Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Extra Fiddling with Fiddlehead Ferns #Watercolor #AquariusII #FiddleheadFerns

I had already chosen the Fiddlehead Fern reference photos I wanted to use for my January '52 Weeks of Watercolor Paintings' but one of my friends, Margaret Meara, showed me a photograph she'd taken and gave me permission to paint it.  I decided to paint one more, using my go-to Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

I used a 1 inch Connoisseur Mop brush to lay down my initial wash of color.  It's been a while since I've used a Mop brush, and I realized I like it much better than using a flat.  I think the softer bristles make for less brush strokes.  Of course, on the Aquarius II my brush strokes don't show the way they do on the Stillman & Birn Beta paper.  That's good in some ways, but I sort of miss the drama I get on the Beta.

Once my initial wash dried, I switched to my Silver Black Velvet size 6 round and used that for the rest of the painting.

Colors used were Qor Green Gold, Winsor Newton Sap Green, and various mixes of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.  Painting is approx. 8 x 10 inches.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

52 Weeks of Watercolor Painting 2017 No. 4 #Watercolor #52WeeksOfWatercolorPainting @StillmanAndBirn

This week's painting is the other side of the half-page paintings I'm doing so I'll be able to get all 52 weeks in my  Stillman and Birn 9x12 Beta series wirebound sketchbook

As with last week, this is a 20 minute study with acheiving a bokeh effect being my main goal.  I think I came closer to what I wanted this week, having learned a few things last week.  I upped the contrast in values and kept to fewer strokes.  I still lifted some color, but not as much, so that kept things looking fresher.

My reference photo came from Pixabay.

Pigments used were Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Qor's Green Gold.  Brushes used were a Silver Black Velvet 3/4 inch cat's tongue, and a Fabart Dagger Brush (size unidentified but probably size 6).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal

Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways is published on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays

The Daily New Tangle Challenge
Pattern-Collections Daily Pattern Focus
Diane & Carolien’s Weekly Challenge #84: Tangle with I-Z-P
Ornation Creation “Pick 3” February Challenge

Aleaf - daily tangle pattern
Daily Tangle - Birdz Border
Daily Tangle - Kringel
Daily Tangle - Aquafleur
How to Draw Tangle Pattern "Barbet" Lesson 14
LaBel Tangle Pattern Lesson #139
Daily Tangle - Sunscape
Zentangle *4 ( Mooka, Crescent moon, Olim, 8Sam, Eddyper, Petals, My Swing und Rope Star )

New Patterns
Tangle Pattern: Why-O-Why
TanglePatterns: How to Draw Wibble

Weekly Zentangle Roundup #307
Tangle Refresher 146 – Featuring the Zentangle magic of aura-ing
Pattern-Collections: Getting ready for Valentines Day Patterns

Tutorials & Art Journaling Prompts

Journal52 Prompt: Listen
Daily Journaling Prompts for February 2017
How to Paint a Quick Two-Toned Rose
Collage Art That Will Impress
How to Draw Tangy Lemons in Colored Pencil
Free mini course: Create Your Own Magical 2017 Yearbook (password-


Friday, January 27, 2017

An Exercise in Futility #Gellyroll #Zentangle #Zentangle-InspiredArt

I was working on this drawing while watching TV, and one of the actors said what they were doing was an exercise in futility.  'What a cool title', I says to myself, and decided my tangle did look a bit like a brain twisting itself in futile endeavor.

Thus the title for this tile was born.

Sharpie Marker, Pigma Micron pen, Pentel Tradio pen, Sakura Fluorescent & Metallic Gellyroll Pen on Strathmore Gray-tone Tile.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rubber Ducky Blues #Watercolor #WorldWatercolorGroup #StillmanAndBirn

The World Watercolor Group has a challenge prompt for each day.  I don't usually join in on those, but for some reason, the Rubber Ducky prompt took my fancy.  The prompts are supposed to be based on childhood memories, and honestly I don't have any that involve rubber duckies.  I'm a bit too old for the Sesame Street version, and I don't think we ever had any at home.

Still. How can you resist rubber duckies?

I used a dagger brush (1/4 inch) for most of this painting.  It worked well for the words, and the duckies.  Not so well for the water.  That didn't surprise me.  A larger brush would have been better, but I wanted to get a better feel for the boundary.  I really like this brush, and wanted to know when it became more hindrance than help.

You have to really watch which edge you're using (one side is longer than the other).  It's really great for curves once you get the hang of it, and you can get very fine detail.  But this size and brand (Fabart) doesn't hold enough pigment for covering large areas.  I now know not to use it for anything larger than an area about the size of a rubber ducky's head.

Done in a Stillman and Birn Delta Softcover Sketchbook 8 X 10 using a Fabart Interchangable Dagger brush, Cobalt Teal, Transparent Pyrrole Orange, Lunar blue, Cobalt Blue, and French Vermilion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Robin with Bokeh Background #LegionPaper #Watercolor #Bokeh

I've been eager to try out the new Stonehenge Aqua Watercolor Paper that I've included in my Legion Paper Sampler journal. I decided to use the hot press version first.

Info from the website says that the paper is: 100% Cotton, Neutral pH, Acid Free, Chlorine Free, sized for watercolor, and that it is good for: Calligraphy, Inkjet, Intaglio, Letterpress, Offset, Pen & Ink, Pastel & Charcoal, Silkscreen, Watercolor.

To me, all those possible applications made the paper sound more like mixed media paper than a watercolor paper, so I was very curious to see how well it handled really wet media.

Hot press paper usually has more of soft thickness and smooth surface, and that is the case here.  One of the above mentioned uses is 'intaglio' which is the art of engraving.  I did notice that it was easy to make lines or indentations in this paper.  

I quickly discovered that you should NOT use tape or anything sticky on this paper.  I started to put masking tape around the edges to help protect other pages in my journal.  I lifted the tape a little to adjust it, and to my surprise, it lifted whole fibers of the page.  This happens frequently with handmade cotton papers, but I wasn't expecting it with a machine made like this.   I ended up using the other side of the paper.

This painting is definitely overworked, but this time I did it on purpose.  I wanted to really give the paper a test drive with wet in wet, scrubbing, and lifting pigment.

Being hot press paper, paint and water both dried almost immediately.  With my first, very wet initial wash, the paper did curl.  Five minutes later it was completely dry, and I gently rolled it in the opposite direction and it flattened out.  After that, I had no problem with curling, dimpling or rippling.

I kept adding more wet, swirling my brush in circles, and to add insult to injury, I scrubbed circles with a wet tissue to pick up color.

The paper held up well to all the lifting, though I didn't quit until I encountered pilling (little pills of paper breaking away from the surface).  I aggressively wet and lifted at least 5 times in some areas before that happened though, and that's guaranteed to pill any paper.  Overall, I was impressed with how well the paper handled all the wet.

I still think this is more of a mixed media paper, but it can certainly be used specifically for watercolor.  I can't wait to try the cold press.

Colors used: Qor Transparent Pyrrole Orange, Daniel Smith Lunar Blue, Winsor Newton Lemon Yellow,  and Sennelier Orange.  I used a 3/4 inch mop for the initial wash, and Silver Black Velvet rounds, size 6 and 16 for the rest.

You can learn more about Stonehenge Aqua Paper here.

My reference photo came from Pixabay.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

52 Weeks of Watercolor Painting 2017 No. 3 #Watercolor #52WeeksOfWatercolorPainting @StillmanAndBirn

I decided to do a quick study and keep it very abstract this week for two reasons.  Time was an issue and because there are only 50 pages in my Stillman and Birn 9x12 Beta series wirebound sketchbook,  I have to do four 1/2 page paintings.  I thought I'd do two in this first month, and the other 1/2 pages will be done for December.

My reference photo was of a very simple fern and a bokeh (that unfocused lights look) background.  I've been wanting to play around with the bokeh effect, and made that my main goal.  I gave myself about 20 minutes to play.

I didn't get quite the look I wanted, but did get some interesting textures, partly from the dagger brush I was using, and partly by lifting color.

My reference photo came from Pixabay.

Pigments used were Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Qor's Green Gold.  Brushes used were a Silver Black Velvet 3/4 inch cat's tongue, and a Fabart Dagger Brush (size unidentified but probably size 6).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal

Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways is published on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays

The Daily New Tangle Challenge
Pattern-Collections Daily Pattern Focus
My Diane & Carolien’s N-D-U Challenge Entry

Sandswirly Up 'n Down Tangle
Heartthrob Tangle Lesson Pattern #137
Daily Tangle - Flips-c
Daily Tangle - Salo
Chicken Gods Tangle Pattern
Akia Pods Tangle Pattern
How to draw Surf's up 🌊 Tanglepattern - Lesson 13
Pomcoco - a fun little tangle
Daily Tangle - Marigolden

New Patterns
TanglePatterns: How to Draw Knightspeek
TanglePatterns: How to Draw Achy-Breaky
Pattern-Collections New: Firabel
Pattern-Collections New: Eleven
Pattern-Collections New: Chicken Feet
Pattern-Collections New: Plyng
Pattern-Collections New: Binghua
Pattern-Collections New: Zen Gordia
Pattern-Collections New: Quark

Weekly Zentangle Roundup #306
Intentions, Orbs-la-Dee, and another Zentangle® Audio Meditation
Tips for Tangling Paradox

Tutorials & Art Journaling Prompts

Vintage Rose Painting Tutorial & How to Adapt Tutorials to YOUR Favorite Media
Breezy Hand-Lettering Tutorial
How to Illustrate Teapots & Cups
2017 Planner Guide!! DIY Stickers, Covers, and Organizational Tips
Drawing Lesson Orange Wedges in One Point Perspective Tutorial 2
32 FREE Downloadable Art Tutorials: Painting, Drawing and more


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Agate Wall Distressed #DistressInk #Stillman&Birn #ZentangleInspiredArt

A few days ago, Facebook sent me a reminder of a drawing I'd posted a few years ago.  It was done using Distress Ink Pads and markers.

Seeing it reminded of the cool effects you can get with those products, so I promptly set down and did a similar page in my Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook.

I started with Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pads - Wild Honey, Tea Dye, Spiced Marmalade, Broken China and Shabby Shutters and some foam blenders that I have.  I dragged the ink pad directly on the page, and then used the foam blenders to smooth out some of the color, while leaving other areas with some of the paper color showing through.

Afterwards, I drew and colored my patterns with Distress markers in the same colors, adding Aged Mahogany and Weathered Wood.    I think Aged Mahogany and Spiced Marmalade together make a cool tortoise-shell look, and the Weathered Wood is great for subtle shading.

I finished with a metallic Gold Gellyroll pen to color the jewelry settings, and used a white Sharpie Acrylic paint pen to add highlights.

Goldie #Watercolor #LegionPaper #Goldfish

This is my first painting in the watercolor journal I made using the Legion Watercolor sampler sheets I bought.  (I apologize to those who already saw this post.  I accidentally posted it when I first wrote it up).

Oddly enough, this particular paper wasn't listed in the samples and the tag simply said 'India Smooth 270 gsm'.  There is more info at the Legion site though, so I discovered about this paper:

  • Handmade in India
  • 100% Cotton
  • Neutral pH 
  • 4 natural deckles
  • Internally & externally sized
The page goes on to say: "...totally produced with a composition comprised of actual cotton rags that are either remnants from the garment industry or medical supply sectors."

India is a handmade paper so 'smooth' isn't all that smooth.  The paper is soft, absorbent and has knots and texture.  It's a fun paper to use, but you'll be disappointed if you expect it to behave like Arches or Fabriano.  Color is a more opaque because of the absorbency, and you may get hard edges that you didn't expect.

You will get a painting with lots of character.

My reference photo came from Pixabay.

I used Qor Transparent Pyrrole Orange (P071), M Graham Cobalt Teal (PB28), Sennelier Phthalo Green Deep (PB15:3/PG7) and Daniel Smith New Gamboge (PY97/PY110).  Brushes used were Silver Black Velvet rounds size 6 and 16.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

And the winner is....

The winner of the Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook is....

                            Kathy Rock

Thank you all for entering.  I wish I could give prizes to you all.  One of these days when I win several million dollars from the lottery, I will!

Wednesday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal

Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways is published on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays

The Daily New Tangle Challenge
Pattern-Collections Daily Pattern Focus
joey's weekly tangle challenge #148
"It's a String Thing" #179 Tiles
"It's a String Thing" #180
Zentangle All Around Tangle It! Week 15-21
Monotangle Adventures Beginner's Challenge #41: Yula
Duotangle Adventures Beginner's Challenge #19: Yula & Caviar

How To Make A Heart Shaped Background for Your Zentangles video
Daily Tangle Video - Eddyper
How to Draw January Birthstone Garnet Doodlegem with Pearls Tutorial ep 42 video
Heartrope Tangle Lesson Pattern #136 video
Daily Tangle - Mooka video
Bee Sting Tangle Video
Daily Tangle Video - Crescent Moon

TanglePatterns: How to Draw Soluna
New Tangle - Teia

Tutorials & Art Journaling Prompts
How to Paint a Late Autumn Steam Train Real Time Acrylic Painting tutorial
Essential Colour Pencil Techniques
Painting Mixed Media Patterns
Creating a Watercolor Mixing Chart PLUS a Printable
Three Faux Woodcut Art Printable Envelope Templates

Totally-Tiffany 2017 Craft Space Clean Up Sweepstakes
Kimber Dawn & Co. WE LOVE SILHOUETTE + YOU GIVEAWAY-win a Silhouette Cameo 3
Carta Bella Paper giveaway - "Space Academy" collection kit
Sakura of America Instagram giveaway-Pens, Markers, Pen Case, Notebook
Stampendous Giveaway
Rhodia Giveaway - ColoR Treasure Box of Your Choice: 3 notepads and 2 Rhodia pencils


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Legion Paper Sampler Painting Pad #Legion #Paper #Watercolor

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, which ends tonight, go here.

I had a Christmas gift card to spend and when I discovered that Legion Paper offers samplers (not free, alas), I decided to spend some of it on their watercolor paper.

There are all sorts of paper to choose from (you can find the list here).  Besides Individual Sheets, the paper can be ordered as a Mill Book or Legion Book.  I'm not sure what those are (though I have an idea), and I'm not sure the binding would make for good painting, so I ordered the 22 individual sheets of 8x10 watercolor paper.  Adding in S&H, the price is decent, though not fantastic.

The allure is that you get sheets of: Acquerello by Magnani, Arches Watercolor, Artistico, Bockingford, Coventry Rag, Drawing Bristol, Folio, Lanaquarelle, Multimedia Aquarelle, Saunders Waterford, Indian, and Yupo.  The sheets range in weight from 140 lb to 300 lb.  I had already received samples of the new Stonehenge Aqua when Legion was offering them free (no longer, sorry), so I added those in.

I took the cardboard backings from a couple of drawing pads, covered them in newspaper, and painted them with acrylic for covers.  I punched two holes in both covers and each sheet, and now I've got a nice pad of paper for watercolor painting.

I'm swimming in watercolor paper this year!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

52 Weeks of Watercolor Painting 2017 No. 2 #Watercolor #52WeeksOfWatercolorPainting @StillmanAndBirn

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, go here.

Whoa! This week's painting was more of a challenge than I expected.  My reference photo didn't have a strong mid-ground.  I didn't think this would be a problem, but I didn't have a clear idea for what I wanted and just started painting.  Sometimes, ideas come as I paint, but it didn't this time.

And I decided to use pre-mixed greens: Sennelier Phthalo Green Light, and Sap Green.  After starting the painting, I realized that I didn't really like these greens.

The addition of Green Gold and my Ultramarine Blue & Burnt Sienna mixes helped a bit, but I that mid-ground never resolved itself.  I fussed and fussed and never quite got the effect I wanted.

In the end, I did a lot of lifting color and went with a more abstract look. I think I captured a good sense of drama in the brush strokes.  I learned a lot about greens and lifting color on Stillman & Birn Beta series paper.

I didn't quite achieve all my goals so I think the most important lesson from this painting is to have goals, and a plan for meeting those goals before you start painting.  If another solution occurs as you paint, the plan can always be changed.

My reference photo came from Pixabay.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal

Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways is published on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, go here.

The Daily New Tangle Challenge
Pattern-Collections Daily Pattern Focus
3DTANGLE SHADING CHALLENGE #075-Focus Tangle:Lollywimple

Daily Tangle Video - My Swing
Luv A Tangle Pattern Lesson #134 video
Daily Tangle Video - Petals
Zentangle °3 video- (Tripoli, Petal-Panes, FestuneToo, Bumpkenz, Flossie)
Daily Tangle Video - Olim
Puffy 8's VIDEO

Tangle Refresher 145 – Featuring tangles that are good for Zentangle newbies

TanglePatterns: How to Draw Amadou

Weekly Zentangle Roundup #305

Tutorials & Art Journaling Prompts

Watercolor Pansy Demo
Make a Tangle Hair Portrait with Pen and Watercolor
Tutorial Tuesday – Painting with Gel Pens
Journal52 2017 Prompt #2: 
This Week in Art
Camouflaged Animals Downloadable Coloring Page
How to Draw and Color a Juicy Citrus: Lime


Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Stillman & Birn Gamma Series Softcover 3.5 x 5.5 inch @StillmanAndBirn #Sketchbook #GammaSeries

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, go here.

Just before the end of the year, I received a 3.5 x 5.5 ( 8.9 x 14.0 cm) Gamma series softcover from Stillman & Birn as well as a couple of Delta series softcovers.

Cover: Cardstock. Brown exterior, ivory interior
Paper Color: Ivory
Paper Weight: Heavyweight 150 gsm
Paper Surface: Medium Grain Cold Press
Size:  3.5 x 5.5 ( 8.9 x 14.0 cm)
No Pages: 26 Sheets - 92 Pages
Rated for: Dry Media, Light Wash, Ink,
Withstands multiple erasures,
Sheffield roughness metric 350 SU
Complies with international standards of responsible forestry
Alpha cellulose content 8%
pH Neutral, lignin & chloride free
Bound in the U.S.

Look & Feel
Much of what I wrote in my Delta Series review last Sunday holds true for the Gamma series softcover sketchbook:

  • The cover color is brown instead of black.
  • The 3.5 x 5.5 size is only available in the softcover version. There are other sizes that are only available in softcover.
  • The cover is heavy cardstock, sturdy but more susceptible to scuffs and dings than the hardbound versions.  I do find these softcovers to be heavier than other softcover brands that I have.
  • The edges of the cover are flush with the edges of the paper, where the hardbounds have a slight overhang.
  • The softcover versions are approximately $2 USD less than the hardbound.
  • The softcovers weight approximately 10 ounces less than the hardcovers.
  • The binding has sewn signatures glued to the cardstock cover.

The sketchbook lies flat, but can't be folded back completely.

The Gamma paper is very similar to that in the Delta, being the same ivory color and texture, but it is lighter - 150 gsm versus 270 gsm.  This means that the Gamma will handle most dry media well, but will curl if the media is too wet.  And too wet will come sooner with the Gamma.  That doesn't mean you can't use watercolor or wet media - just with caution. More about that in the Performance section.

I placed a white Kleenex on the paper to help you get an idea of the actual color.

Once upon a time, I did ATCs, 2.5 x 3.5 inch drawing of surprising complexity, but these days I prefer to work larger.  That means this 3.5 x 5.5 inch size is a little small for me.  But it's a good size to carry in a purse or pocket and to have handy for drawing while waiting in doctor's offices or Post Office lines or when you decide to stop and have a coffee some day.

Pen and pencil

No doubt about it.  To my eye anyway, the ivory paper gives an elegance to pen and ink.  The paper is a nice texture, though some may prefer a smoother texture, especially if they do lots of black areas.  Completely blacking out an area takes a little longer on textured paper (any textured paper) because you have to mat down the fibers.  On the other hand, you can get a wider range of grays on textured paper using the same pen.  I like having the wider range.

I also used pencil for shading.  I've never made a secret of the fact that pencil is my least favorite of mediums, but it works well on this paper.  The texture allows you to build up layers and burnish easily.

Watercolor, India Ink Pen, and Pencil
Wet-into-wet - dropping wet paint into an area already wet with water or another layer of paint - will cause the Gamma paper to curl.  The paper holds up well though and the curl can be weighted out after.  But using watercolor that is a creamier texture or using watercolor pencil or marker works with little to no curling.  And it makes a nice background for line and wash (pen over watercolor).

I used an india ink pen for the linework, pencil for shading and a white Sharpie paint pen for the highlights.

Colored Pencil
I really like using colored pencil on the Gamma paper.  The texture allows you to build up layers, but the fibers mat down easily so that burnishing (thoroughly saturating the fibers with color so that none of the paper color shows through) is easily accomplished without undue strain to the wrist.

It doesn't show too well in the scan, but I ran a toothpick over the 'gold' in this drawing to get a brushed sort of look.  The paper allows you to build up enough color and the fibers still have enough spring to allow you to do that.

Personally I find the look and feel of these softcovers very appealing.  I like the range of colors (they are color-coded by series:  Alpha-Red, Beta-Blue, Delta-Green, Gamma-Brown, Epsilon-Grey, and Zeta-Black), the fact that the covers exactly fit the size of the pages, and the lighter weight.  The likelihood of scuffs and dings down the road doesn't bother me.

Since the price (currently anyway) isn't much different, you should consider the issues of weight, sturdiness and appearance, decide which is the most important to you, and then decide whether to go softcover or hardbound.  Or wirebound, if you prefer that kind of binding.

I suspect I'll always have one or two of both going at any given time, lol!  I like them all for different reasons.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Camouflaged Animals Coloring Page #StillmanAndBirn #ColoringPage #ZentangleInspiredArt

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, go here.

I do love working in my new Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook.

A Stabilio 68 allowed me to get a nice bold Black & White drawing, so I scanned it in before coloring, in case anyone wants to right click and save the page to print and color.  If you do, I'd love to see what you do with it.

There's a Badger, two Foxes, a Hedgehog and a Skunk.

Since the Stabilio is not waterproof, I used colored pencil to color my page with a Sharpie white acrylic paint pen to add some highlighted detail.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal

Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways is published on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays

IF you are here for the Stillman & Birn Delta Softcover giveaway, go here.

The Daily New Tangle Challenge
Pattern-Collections Daily Pattern Focus
joey's weekly tangle challenge #147
"It's a String Thing" #178 Tiles
"It's a String Thing" #179
Zentangle All Around Tangle It! Journal Study: Tangle Drakon

Jl - a daily pattern video
Tripoli-a daily pattern video
Bridge - daily tangle video
Daily Tangle Video - FestuneToo
Finery Tangle Pattern Video Lesson #133
How to Draw and Color Unakite Doodle Gem Tutorial ep 41

Tips for Tangling MySwing

TanglePatterns: How to Draw Puffy 8's
Trifle - a new tangle
Tangle Pattern: Deco Sidewalk

Tutorials & Art Journaling Prompts
Bird's Nest in Watercolor Tutorial
DIY Tulle Troll Headbands
How to use the Pentel Aquash water brush pen for watercolor
Free Online Jane Davenport Mixed Media Workshop

Life Imitates Doodles Giveaway-Stillman & Birn Delta Series softcover sketchbook 5.5 x 8.5
Boho Berry  100K YouTube Subscriber Giveaway-Bullet Journal, Fountain Pen & Ink
FrugalCrafter Giveaway - Gloves in a Bottle
Graphic45-$35 prize pack giveaway
Spellbinders Designer Days Sweepstakes-over $3000 in crafting prizes


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: Stillman & Birn Delta Series Softcover 8x10 inch @StillmanAndBirn #Sketchbook #DeltaSeries

I was thrilled to receive some of the new softcover editions from Stillman & Birn to try out.  I was sent two of the Delta Series softcovers, an 8 x 10 inch (20.3 x 25.4 cm) and an  5.5 x 8.5 (14.0 x 21.6 cm) as well as a 3.5 x 5.5 ( 8.9 x 14.0 cm) Gamma series softcover.

Today's review is on the 8 x 10 Delta, and I'm giving away the 8.5 x 5.5 version.  Giveaway has ended.

Cover: Cardstock. Green exterior, ivory interior
Paper Color: Ivory
Paper Weight: Extraheavyweight 270 gsm
Paper Surface: Cold Press
Size: 8 x 10 inch (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
No Pages: 26 Sheets - 52 Pages
Rated for: Dry & Wet Media, Watercolor, Ink,
Withstands multiple erasures,
Sheffield roughness metric 360 SU
Caliper Min 420-Max 455 microns
Complies with international standards of responsible forestry
Alpha cellulose content 8%
pH Neutral, lignin & chloride free
Bound in the U.S.

Look & Feel
I will admit up front that the Delta paper in the Stillman & Birn line is one of my favorites.  The ivory color, the weight, the texture that is a little bit watercolor paper and a little bit cardstock just does it for me.  I love working on it, and the results that I get.  Now put that paper in a dark green softcover and it rings all the bells and whistles I'm looking for.

Of course, that doesn't mean it will ring yours as well, so let's take a look at what we've got.

Look and Feel
The Delta paper is the same in the differently bound versions of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, the differences are going to be in cover color, sturdiness, available sizes, weight, price, and binding.

The hardbound and wirebound covers of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, to date, have all been black.  The softcover editions are color-coded:  Alpha-Red, Beta-Blue, Delta-Green, Gamma-Brown, Epsilon-Grey, and Zeta-Black.  If one of your likes is a dark green cover, then that's a plus for you with the Delta softcover.  It isn't a deal maker or breaker in my case, but I definitely like it.


As you can see in the photo above, the hardbound (on top) is thicker.  It's a board, versus the cardstock of the softcover and there's no doubt about it.  The hardcover is sturdier.  The covers of the one's I've had for years still look pristine, whereas my softcover already has a few scuffs along the edge after only a few days.  I sort of like the Wabi-Sabi (the beauty of age and usage) look, so that isn't a problem for me. If you are someone who hates the slightest mar, then a softcover might not be for you.

The softcover has no overhang, which the hardbound versions do have.  It's only a slight overhang, but some people have a decided preference for covers that end exactly even with the paper.

For reference, though, I find the Stillman & Birn softcovers to be a little heavier than many on the market, and the Beta version I've been carrying around for several months has scuffed edges, but that's it.  You can expect any brand softcover to get beat up.  Stillman & Birn will hold up as well as any of them, and better than many.

The softcovers come in a different range of sizes.  For instance, the 8 x 10 I'm reviewing here isn't available as a hardbound.  You might go softcover, if it comes in a size you really like.  I particularly like the 8 x 10 size.  I find 9 x 12 a little too big, and the 5.5 x 8.5 a little too small.  So the 8 x 10 is juuusst right for me, lol.

There isn't as much difference as you might think.  Since the 8 x 10 isn't available in hardbound, I looked up the 5.5 x 8.5.  On Amazon, I found the hardbound at $16.19 USD,  and the softbound for $14.39 USD.  At approximately two dollars difference, I'd look at the other differences very closely.

Here's the big difference.  Using the 5.5 x 8.5 for comparison purposes, the softbound is 4.8 ounces, while the hardbound weights in at 12.8 ounces.

One of the common methods of bookbinding is to create signatures (sheets of paper are stacked, folded in half and then sewn or stapled in the fold).  Those darker lines in the photo below show the folds of the signatures in this sketchbook.  Those are still sewn together as they are in the hardbound and wirebound versions.  But where the signatures are sewn to the hardbound version, they are glued into the softcover version.

I did find a couple of pages where the glue had oozed a bit in the area between the signatures.  I didn't find any in the Beta softcover I already own, the Gamma or the other Delta softcover I received so it may be related to the size, or I just received one that had this.  It doesn't impact the book much except the pages affected won't lie quite as flat.

The paper is an ivory color, and so the colors aren't quite as bright on it as you'll find in the Beta.  It's always tricky to try and show you color on the screen, so I put a kleenex down as a comparison that might help a bit. If the kleenex shows as anything but bright white, you know you've got a tint.

I always think that the Beta series paper is my favorite until I see the Delta, and then I know the Delta is my mostest favorite.  Until I see the Beta...  Truthfully, it depends on what you want.  The Beta gives you really vibrant colors.  The Delta gives you slightly less vibrant colors.  I think the ivory paper adds a certain elegance, especially if you leave some of it showing.

Although the paper is labeled as cold press, it isn't quite the same as the cold press you get with watercolor paper (and this paper is more mixed media than watercolor).  I'll get into that more in the Performance section.

The book lies flat.  Because of the way the cover is glued down, you can't quite fold the book in half the way you can the hardcover.

Acrylic, Masking tape, Erasure

This example was a test of a couple of things besides the ability of the paper to take acrylic paint.  I drew and erased with pencil several times to see how the paper held up and I used masking tape around the edges to get a clean edge.

The pencil erased fairly well, though I wasn't able to get all of it clean. I didn't expect to because I applied quite a bit.  It was a test after all!  The pencil left some impressions, but not enough to affect the paint I applied afterward.

Many papers - even quality watercolor - will tear, pill or separate when masking tape is applied.  Especially if it is left on for a long time.  I left mine on for about 4 days, and I painted liberally over it, so the acrylic paint would seal it a bit.  It peeled off nicely, though I did get slight pilling if I didn't watch my technique.  That's good and what I would expect from a good quality paper.

I used acrylic paint pens, applying several layers.  The paper curled, just a little.  I didn't even have to weight it down to get rid of it.  I just curled the paper, gently, in the opposite direction and the curl was gone.

Ah, there are many things we can learn from our friend the cat, one of which is how to relax!

Watercolor, Masking tape, Erasure

I've painted several watercolors in previous Delta and Beta series sketchbooks so I can speak from experience, as well as from what I learned with the watercolor below.

If you put lots of water on the Delta paper, whether pure water or really watery paint, the paper will curl.  It is easily flattened by gently curling the opposite direction and/or weighting it down with a book or something for an hour or so.

That said, you can use light to moderate wetness with little to no curling.  I didn't have any problem with it while doing this painting and had no dimpling or pilling.  I used about five glazes of color.

The paint does dry quickly, especially in this winter weather, and you can get unwanted hard edges.  That can be controlled by carefully monitoring how wet the paint is on the page, versus how wet your brush is.  It takes a little practice but what doesn't?

The paint flows fairly well - that drying thing can make it an issue with large areas but again, knowing the paper helps.  Paint lifts nicely, not so easily that it messes up your glazes, but enough that you can lighten areas where needed.

Despite the ivory of the paper, the colors are bright but not brilliant.

I find watercolor painting on either the Beta or Delta paper encourages a lighter touch.  I wouldn't plan on using heavy wet-on-wet techniques or dense, deeply detailed paintings, but personally, I really enjoy watercoloring on this paper.

Pen and Ink

Sometimes I have to laugh at myself.  I had this vision in my head of a castle with trees growing from the turrets and towers.  And it was stippled, so I wanted to use my electric dotspen.  I set down with a reference photo of the Swallows Nest in the Crimea to give me at least a notion of how castles go.   Now the problem(s) here is that perspective is not one of my strengths, and to top it off the electric dotspen does not easily give you crisp straight lines.

So, if portions of my castle appear to be falling off or sagging, put it down to other-dimensional physics, not poor decision-making on my part.

The one thing I had going for me was the paper.  I do feel the ivory adds an elegance to a pen drawing.  The fibers are thick and textured enough to allow a wide range of values without being overly rough on your pen tip or distorting the lines.

Colored Pencil

Colored Pencil works well on this paper.  That thick texture allows many layers of color and you can burnish  several times without flattening the fibers completely.  I have 5-6 layers of color in this drawing, two of which are burnished, and could have added more

Burnish: Polishing an area - applying pressure with the pencil until all layers of color are blended and even and the fibers of the paper are saturated with pigment.

I know from past experience that Delta series paper is good for collage and other layered mixed media techniques.  Such technques expand the book though, and would soon stress the binding.  The occasional page of it would work just fine, but if collage is a big thing for you, the wirebound version would be a better choice.

The Stillman & Brin Delta Series softcover has the same ivory colored paper as the hardbound and wirebound versions.  It's a thick cold press paper that's smoother than paper meant strictly for watercolor.  This means it is good for pen and ink, colored pencil, acrylic and other mediums as well as watercolor.  It handles most mediums well, but may not work for some specific techniques. Versatility over specialization.

The main difference lies in the cover, and binding.  Overall, the weight is less in the softcover than in the hardbound versions, but the cardstock cover isn't as sturdy.  I have found it sturdier than some of the other softcover brands that I own.  The cover is dark green rather than black, and flush to the edges of the page (the hardbound versions have a slight overhang).  The price difference is only a couple of dollars on Amazon.

Personally, I like the look and feel of the softcover, and don't mind a Wabi-sabi (beauty in the appearance of age and wear) look of well-used sketchbook.  I have slight arthritis and appreciate the difference in weight.

What Is the Prize? 
One winner will receive a 5.5 x 8.5 (14.0 x 21.6 cm) Delta Series Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook. (Note that it is smaller, but otherwise the same as the one reviewed here).

How to Enter?
Cut and paste these words: 'I want to win a Delta Softcover sketchbook' into the subject line of an email, and send it to me at  LifeImitatesDoodles [at] gmail [dot] com. (replace the words enclosed in [ ] with an @ and a . and make sure there are no spaces)

When does the giveaway start and end? The giveaway starts on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 08:00 AM PST and ends Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 11:59 PST.  I'll notify the winner on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, by responding to the email they sent as entry.

Who can enter? This giveaway is open internationally.

I want to thank Stillman & Birn for the opportunity to try out their softcover products and share them with my readers.

Disclaimer:  I received both Delta Softcover sketchbooks (as well as a 3.5 x 5.5 Gamma softcover, which I will review later) from Stillman & Birn, but was not asked specifically to review or to hold a giveaway. I was allowed to choose items from the line of Stillman & Birn softcover products.  I'm excited about hosting this giveaway, but tried not to let it influence my opinion, and all opinions are my own.  I received no other compensation.

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