painting!


  6. Barb says:

    wow M vibrant is almost an understatement Shari, i love it . Dare i say lose and lovely. Thanks for hilighting my evening


  7. Liliane Partikian says:

    I ‘m sorry,I was not aware that your father had passed away,my sincere condolences .


  8. Dee Ludwig says:

    Sincere sympathy…I do understand…
    I am loving the soft back Beta too. My first one was of the bad bunch, but I used it anyway, as it was a gift and the paper was still good. It made me relax since it was not so precious..and I fell in love. I have started a second one and have a third in waiting. It is a really nice size!


    • Hi Dee, Thanks for thinking of me.
      Glad to hear that you are enjoying the book too. It’s taking a bit of time to get used to the softcover but I quite like it. Can’t clip my little palette to it though…


  9. Jodi says:

    what a beautiful painting. So so sorry for the loss of your father. My dad reads my blog every day too – and the comments. I am sure you will miss him. You were so fortunate to have him.


  10. rosjenke says:

    I’m so glad you’re back and posting joyful paintings. And I’m so sorry for your loss. It must have been so wonderful to have your dad follow your work so closely. A special man, but he will always be there in spirit, vetting all our comments 😊


    • Ros, I think I will be posting colourful and joyful paintings for some time. My dad was a wonderful man and he always let me know if he thought a sketch was boring, not up to the usual standards, etc. It was his nightly habit to read the comments and I will miss that.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Shari, my sincere condolences for your big loss, your dad was your biggest fan I am sure. And I can see why, you make art a father can be proud off! its always nice to have a good critique, I am almost certain he did tell you if he didn’t like a painting too!
    You will miss him, but have a great memory!

    S&B paper made here in the Netherlands, and… not available here! how weird is that!
    I have a few loose A4 sheets, I can buy the sketchbooks of course at a shop in the UK.

    Love your sketches!

    Best wishes Edo


  12. Shari, I am so sorry for your loss. ((Hugs!!!)) Your comment about your dad looking at your blog and reading all the comments just made me smile. He must have been so proud of what you do.

    I haven’t used a Stillman & Birn sketchbook in quite a while since they aren’t sold anywhere I know of here. I did like the hardcover Beta and would love to try the softcover one. Nice vibrancy to this lovely piece.


    • Thanks so much for writing Joan. I have to admit that it was difficult to start drawing again yesterday but once I got started it felt so good. I tried to draw in the hospital but it was too distracting so I just set aside my paints until I felt rested enough to start again. It looks like you had a wonderful trip to Venice. One of my favourite places in the world. I hope you sketched at a lot.


      • joantav says:

        I sketched every day, sometimes several sketches or paintings, and was able to keep my blog going while I was away for the month.


  13. Janine says:

    This is just so beautiful (as usual!). The colors are so bright and vivid. By any chance did you paint it with the DaVinci Casaeno quill? 😉 Mine finally came and wow! Did they ever outdo themselves with this one. It is eclipsing all the other brushes in my brush jars and that is no small feat. Hope you are doing well, Shari. So nice to see you back here.


  14. Anne Gravel says:

    Shari – I was writing to tell you how lovely today’s sketch is and how it made me smile – it’s so evocative of this time of year – when I read about your Dad’s death. I’m so sorry for your loss, my deepest condolences to you and your family.


  15. D. Abreu says:

    Please let me know how it goes. I was testing watercolor swatches on all Stillman and Bird paper samples varieties and I was pretty impressed with the quality. I as you use a lot of water and like my paper to not bend while I work which is one reason I like Pentalic more than Moleskin.


    • Hi Daisy,
      I tried the paper again today and I like it quite a lot. And I like the format of the sketchbook too. I’ll be giving the Zeta book a try next as well. Pentalic books have great paper in them too. I don’t use Moleskine any more since they changed the paper a few years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Louise Boyer says:

    Such vibrant colors Shari, can’t wait to start my course with you on Craftsy!
    Can you tell me what colors you used for the red flowers? I love the vibrancy and the contrast. I find they are not overworked. I have a hard time with reds in my watercolors…


    • Hi Louise,
      I’m so glad you are taking the course on Craftsy! I hope you enjoy it.
      I have a hard time with reds too but I love Organic Vermilion. That’s what I used here. It is a little more orange than many reds so it was perfect for the peach roses as well. Thanks for writing!


  17. Louise Boyer says:

    Thank you Shari, but I meant what brand of colors ( schmincke, W. N., Daniel Smith…) do you use these days, and in that Manchester palette?


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