Stillman and Birn
Art Paper Gallery
Sunday, September 25, 2016

Zinnias from my Garden

Artist: Leslie Fehling, United States
Artist Statement: The zinnias in my garden are a mass of color every summer, and I often cut bouquets to bring inside. When I was looking around late one evening for something to draw for a daily sketch challenge that I’ve been participating in during September, I spied this arrangement of zinnias on my kitchen table. I grabbed my 5.5″ x 8.5″ Stillman and Birn Zeta series softcover sketchbook, my paint palette, a #14 round Escoda Prado brush, and a Tombow Dual Brush Pen #977 Saddle Brown. One of the rules for the September challenge I’m participating is that I draw directly in ink with no pencil underdrawing, so I began my sketch by placing light dots to mark the boundaries of a few of the foreground flowers with the fine tip on the Tombow pen. I then drew the flowers, petal by petal, not fussing over accuracy, but sketching quickly to get it all down (so I could go to bed!) I continued to use the dot technique to give myself guides for the shape of the flowers as I worked my way up the page. Then it was time for the watercolor. Using a #14 brush allowed me to paint the flowers quickly, without a lot of fussing. I left white highlights on the flowers where they were struck by the light. The Tombow saddle brown ink is water-soluble, so the lines were softened as I worked, the brown mixing with the watercolors to mute them a bit and add unity to the varied colors of the blossoms. I worked my way around the page, allowing one section to dry while I tackled another flower. The lightest greens were painted on stems and leaves, then after they dried, deeper blue-greens were added. A darker wash on each flower was used to indicate shadows, with the darkest values reserved for the deep dark burgandy brown around the flower centers. All in all, the sketch didn’t take much more than a half hour to complete.

Sketching daily is a great motivator and attitude-changer. It helps me get over my hang-ups and perfectionist tendencies and encourages me to just dive in and do it without worrying about the end result. Here, my quickie bedtime sketch turned out better than I had dared hope it would. Sometimes the secret to successful sketching is in having no expectations of greatness when we start out. Just getting something down on paper, being in the moment and really looking at what it is you’re sketching often results in a sketch that’s full of life and expresses the happiness and wonder you felt as you sketched it.

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

Leslie Fehling is a full-time watercolor artist who makes her home in rural Pennsylvania. She teaches workshops across the US and in Europe, sharing her unique approach to illustrated watercolor journaling. Her popular Everyday Artist blog [ ] has connected her with art enthusiasts around the world and inspired countless followers to find their own creative voice.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beta Softcover Giveaway

Thank you Sandra Strait for sponsoring this Beta Softcover Giveaway and for your review. International entries ok for giveaway.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gate to Cathedral Green

Artist: Thomas W. Schaller, United States
Artist Statement: I was just waiting at the airport for the trip to Vancouver (where I am now and where I am teaching for a week starting tomorrow). Anyhow, I had a couple of hours and was watching how the light would stream in a window and illuminate a wall or storefront or the people in front. But it was so bright that a lot of it bounced off and more subtly illuminated objects across the hall.

So I was reminded of the Cathedral Green Gate in Wells, England – where I taught earlier this year. And so did this sketch in my trusty S&B sketchbook. The afternoon sun illuminated the unforgettable facade of the Cathedral (in my namesake town!) in such a theatrical way that it was easy to overlook the beautiful ancient gate behind us . It was also illuminated – albeit in a more subdued manner – by the light bouncing off the brilliant Cathedral many yards away…

And so I guess it was meant as a study of the things we see – those that “grab the headlines” – but can also make us overlook many other wonderful things that are right there in front of us – if we could only learn to see.

I even (embarrassingly) wrote a little poem about that moment when I was there – and this thought occurred to me

At Wells Cathedral
The late sun slants across the green
And climbs the Cathedral’s golden heights
But the forgotten gate behind us still
Quietly waits to also bask
In the same reflected, and borrowed light.
T Wells Schaller – Sept ‘16

MEDIUM: Graphite
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

After a career as an architect in New York City of twenty years, Thomas Schaller now devotes himself full-time to artwork in the watercolor medium. Thomas has long been considered one of the foremost architectural artists in the world. In the field, he has won every major award for his artwork – including being a two-time recipient of the Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize. He has authored two books; the best-selling, and AIA award of merit winner, Architecture in Watercolor, and The Art of Architectural Drawing. He is increasingly in demand internationally to conduct his watercolor workshop series, “The Architecture of Light”. His strengths as a teacher are to emphasize composition over technique or medium, and light and atmosphere over specific subject matter. His artwork is collected and exhibited around the world.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Nature Journaling

Artist: Jan Blencowe, United States
Artist Statement: Nature is by far my favorite sketching subject. As a result, about ninety percent of my sketchbook entries are nature studies. Although a great deal of my nature journal studies are done right on my own property (because I believe that your relationship with nature should start right on the little patch of earth where you live), this particular entry was done on a day trip to Outer Island in Stony Creek, Branford, CT. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore a new environment and make use off the spotting scopes available on viewing platforms on the island, which look out into the Long Island Sound. When I’m working with live (and therefore moving) subjects I like to begin with a very brief sketch done with a mechanical pencil. Once the gesture is established I move right in with a fountain pen. I’m a big fan of economy of line, that is, saying as much as I can in as few lines as possible. I find sketches created that way have a boldness and a liveliness that brings power to the subject. I also use line work to establish some very basic value patterns. Once that’s done watercolors bring the sketches to life. After the sketches were complete I found a shady spot to sit and using brochures I picked up at the information center I was able to write some interesting facts as part of my journal entry. Cormorants and terns, the birds in this entry, both have some unique characteristics that I tried to focus on, as well as capturing them in some interesting poses.

MEDIA: Fountain pen, ink, watercolors
SURFACE: Delta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – Ivory – Cold Press Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Jan Blencowe is a Connecticut landscape painter, and a keen observer of the natural world. She keeps a nature journal, and explores and documents her life through visual and illustrated mixed media journals. Her work has been published in the recently released book, Artist’s Sketchbook: Exercises & Techniques for Sketching on the Spot, and Strokes of Genius 5, The Nurture Nature Center’s nature journal curriculum, and used in promotional materials for Derwent Cumberland Pencil Company, Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks, and Golden Artist Colors. Her sketchbook, Winter in Connecticut, is part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library in New York.

Outer Island cormorants and terns

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Vacation Map

Artist: Jean Mackay, United States
Artist Statement: When traveling to a new place, I like to start with a map in my sketchbook. Though I’ve been to Maine many times, I’d never been to Deer Isle. Prior to setting off, I sketched the island outline and painted the deep blue water, using a lot of water and letting the colors merge right on the paper. The map created a sense of anticipation and helped me get oriented to the island when I arrived. Thereafter, I added details each day, which made for a nice record of the week’s activities. There’s a lot going on on the page so I chose to keep the color scheme for the islands pretty basic. My final step was to add the paler blue around the text to tie it all together.

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

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Artist and educator, Jean Mackay immortalizes the ephemera of everyday life and nature in her artist journal and on her blog, “Drawn In”. She lives in Connecticut.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rain Tunnel, Viterbo

Artist: Fred Lynch, United States
Artist Statement: Every July, I travel to the small medieval city of Viterbo, sixty miles north of Rome to teach Journalistic Drawing to college students studying abroad. However, when not teaching, I practice what I preach. That is, I undertake a long-term investigation and documentation of this overlooked yet historic place; home to Popes, Roman bathes, murder-scene churches and countless other curiosities from history and human nature.

Following in the footsteps of the great Grand Tour artists, such as Edward Lear, William Turner, Corot and Claude Lorraine, I aim to explore, bear witness and to share this particular place through my on-site drawings of correspondence. Most often, I find myself drawing for long hours in the shade of a hot mid-afternoon, during Italy’s time of siesta. The result is a portrait of silence as well as of travel, discovery and history.

The works created with pencil, and then brown ink, on heavy paper. Following a couple of hours on-site, the drawings are darkened with more washes back in my studio.

MEDIA: Pencil, ink and ink wash
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Fred Lynch is an artist and illustrator who lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He’s a well-known correspondent for Urban Sketches and his work has been won recognition in many books, magazines and exhibitions. When Fred’s not drawing, he’s drawing conclusions, as a professor at Rhode Island School of Design and with the Summer Study in Italy Program of Montserrat College of Art.

Fred Lynch

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