The new sketchbook

A while back, I wrote about my sketchbook of choice: the A4, landscape, 300-gram watercolor Moleskine (29.7 x 21.0 cm, 8.25 x 11.75 in). After going through four of these sketchbooks, I've grown used to their format. But it feels as if the Italian brand decreased the paper quality of their sketchbooks; its pages don't hold watercolors as well as they once did.

While I investigate whether it's the sketchbook or my use of it that's changed, its apparent decline in paper quality made me look for alternatives. Luis Ruiz recommended the Alpha and Gamma Series from Stillman & Birn—an American company founded in 1958 by the black hardbound sketchbook pioneer, a Viennese bookbinder by the name of Philip Birn (1911–2004).1 I decided to go for the hardbound, 150–gram, white-paper Alpha Series (22.9 x 15.2 cm, 9 x 6 in), slightly bigger than an A5 sheet. The Sakura Pigma Micron 005 and 01 pens run smoothly on the Stillman & Birn sketchbook, whereas they scratch the surface of my 300-gram watercolor Moleskine paper. And I can work with my watercolors reasonably well, as long as I don't apply too much water.

Here's the first page of my Stillman & Birn sketchbook. I'll be sharing more of my sketches and thoughts on this sketchbook in the coming months.

Sample sketches on a Stillman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook.

If you use them, what are your notebook and sketchbook of choice?

  1. Stillman & Birn. (2021). About Stillman & Birn. Accessed Monday, January 25, 2021. 

January 26, 2021
Nono Martínez Alonso

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Pencil sketch of Nono Martínez Alonso.