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Monday, March 2, 2015

March Giveaway

We’re giving away ten Stillman & Birn sketchbooks bundled with a 25-piece graphite collection, the Pitt Monochrome Studio Set from Faber-Castell®. The deluxe graphite set contains both traditional as well as woodless pencils plus water-soluble graphite. The sketchbook is a 9” x 6” hardbound, a choice of either a Alpha Series (white) or Gamma Series (ivory).


Simply email us with your name to: We will automatically enter you. You will receive an email reply confirming your entry within 48 hours. Entry to this contest closes March 8, 2015 at 11:59 PM EST.

Winners will be picked at random on March 9, 2015 and will be announced on our blog and social media sites that day.

You must be over the age of 18 in order to enter. No purchase required. No geographical limitations.


Contains 25 assorted pieces including CASTELL® 9000 pencils, CASTELL® 9000 Jumbo pencils, PITT Graphite Pure woodless pencils, Graphite Aquarelles (water-soluble graphite) plus accessories.
Castell 9000®: Superior leads made of finely ground graphite and clay.
CASTELL® 9000 Jumbo: Oversized, professional quality 5.3mm lead with extra break-resistant graphite tips.
PITT Graphite Pure: Solid graphite, lacquer coated for use like a pencil. Can be sharpened like a conventional wood-cased pencil. Suitable for expressive shading of large areas.
Graphite Aquarelles: Graphite aquarelle watercolor pencils feature a water-soluble graphite core that dissolves completely with a wet brush, leaving behind a soft coat of graphite that dries to waterproof finish. Use them to shade, add depth or create your own unique graphite paintings.

Stillman & Birn Alpha and Gamma Series contain heavyweight mixed media papers which will support a wide variety of both dry media and repeated washes with wet media. With exceptional wet strength and a surface that also readily accepts line art and multiple erasures, these robust papers allow artists to combine drawing and painting techniques on the same sheet. Archival quality.
• Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Surface
• Gamma Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – Ivory – Medium Grain Surface

StillmanMarchGiveaway_2015 rev

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Artist: Nat Nattapan, Thailand
Artist Statement: The beautiful Greek island of Santorini is my most favorite place. I created this drawing with a Lamy fountain pen loaded with carbon black ink and then added Winsor & Newton watercolor. It took me one hour do to do the sketch and then another hour to do add the watercolor.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stillman & Birn at Art Materials Expo – Duluth, Ga.

We’ll be exhibiting at three-day Art Material Expo this weekend at the Gwinnett Center outside of Atlanta. Great deals on Stillman & Birn and most other art material brands too.

Gwinnett Center – 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway – Duluth, GA 30097

Friday, February 20 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Saturday, February 21 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday, February 22 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

At Art Material Expo:
•Special prices on the products artists reach for everyday!
•Product demonstrations on new materials and techniques!
•Special Presentations from internationally known artists!
•Classes for children through the advanced artist!
•Presentations from local community art organizations!



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tokyo Train Commuters

Artist: Russell Stutler, Japan
Artist Statement: For the new year I decided to focus on ink drawings, so I bought a new Epsilon Series wirebound sketchbook. This drawing was done entirely in brush and ink, and the models were fellow train commuters. These four people were not together when I saw them, but it made for a cute scene when I put them together!

The drawing was done entirely with brush and ink using a Kuretake synthetic bristle brush pen and Platinum carbon ink. Since I’m not planning on overlaying watercolor, I suppose any ink would do, but I’ve gotten used to carbon ink, and it does prevent some smudging if my finger rubs against it. I like this wirebound sketchbook because I can arrange the pages so that the drawing surface is directly on the desk top, which helps when my hand goes off the page.

SURFACE: Epsilon Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Ed. Note: Russell Stutler is the founder and custodian of the renowned Sketching Forum:

Russell Stutler

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Darwin Sketchbooks Now Available Online

Thanks to Jan Blencowe for posting this article about Conrad Martens, the artist who accompanied Darwin on his explorations of the Galapagos Islands. These sketchbooks have now been digitized and have been put online by Cambridge University. To read more and access the sketchbooks online:  This is the video about the sketchbooks created by Martens on Darwin’s voyage of The Beagle:

Page from Conrad Martens’s sketchbooks (1833–35), from his time on board the HMS Beagle (courtesy Cambridge University Library)

Page from Conrad Martens’s sketchbooks (1833–35), from his time on board the HMS Beagle (courtesy Cambridge University Library)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rugged Cosmos

Artist: Ellen Ward, United States
Artist Statement: I use the Alpha Series for almost everything. The lighter weight of the paper is really pleasing for journal work and both wet and dry media are easily manipulated on the surface. Alpha has a slight tooth, and results in a light texture when a field is quickly developed. In this drawing I tried to retain the rough, sketchy vibe of pencil on paper. Using this quality, I combined complementary colors in shadows to avoid losing saturation. I was not interested in burnishing or blending pencils to look like an oil painting. It is a viable technique, but I lack that kind of patience: oil painting is faster!

I grow Cosmos [flowers] in my garden and despite their apparent fragility, these survived into the first few cold days of Fall. I chose this subject to demonstrate the versatility of the Alpha paper in its ability to imply a variety of surfaces when using pencil: wood, glass, atmosphere, flora. In any shadow area there may be three or more colors, speckled over the surface. Reflections are based on observation, and it is a good strategy to isolate the highlights and low lights immediately to establish depth. Warm colors describe the foreground and cooler colors describe distant elements.

This image avoids using gray, black, or dark brown but instead allows the eye to optically mix color flecks juxtaposed side by side to create neutrals. Overall I used only about five pencils to complete the image. This choice to limit the palette was a practical one. A limited palette is a simple device to visually unify an image. Sketching with only five pencils is a great exercise in restraint and forces one to become creative with layering, color combinations, and composition.

MEDIA: Colored pencil
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain


Friday, February 6, 2015

Gapstow Bridge

Artist: Joanne Gustilo, United States
Artist Statement: Central Park is definitely one of the best places to capture winter’s finest landscapes. It is absolutely beautiful, a winter wonderland in the heart of New York City. The park is covered with mounds of snow, after a blizzard hit the city a week ago. While walking and watching, the light snow falls and swirls and gives a feeling of both nostalgia and happiness. A magical moment that I need to capture before it melts away.

It was very cold for plein air painting at this time, so I just took tons of photographs for future references. I choose to sketch and paint the Gapstow Bridge, perhaps one of the popular and most photographed bridges in Central Park. I just lightly outlined the bridge and foreground with pencil, and I decided to make a full spread layout on my sketchbook. I limited my watercolor palette to Daniel Smiths’ Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Purple and a little bit of Paynes Grey in order to capture the color tones of winter.

This is my first time to use the Stillman & Birn Zeta Series sketchbook, and must say I have reservations at first because I am used to and love working on the Beta Series sketchbook with its textured finish. But I fall in love with the Zeta sketchbook right away. I love the smoothness of the paper, even if I had puddles of water on it. It holds up very well with my heavy watercolor washes and lifting colors is much easier due its smooth surface. I think I will enjoy working with the Zeta Series sketchbook from now on as much as I have with the Beta sketchbook. And I am very pleased also with the size that I chose, which is an 8 1/2″ x 11″, a perfect size for me to play.

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

Copy of 2015-02-04 16.00.44

Monday, February 2, 2015

Singapore Temple

Artist: Edric Hsu, Singapore
Artist’s Statement: I am a freelance illustrator, and I dream of one day writing and illustrating my own story books. This is a drawing of the Tang Gah Beo Temple, located at Bukit Purmei district of Singapore, not far from where I live and grew up. This is the temple where my late parents’ and relatives’ ancestral tablets are housed, and where I often visit to pay my respects to them. I drew this sketch at the temple entrance on my 42nd birthday, on the 4th November, right after my visit.

I have lived in this neighbourhood my entire life, and basically all my fond memories of my growing up years were from here. Sadly, many of these places had long been demolished and rebuilt as industrial warehouses and condominiums. Thankfully, the century-old Tang Gah Beo Temple has remained, along with its neighbour, the Church of St. Teresa.

Here I used my favourite waterproof Kuretake ZIG Writer marker (that comes with dual 0.5mm and 1.2mm tips) and my small travel palette of Holbein and Rembrandt watercolours. The only brush I used here is a #12 ColorPro Series 2350-P travel brush.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Tang Gah Beo Temple

Friday, January 30, 2015

Bali Ritual Dance

Artist: Cristina Urdiales, Spain
Artist Statement: I visited Bali in December, 2014. The island has some very distinctive dances, but the best known one is Kecak, a ritual depicting a battle between good and evil. Despite its religious origins, Kecak is so popular that it has been adapted for tourists. Kecak includes chanting and exotic music, mostly performed with drums and cymbals.

Drawing things in motion is a bit tricky but rewarding too. One of my favorite challenges is to draw local dancers when I’m traveling. I like to carry small equipment for these trips, so I can keep it at hand all times. Lately, I’ve been using a pocketsize Gamma Series sketchbook and the smallest Cotman Watercolor [Winsor & Newton] box that fit my handbag perfectly.

To draw people dancing, I need a few minutes to find the patterns that dancers tend to repeat, because I probably need them to be at the same pose two or three times to capture it correctly. When I’ve decided, I like to use a soft pencil first just to set the main flow lines. Then, I go for a very simple line sketch of the body using a waterproof marker (Faber-Castell Pitt Fine Tip, at the moment). I don’t worry about the clothing yet, I just try to get the pose correctly. It’s handy to have some hang on anatomy to complete the sketch, especially if dancers are fast. Finally, I can add some texture and cloth. No need to wait for any particular pose to do this, too. It’s difficult to find the time to add colors and such, so I usually finish by adding some simple shadowing in watercolor. I just check the light direction and place shadows where I think they should be after the dance is over. In this way I can manage to draw three or four performers during the same dance.

You can see my travel sketches at my blog: Been There, Drawn That

MEDIA: Pencil, ink, watercolor
SURFACE: Gamma Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – Ivory – Medium Grain Finish


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Portrait of Madame X: John Singer Sargent’s Most Famous and Most Infamous Painting

The BBC’s Jason Farago has written an excellent article about the scandal surrounding the creation and exhibition of Sargent’s painting. From the first paragraph: “Her hair is twisted up, away from her shoulders – which are bare save for two straps, somewhat unconvincingly holding up her cinched, classical black gown. On her head is a little diamond tiara, but other than that and the ring she wears no jewelry. Between her long neck and the plunging, heart-shaped neckline of her dress lie acres of flesh, as cold and pale as ice milk.” Read the entire article here:

UPDATE:  This BBC Culture article is not accessible in the UK. We therefore created this link for it on Google Drive:


Friday, January 23, 2015

Still Hauling

Artist: Barbara Tapp
Artist Statement: I’ve been searching around for a winter scene here in California. I am looking for urban and industrial themes in my journaling this year and love the forms of machinery, buildings and street scenes. When I found this 60’s Chevy truck in the parking lot at Home Depot… there was my story! This vintage truck with its rusty patina and dent, parked amongst modern muscle trucks, spoke to me of loyalty, reliability, strength and love.I added the lumber on top and the guy loading in the back to suggest the work this pickup might be expected to do. The leafless trees gave me the winter scene I was looking for. I drew this is in my new 8.25 x 11.75 Epsilon Journal and a much larger area to sketch than my usual 7 x 10 size.

I free-handed the sketch in light pencil first, blocking the shapes. I then drew in a fine Sharpie a light outline of the pickup with a small amount of hatching allowing me to see a value study, keeping the area behind the wheels as my darkest areas. The watercolor washes were then layered over the underdrawing over a period of two hours. I love the way this paper does not absorb the paint, it does not bleed through and once dry can be lifted, allowing for highlights and tones. There is minor buckling but I keep clips on the sides.

I was experimenting back and forth with wash and line trying to capture the weathered Duco [automotive lacquer] in the winter afternoon light. This smooth paper is tricky but very rewarding. Ink glides over it and can go from very light to very dark without staining the paper. A lovely patchy appearance happens in the washes, giving spontaneity to the illustration.

MEDIA: Pencil, ink, watercolor
SURFACE: Epsilon Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


Monday, January 19, 2015

Carson Cottage

Architectural illustrator Andrew Banks created this pen and ink study of a small, historic building situated in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. “This is a building I have had my eye on for quite a while but only until recently got around to sketching. Carson Cottage, a Victorian era building, built in 1888 sits in the Lincoln Park Zoo. The cottage was designed by Joseph Silsbee, accomplished 19th century architect, known for his contributions to the World Columbian Exposition. Originally built as a public “comfort station”, the building has since been restored and used by the Chicago Park District and local volunteer gardening program.

I laid the sketch out in pencil. Situated in between large trees and surrounded by a tall garden of native plants, I wanted the composition of the sketch to capture the density of the building’s natural surroundings and how perfectly the building compliments its context. One of the things I love about Chicago is that within such a large metropolis, it is easy to find beautiful scenes like this. Unless you knew otherwise, one would assume this was sketched in a forest preserve or countryside somewhere. Positioning the cottage under a canopy and behind the dense garden, I “framed” the cottage in my sketch using the building’s context.

Using two fountain pens filled with black ink, each with a different sized nib, I was able to create some variety of line weights, distinguishing the foreground from background. I also used a brush pen, filled with a grey ink to create the shadows. I really liked how this Delta Series paper allowed me to push values without compromising the integrity of the paper at all. From the dark, bold lines in the trees to the cross hatching on the building and the garden in the foreground, I did not have to worry about how much I worked the drawing.”

MEDIA: Ink and ink wash
SURFACE: Delta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270gsm – Ivory – Cold Press Finish

Carson Cottage, Lincoln Park [BANKS] (1024x725)

Friday, January 16, 2015

At the Market

Bay-area designer Suhita Shirodkar sent us this drawing of a scene in her local fruit market. “I have always been fascinated by capturing crowds and activity, and this is one of a series of sketches created to study drawing crowds and busy places. This is a sketch of the Milk Pail Market, one of the last small, independent grocery stores in Mountain View, California. I especially love how much fruit they carry. I sketched this as I stood behind a huge pile of Manila Mangoes.

When drawing people-filled scenes from life, I lay in a very light structure to get my perspective and layout right, but then adopt a wait-and-watch technique, where I am ready to quick-capture people as they move into my scene. I drew in the whole scene using an Extra Fine Sharpie marker and then used watercolor. I’ve been a fan of the Beta paper since I first tested it: it holds up to really heavy washes and pooled colors without buckling. And the wirebound book I use lets my book fold up so I can work standing like I did for this piece.” Suhita posts her artwork regularly on her Facebook page:

MEDIA: Marker and watercolor
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Suhita_whole foods

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Art Journal Pioneer Michel Renaud Killed at Charlie Hebdo Offices

[The following article was published on January 8th by the French newspaper, Libération. It was translated by watercolorist Martine Pittet. The article reports on the murder of Michel Renaud, the founder of “Rendez-Vous du Carnet de Voyage”, an annual international festival celebrating travel-related art journaling and writing. The festival is held in the ancient French city of Clermont-Ferrand. It is one of the most prestigious conferences of its kind, attracting art journalists as well as travel writers. Many of the participating artists are also members of the Urban Sketchers organization.]

“Michel Renaud, who founded the “Rendez-Vous du Carnet de Voyage” Festival, was among the twelve victims in the attack that took place in the Charlie Hebdo premises. He was 69.

Renaud was in Paris with his colleague Gérard Gaillard (who miraculously escaped the shooting), guests of the Charlie Hebdo team to discuss collaborating on future projects.

In the first part of his professional life, Michel Renaud was a journalist. He worked for Europe 1 Radio and the Figaro newspaper. In 1982, at age 37, he was contacted by Clermont-Ferrand Mayor, Roger Quilliot, who was looking for a city Communication Director. After several decades he resigned from this job and became a passionate traveler and the founder of his great festival “Rendez-Vous du Carnet de Voyage” (translation: rendezvous with travel journals).

Over the years, the event gained international recognition as THE art journalist’s festival. Thousands of visitors and exhibitors have come from all over the world to exchange and share cartoons, watercolours or testimonials in a merry and colourful five-day bazaar. Always interested in new talents and original ideas, Michel Renaud was attentive to everyone, whether the famous artist or young adventurer.

Since his death, the travel sketchers community has been posting an increasing number of testimonials on social media networks to pay tribute to Michel’s values: Intellectual curiosity, humanity, tolerance … all things the evil commando group hated and tried to silence.”

PORTRAIT: Wolfgang Krisai (from a 2011 photograph by Valentin Uta)
TRANSLATION: Martine Pittet

Michel Renaud

Friday, January 9, 2015

Painting Tutankhamun

British watercolorist Elaine Hill created this dramatic two-page spread and added the following description of her technique: “This is my watercolour painting of King Tut Ankh Amun’s (Tutankhamun) beautiful death mask created from a copyright free photo by Mr. Jon Bodsworth. I visited Egypt in 2010 where I actually saw the mask on a 50th birthday trip that was a present from my partner. I had always wanted to go and see the pyramids, Sphinx, tombs, temples and treasures, a result of childhood museum trips with my mother. I was inspired to do this painting because I’d kept the entrance tickets and I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. I was also inspired by the challenge of creating the illusion of the metallic gleam of the gold of the mask.

I decided on the layout first. The tickets are quite big and I wanted to add some writing and the face of the mask. I decided on a portrait format and drew in the placement of the tickets and then drew in the mask in pencil. I tried various colours on a scrap of paper to find a base colour for the gold effect. Winsor & Newton Quinacridone Gold turned out the best for this as it can be a diluted pale yellow through to a deep golden yellow as a stronger mix. Here and there I added Daniel Smith Burnt Sienna for warm shading and the metallic effect was completed by blending with pale and dark purple mixes of DS Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Magenta. For the blue parts of the mask, I used Ultramarine Blue and added a touch of Burnt Sienna for the darker areas. (A background of DS Prussian Blue being duller than Ultramarine, made the mask stand out). I created a bit of sheen on the mask by dampening areas and lifting off some pigment. I then added some splatter for interest but I was careful to avoid the face. The last step was to attach the tickets with paper glue and then some writing, establishing a home for the tickets at last.

MEDIA: Pencil, ink, watercolor, paper collage
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

King Tut

Monday, January 5, 2015

On the Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

This past summer’s Urban Sketchers Symposium took place in the historic Brazilian town of Paraty, giving participating artists the chance to visit the nearby city of São Paulo. Swedish designer and Urban Sketchers’ correspondent Nina Johansson sent us the following drawing and report from her visit:

“This sketch is from Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. I had not expected to ever go to Brazil in my life, but there I was, grateful to have been part of the Urban Sketchers symposium in Paraty. I had seen the amazing sights of Rio de Janeiro before the event, and was on my way home to Sweden after only one night in São Paulo. I had heard slightly scary things about SP, how you always have to watch out, be careful, don´t travel around alone… But here I was, drawing along the busy Avenida Paulista, an avenue of a scale that is quite comparable to anything in Stockholm, together with a bunch of friends from three different continents. This moment made São Paulo a place I would love to come back to and see more of. It made me feel so clearly how every big bustling city is still mostly consisting of people, and when some of them are your friends, you are in a good place.”

This is the link to Nina Johansson’s blog: and this is the link to info about her acclaimed book drawings of Barcelona, “Drawing Around Sagrada Familia”: (US) (Europe)

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

Avenue Paulista

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

May your 2015 be a year of good health, happiness and great art.
“A view of the Fireworks and Illuminations at his Grace the Duke of Richmonds’s at Whitehall and on the River Thames” (1749)
Hand-coloured etching
Beard Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Homage to Fermor

Illustrator Jeff Nelson explains in this post that he likes to do calligraphy drawings to accompany the books he’s reading. This one is a tribute to Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915 – 2011), who was regarded as England’s greatest travel writer and “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene.”

“My name is Jeff Nelson. I live and work as an illustrator in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I work on murals, menus, magazines, maps, signs, and whatever else that may require hand-rendering that comes my way. I recently discovered the travel writings of Patrick Leigh Fermor. When he was nineteen, he left Oxford and began walking across Europe. This was just after Hitler had come to power. Fermor’s knowledge of the lands through which he’s passing is thorough and quirky. It balances well with the interactions he has with the people he meets along the way while also providing some foreshadowing of the horrors to come. He was also an accomplished sketcher and portraitist who frequently thanked his hosts with a drawing.

I like to draw while I’m reading — it helps me remember. By the end of a book, I like to have a piece that sums up the overall feeling of my reading experience. In this case it was grandiose, over-the-top, yet playful typography. I used a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 4H pencil, Pentel brush pen with Carbon Ink, and a Carbon Ink pen in my Stillman & Birn sketchbook. (I also used Graham’s 10-year-old Tawny Port, but that’s probably more information than anybody really wants.) My work can be seen at or under the name Jephemera on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”

ED. NOTE: Leigh Fermor was a renowned author, scholar and soldier who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Greek resistance in Crete resistance during the Second World War. This article from the BBC describes one of his more audacious exploits, the abduction of a Nazi general from Crete in 1944.

MEDIA: Pencil, ink, ink wash
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


jeffnelson (640x564)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Best U.S. Art Shows of 2014 (per Wall St. Journal)

Shown here: Matisse’s “Two Masks” (1947) from MoMA’s “Matisse: the Cut-Outs” exhibit through February 10. We’re going next week. Truly sorry we didn’t get to “Degas/Cassat” at Washington’s National Gallery before it closed. But “Madame Cezanne” at the Met (through March 15th) is definitely on our list.

Two Masks


Monday, December 22, 2014

Austere and Elegant

Thank you naturalist Jean Mackay for posting this unique art journal spread. It combines a botanical study of desiccated pods (they’re Baptisia australis; common name is False Blue Indigo) and a line from a Winter poem from the Victorian era. Jean says the Zeta Series paper was “a perfect match for both the lettering and watercolor”.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth

Austere and elegant