Stillman and Birn
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lifting Pigment on Zeta Series

Artist: Reham Moniem, Egypt
Artist Statement: In this drawing I used a big mop brush to create large washes the lifted them with tissue (tissue blotting) using firm pressure when the wash was still wet. Later in the process, I wanted to lighten the value of colors in certain areas in my drawing, especially in the light spots of the flower petals. So I lifted some of the pigment with a clean brush, alternating a brush that was little bit moist and other times a totally dry “thirsty brush”. Usually I love to add ink outlines at the end of my painting but here I just used a gel pen (white) for final touches because I wanted to create an exaggerated effect with extra white lines for the background. At the end I used I used a toothbrush to do some splashes in ultramarine to add a cool color effect (as you can see the reds are eye-catching in this painting, so adding a contrasting cool color was a must in my opinion).

The paper I used in this sketch is Stillman & Birn’s Zeta sketchbook. It’s smooth and extra white paper which I prefer. The whiteness of the paper helps to show the contrast of shades when you are lifting color, even with the light tones, as you can see in the light green leaves. Even though the paper is smooth, it withstood my techniques and did not get damaged even though I did so much lifting. The paper was very forgiving.

MEDIA: Watercolor and ink
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Reham Moniem is an Egyptian artist /interior architect who is an assistant professor of architecture. She lives between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is interested in drawing and painting. She works in a variety of media including acrylic, gouache, oil, pastel, charcoal but mostly watercolor and ink.

lifting technqiues

Monday, August 22, 2016

Drawing the Scene in a Point of View Sketch

Artist: Paul Heaston, United States
Artist Statement: I do a lot of POV [point-of view] sketches, which are a great way to get some sketching in even when I can’t leave the house. Since we had a baby daughter last year, being at home has become the norm, so I’m having a lot of fun documenting our domestic surroundings when I’m not busy chasing my little girl around. This sketch was done with a sepia Derwent Graphik Line Painter pen in a 3.5 x 5.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon softcover sketchbook.
Medium: Ink
Surface: Epsilon Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Paul Heaston is an artist, educator and full-time dad in Denver, Colorado. He loves sketching people and architecture and playing with perspective, and has been a part of the urban sketching community for 9 years.
Instagram: @paulheaston
Facebook: @paulheastonartist


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Softcover Sketchbook Review by Larry Marshall

We sent Canadian artist Larry D. Marshall some prototypes of our softcover sketchbooks before the recent relaunch of the line, later followed by samples of the final product. These are his comments and review.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Van Gogh, “The Sower” (study)

Inspired by the Jean-François Millet’s paintings of peasants sowing seeds, van Gogh visited this theme many times. Like Millet, sowing for van Gogh is a symbol. The concept is based on the “Parable of the Sower” as told by Jesus in which he likens the toils of the sower to our own journey through life: “That if one sows a good seed one will reap a good crop.”

Sowing is “a solemn act of faith in man’s battle to earn his daily bread, for potentially edible grain is flung to the winds, in the hope of harvests far beyond the control of the sower. In Catholic France, the sower often began his task by crossing himself, or by forming a cross with a handful of grain flung into the air in two strokes.”

Furthermore, as a man of the people van Gogh was celebrating the sower as a statement of solidarity with their labor. ““By the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of the human machine had taken a new turn in the light of advancing industrialization and incipient mass production….That the theme of labor and the nascent ‘human motor’ should begin to emerge as a European phenomenon in the later 1840s is no coincidence, not only in respect of industrial progress but of the spread of European imperialism, agitation against slavery and worker exploitation, and the new self-awareness of labor itself in the run-up to the revolutions of 1848. Van Gogh’s sower studies and paintings demonstrate their pictorial engagement in the political as well as physical senses with contemporary issues of labor power.”

Sources: Anthea Callen and Alexandra Murphy,
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

via Prestons Art Center



Friday, August 12, 2016

Where is Home?

Hamid Montalbee reports on a meeting with a blind homeless man on the streets of San Francisco. The man asks the artist many questions, but ends with the one that seems loaded with ambiguity: “where is home?” It is a poignant conclusion to this narrative about a sponanteous meeting between strangers, the type of unplanned interaction that allows us to excercise our humanity and to be enriched by doing so.

I met this blind homeless man in Metreon San Francisco. Offering him the only $5 bill I had in my pocket, he thanked me with a whimpering and much starved voice. I ran to the Super Duper Burger Metreon next-door and brought him something warm to eat. We had a long heart-to-heart conversation, on how this material world lays its hardest to lure us astray, through casting lights, and shadows, to elude our sight off our fading path back to our homes. For him he said there was no breaking away till blindness set in! He offered me many invaluable questions, to which I was sure he had the answers. But above all his deep remarks, his final question stood out… “Where is home?”

MEDIA: Watercolor and ink
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish


Where is Home

Monday, August 1, 2016

Brenda Swenson Reviews Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks

We very much appreciate this unsolicited review recently posted by renowned watercolorist, Brenda Swenson.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Artist: Judy Salleh, Australia
Artist Statement: The Raffles Hotel. What an amazing building! Ever since attending the USK symposium in Singapore in 2015, I have longed to paint this stunning facade. Summer 2016 takes me on a 5-week sketching tour of Singapore and Europe, en route to the USK symposium in Manchester. My travelling partner? A ‘Stillman and Birn’ Beta sketchbook size 8 1/4 x 11 3/4. The 270 gsm paper is the perfect weight, and the watercolours retain their vibrancy on the brilliant white surface. This is the first time I’ve carried such a large sketchbook whilst travelling, but it has reduced the need to carry extra sheets of art paper, and, as in this picture, I have made use of double page spreads.

I have largely used ‘Daniel Smith’ watercolours, together with ‘Winsor and Newton’ and a few ‘Holbein’ paints. I seldom use a pencil to sketch, and generally go straight in with my fountain pen. In this painting I used a Pentel MR3 fountain pen, with ‘Tombow’ markers to define the windows, and the watercolour was only applied once the outline was complete.

MEDIA: Ink, (water-based) markers, and watercolors
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Judy Salleh is an art tutor and lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia, where she runs sketching classes. Her favourite medium is pen and watercolour, though she enjoys working in chalk pastels, and experimenting with other materials. Originally from England, Judy travelled widely before settling in Sydney, and has exhibited both in the UK and Australia. Inspired by the beautiful light and spectacular coastline, Judy never leaves home without a sketchbook, and her collection is rapidly growing.
Instagram: @judysalleh_art
Facebook: judy salleh art

Raffles Hotel

Monday, July 11, 2016

Softcover Edition Sketchbooks Are Back

We’re pleased to announce that our Softcover Edition sketchbooks are now available again at our retail and online selling partners.

• Sewn-bound, lightweight, flexible and rugged
• Same great mixed media paper as in our hardcover sketchbooks
• Deluxe soft-touch, colored covers
• Finished with rounded corners – prevents edges from fraying
• Three portrait and two landscape sizes – we listen to you!

For more information, please see this page on our website:


Monday, July 4, 2016

Golden Gate at Vista Point

ARTIST: Jorge Santiago, Jr. United States
ARTIST STATEMENT: I like to practice landscapes and I challenge myself by not doing an underdrawing first. I find this helps me to make relations to objects to create better depth, it tests my perspective skills, and it makes the drawing more spontaneous which is more fun.

I began this drawing with a Pentel Hybrid Technica in my Stillman & Birn softcover Alpha sketchbook, and I started with the girders and landscape because the Golden Gate Bridge was covered in this rolling mist that was endlessly creeping over that hill. I hoped by the time I got to the bridge, it would be visible, but that wasn’t the case so I decided to proceed. I used a Zebra medium brush pen for the heavier lines, and after the inks were dry, I added Sennelier watercolor to the entire drawing and Holbein gouache for the mist. It was important to me that the bridge seemed to hide in the mist, so the gouache really helped capture that sense of something huge and imposing lurking in a dense fog.
MEDIA: Ink, watercolor, gouache
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Jorge Santiago Jr. is a professional comic book artist based in Marietta, Georgia. He earned his MFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design and is working on his numerous creator-owned projects. When Jorge isn’t making comics, he can be found in cafes or at bookstores sketching people and the world around him.
instagram: @jorgesantiagojr

Golden Gate

This artwork was done in one of our new Alpha Series softcover sketchbooks with rounded corners.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tommy Kane’s Amazing Sketchbook

Many thanks to noted illustrator Tommy Kane for sharing this video tour of his Delta Series sketchbook:
MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Delta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – Ivory- Cold Press Finish


Tommy Kane Fish

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Betty & Veronica

ARTIST: Allison Sohn, United States
ARTIST STATEMENT: For my Betty & Veronica variant cover, I used Stillman & Birn Zeta paper. I wanted to limit the way the markers can spread on the surface, and I find that the thickness of Zeta really helps with that. Since I knew there were going to be small details, and some subtlety to the facial expressions, I wanted to have better control over my medium (in this instance, Copic markers) and I knew that Zeta was the better choice for that. Additionally, the smooth surface of Zeta is great to go back and put inked details on top of my color work.

I’ve done another cover since then- it’s not yet been announced, so I can’t share it at this time- but I went with Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper for that one. I knew that I had areas in the piece where I wanted to encourage the blendability of the marker pigments and use the bleed of the pens to my advantage. The lighter weight of Epsilon, along with the smooth surface, enhanced that aspect of working with the Copic Markers. And again, that smooth surface allowed me to go back in afterward and ink in tiny details without any trouble.
MEDIA: Markers and ink
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Allison Sohn is an illustrator working primarily in trading cards and comic book covers. She has illustrated such properties as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Red Sonja and Archie Comics. She lives with her husband, artist Adam Hughes, and their three cats and three Old English Sheepdogs.

Betty & Veronic

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Chiesa di San Zaccaria, Venice

ARTIST: Jorge Moscoso Pantoja, Bolivia
ARTIST STATEMENT: For me, drawing is the way to most effective way to achieve a deep state of contemplation. A time in which external things disappear and one is immersed in a relaxing activity. With my drawings, I have the opportunity to analyze the proportions, forms, lights and shadows of buildings that I love, especially of classical architecture. This sketch is a free and spontaneous drawing and not necessarily very accurate, but that [approach] can communicate a visual or mental experience of a picture on paper.

This sketch is of the beautiful Church of San Zaccaria in Venice. It is an ancient church and monastery of the 15th century, a masterpiece of Gothic/Renaissance styles. The drawing technique that I use to make my sketches, is usually “A ink” (pen & Ink) with felt tip pens, markers, fountain pens or technical pens (Rapidographs). I think that this is a fascinating, simple and direct drawing technique and that by its own limitations, it forces the artist to eliminate the redundancies of the subject and go straight to the most important details.

MEDIA: Pen & Ink and Markers
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Jorge Moscoso Pantoja is a Bolivian full-time architect, who spends much of his free time drawing classical architecture. He feels fortunate to be able to combine his passion for the history of architecture and travel with drawings of the structures he visits.
Instagram: @jotaemepe

Artist’s Original Spanish text:
Para mi, Dibujar, es la forma mas efectiva para lograr un estado de contemplación profundo. Un tiempo en el que las cosas externas desaparecen y uno se sumerje en una actividad relajante.
Con mis dibujos, tengo la oportunidad de analizar las proporciones, las formas, las luces y las sombras, de edificios que me apasionan,especialmente de Arquitectura Clásica. Los Bocetos (sketch) son dibujos libres y espontáneos y no necesariamente muy precisos, pero que permiten comunicar una experiencia visual o mental de una imagen en el papel.

El boceto presentado, corresponde a la hermosa Iglesia de San Zacarias, en Venecia, Italia. Una antigua Iglesia y Monasterio del Siglo 15, obra maestra de los estilos Gótico/Renacentista. Usualmente la Técnica de Dibujo que empleo para realizar mis bocetos, es “A Tinta” (pen & Ink) con plumines (felt tip pen), marcadores (markers), Pluma Fuentes (Fountain Pen) o Rapidografos (Technical pens). Creo que esta es una Técnica de dibujo fascinante, simple y directa y que por sus limitaciones propias, obliga a eliminar lo redundante del sujeto e ir directo a lo mas importante del tema.

Chiesa di San Zaccaria


Friday, June 3, 2016


Artist: Moh’d Bilbeisi, United States
Artist Statement: This watercolor was done as a quick sketch on the pages of my S&B journal. Paint was allowed to run and I changed its value to give it a form. The most important part was the pitched roof and the glass façade, again, they were allowed to run and manipulated as reflections. The painting was framed via foliage on the left side.

MEDIA: Watercolor
SURFACE: Gamma Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – Ivory – Medium Grain Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Moh’d Bilbeisi is a professor of architecture at Oklahoma State University. He is an architect, illustrator, and watercolorist. Moh’d has developed an innovative style that blends precision with abstract expressionism. Moh’d is accomplished in using watercolors, ink, and graphite/pencil as well as modern digital techniques. His work is highly collected by individuals, nationally and internationally. He is also a noted author of several books such as “Graphic Journaling” and co-author of “Words and Colors” and “Firmitas Utilitas Venustas: Architecture and Society”, among others. Moh’d’s works have been featured in many exhibitions, nationally, and internationally. He also conducts graphic workshops throughout the globe. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, books, and journal ads. Website:

Chapel 9x12 12022015

Monday, May 30, 2016

San Miguel Mission Chapel, Santa Fe, NM

Artist: Brenda Swenson, United States
Media: Watercolor and ink
Surface: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Thanks, Brenda Swenson for posting this beautiful drawing. Brenda did this in one of our new Softcover Edition sketchbooks, available again in North America this June.

San Miguel Mission

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Still Life Arrangement of Bottles

Artist: Elaine Hill, United Kingdom
Artist Statement: I work mainly from photographs provided copyright free, from various Facebook sites by generous photographers who like to see what artists create from their photos. This painting is from photographer Ann Traverse and it made me smile as soon as I saw it, a cheerful sight during a rainy couple of weeks.

It’s painted in watercolour in one of my Stillman & Birn journals and I picked the Zeta for the smooth paper. Using a grid method, I penciled in the outline of the flowers and bottles, then I painted in the yellow flowers, the background greenery went in next from a mixture of Indanthrone Blue and Permanent Yellow Deep.

I started on the bottles using light washes of Ultramarine for the blue bottles and Quinacridones Red and Magenta for the pinky red bottles and Permanent Yellow Deep and Quinacridone Red for the scarlet bottle with the big flower.

I put a wash of grey, made from Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Burnt Orange, on the blue bottles with the reflections and also on the clear bottle which also had a pale wash of Quinacridone Magenta dropped in. I used a strong wash of Ultramarine to model the tops of the blue bottles and Indanthrone Blue & Quinacridone Burnt Orange for the very dark area of blue glass, making sure to paint round the pattern of reflections. The red bottles had darker washes of Magenta and some of the Indanthrone & Burnt Orange mix. The scarlet bottle had a mix of Magenta & Permanent Yellow Deep used to model the pattern in the glass. Corks were a pale wash of Yellow Ochre with Burnt Orange at the bases and dotted with the grey mixture. Flower stems were a brighter green to reflect that they were plastic. The pink & burgundy flowers were done next with Magenta and a touch of Red and I tweaked the background with a bit more darker green mix to bring out some of the yellow flowers.

I’ve put a border round the painting to finish it off, but not over any of the bottles which I think brings the bottles forward in space and plus, I’ve used it repeatedly throughout this sketchbook giving it a unity.

MEDIA: Pencil and watercolour
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Elaine Hill is a British artist who enjoys painting predominantly in watercolour in addition to her full time office job. To date, Elaine’s subjects have been mainly close up still life arrangements and animal faces but she is now also expanding her range to include landscapes. She is also starting to work in other mediums such as acrylics, water-mixable oils and pastels. Elaine has exhibited with her art club at Salford Museum and recently carried out a number of private commissions.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Makeup Blunder

Artist: Cannon Pearson, United States
Artist Statement: It started with a softcover Alpha. I laid down the base gradient with Liquitex spray paint. It’s water-based and not too noxious. I just bought a few cans to try out. I don’t like the blue can that I bought, so I tend to use red and yellow a lot. The scribbles and silver outlines were done with Montana Acrylic markers. The eyes and mouth were cut out of a Canson sketchbook and pasted here. The type came from tabloids which I scanned and printed onto Staples inkjet sticker labels. I painted over those with Liquitex acrylic paint. I finished it up with a coat of matte finish.

I tried this just to see what I could throw at this book. I’m always surprised how much stuff that I can keep piling on top. Hope you enjoy it.

[Ed. Note: This artwork was created on a sketchbook from the first run of Softcover Edition sketchbooks. The new release will be announced shortly.]

MEDIA: Spray paint, acrylic pigment and medium, collage
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

Cannon Pearson is an illustrator from Atlanta, GA. He studied graphic design at the University of Georgia, and then went back to school to study photography at the The Creative Circus. His work is a combination of analog and digital elements incorporating photography, drawing, painting, and random found elements pieced together in Illustrator and Photoshop. Website:

makeup blunder

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mid-Century Unease – Edward Hopper & Nina Simone Together

This is a compelling, moody video of Edward Hopper’s paintings and Nina Simone’s music.
via Mike Bailey:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Palmer Feed Mill

Artist: Tim Oliver, United States
Artist Statement: While primarily a plein air watercolorist, I’m passionate about sketching in pencil as well as pen and ink. Rural landscapes of my native West Texas tend to be the primary source of inspiration in my work. I love to sketch and paint agricultural and industrial subjects as well. I sketched this feed mill (Palmer Feed and Supply, San Angelo, TX) in my Stillman & Birn Alpha 9×12 wire bound sketchbook. I tend to work with heavy watercolor washes and the Alpha holds up extremely well! I also currently use a Beta Hard Bound 5.5×8.5. Its compact size is very handy and I love the heavy weight paper! The quality of the paper is exceptional and it accepts ink and watercolor extremely well.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

Tim Oliver is a full time Landscape Architect and passionate watercolor artist and sketcher. He paints exclusively in watercolor and is dedicated to consistently keeping a sketching regimen. He sketches in pencil, pen and ink, water soluble graphite and watercolor. He holds associate membership in the Outdoor Painters Society, American Watercolor Society, National Watercolor Society and West Texas Watercolor Society. He is also a member of the GAS Painting group and Urban Sketchers Texas.

#‎art‬ ‪#‎artjournal‬ ‪#‎drawing‬ ‪#‎design‬ ‪#‎illustration‬ ‪#‎mixedmedia‬ ‪#‎sketch‬ ‪#‎sketchbook‬ ‪#‎watercolor‬ ‪#‎watercolour‬ ‪#‎watercolordrawing ‪#‎architecture‬ ‪#‎arqsketch‬ ‪#‎archisketcher

Oliver Mill

Saturday, May 7, 2016

In Memoriam – Florian Afflerbach

Stillman & Birn shares the pain of the Urban Sketchers community upon learning of the tragic death of Florian Afflerbach. Florian accomplished much in his short life and touched many others with his talent, passion and intellectual curiosity, with his humor and generosity of spirit. He was a great architect and artist, a scholar and educator, a friend. It is heartbreaking and unbelievable that Florian is suddenly gone from our midst. He will be sorely missed.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

About Picasso’s ‘Night Fishing at Antibes’

The painting was created just at the outbreak of World War II. It is a somber view of a world about to explode, a companion piece to Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. This excellent 8-minute video essay helps us to understand Picasso’s allegorical painting:  via #nerdwriter1