Looking for a Sketchbook…

I am planning a sketching trip to Italy and have been spending quite a bit of time trying to find the best sketchbook to bring. One of the hardest things I have found with the different brands is having one book contain both the paper I like best and be the size I like best. I don’t want to have to create my own, but may resort to that in the future! Each sketchbook I tested was for the specific purpose of finding one that would suit the architecture and ambiance of Italy. I wanted the granulation of my Daniel Smith watercolors to show well, and also for my Lamy Joy fountain pen to glide as I write rather than skip over heavy texture. Being a lefty can be difficult when working in a book, but I found a great site that tells how to “break in” a Stillman Birn sketchbook so that the spreads lie flat; a must for a lefty-hook form of writing and drawing. Here is the link:http://hudsonvalleysketches.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/breaking-in-your-stillman-and-birn.html.   I found this link on Liz Steel’s blog, http://www.lizsteel.com.
My ratings for each sketchbook I tried with watercolor and pen:
#1- my favorite is the Stillman Birn Delta; heaviest paper; has a slight texture so the granulation of the Daniel Smith colors reacts nicely to it, yet the pen still glides fairly well. Takes a juicy wash well. Paper is ivory colored.
#2- Stillman Birn Beta; Paper is second thickest; colors are bright on this surface; pen writes smoothly since it isn’t too textured; takes a juicy wash well. Paper is white.
#3- The Moleskine Watercolor; it is the most textured paper so would show off the stonework of Italy well; the Lamy Joy pen skips a bit due to the heavy texture of the paper; this is the third thickest. I’m not sure if this is too textured for me due to the skipping pen. I am thinking I may need to totally change how I hold a writing implement which could be quite the challenge at my age! 
#4- The Stillman Birn Zeta; paper has a nice weight to it; this one has a smooth surface so the pen glides on the surface; for granulated washes it is a bit trickier; the edges tend to dry sharper due to the smooth surface; for Italy this may not be the best choice but I did a few berry sketches with a more delicate watercolor style and I like it a lot for that type of painting. A good choice for other paint types too due to the smooth surface. White paper; closest to a hot press paper that I have found in a sketchbook. There is a hot press sketchbook brand that is from the Netherlands (if I remember right), but I don’t think we can order it in the US.
#5- Stillman Birn Alpha; this sketchbook seems to be a better choice for pen and ink with maybe just a light touch of watercolor; paper is the thinnest of those tested and tends to warp and buckle if you use a more juicy application of paint. Fine for a practice sketchbook. 
Trying to find the perfect paper with the perfect size and orientation is not as easy as one would assume! But I am glad I have invested (ha, that is the right word for sure!) in the variety of sketchbooks to test them out myself.

Love Drawing Faces…

Face-in-Contrast Graphite-Front-Facing-Portrait-copy

Drew this face for lesson one of Fabulous Faces and then scanned the image and played around in Photoshop using colorful elements from Janine van Holthe for the AWAKE class. My 99 1/2 y/o Mom is declining and my hubby’s parents are also going through age/health issues so art time is a blessing!