I have always had a hard time working in small sketchbooks. Not so much because of the size, but because I haven´t found any decent sketchbooks to use. I have tried Moleskines – good for ink, but not for watercolours, I have tried to bind my own – good paper, but my own binding tends to be a little too chunky for small books. And then I´ve tried a number of others, with crappy paper, or the books don´t open flat, or the binding falls apart, or…
In September, the good people at Stillman & Birn sent me some samples of their new softcover sketchbooks, and I started out trying the small portrait format book, 8,9 x 14 cm. And I have to say, after using it for a while, that these small books are perfect! The paper is my usual favorite alpha series paper, with the right balance (for me) of tooth and watercolour durability, and the covers, although they are soft, are flexible but still really sturdy and strong. The book opens flat in spite of it´s small size, and is easy to hold and use, even standing up (which I always have a hard time with, using larger size books). I really like the rounded corners too.
To make a balanced review, I´d like to say that there is at least one thing that I´m not too crazy about with this little book, but I really can´t think of anything. I´ve been keeping this little fellow in my bags since September (when I´m not drawing in it, obviously), which means it´s been squeezed, scraped, bruised and bent, over and over again, but it´s still holding up fine (see photo below).
Also, it´s getting thinner and thinner, because I´m doing something to it that I´ve never done before: I always draw on whole spreads, i.e. where the spread consists of the same sheet of paper, and then cut them out (I know, so terrible, right?). I´m thinking I´m going to frame these little guys somehow, once I´ve used up the book. We´ll see where that ends up. More spreads coming up in the next posts!
Both drawings: 17,8 x 14 cm, fude nib fountain pen with black De Atramentis document ink, and watercolours, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook paper.