Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beta Testing

5/31/16 ink, watercolor

Are you tired of seeing this library yet? I know I just sketched it a couple of months ago (and once a year before that), but I had two good reasons to sketch it yet again today (aside from the beautiful weather, which is always a good reason to sketch anything).

The first reason is that I’ve begun prepping for my trip to the UK this summer, which includes attending the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester. I’m very excited to have been invited to be one of four sketch correspondents covering the event, but that awesome job comes with some rather daunting responsibilities. To gear up mentally for the task, I want to set apart the sketches I make for the symposium by putting them in a separate book from my usual sketchbook (where all the rest of my UK sketches will go). A major motivation for this is that I want to be able to easily remove any sketches that come out particularly good (I hope I’m not being overly optimistic!) so that I can donate them to the annual sketch auction at the symposium’s end. Donating sketches is not at all a requirement of being a correspondent; I simply decided I wanted to give back to Urban Sketchers in this way for giving me this fantastic opportunity.  

So that’s the long-winded explanation for the new sketchbook, which is a Stillman & Birn wirebound Beta book in the 10-by-7-inch size. Of course, I already know I love the Beta paper – it was my paper of choice before I began binding my own books. But I generally don’t like wirebound books – the wire is always getting caught on things in my bag, and I can’t sketch across the gutter. The size, too, is different for me – the 10-by-7 page is a little larger than my usual 9-by-6 but quite a bit smaller than a 12-by-9 across-the-gutter spread. With both of these new variables, I thought I should give the book a dry run here at home while I still have plenty of time to get a different book if I need to.

The 10-by-7-inch book is small enough to hold
with one hand while snapping the trophy shot
with the other.
I think the S&B wirebound Beta is going to work out fine. The size and weight are comfortable for use while standing (I can easily hold the book up with one hand while taking a trophy shot with the other – certainly a priority for any sketchbook! J), and the format works well for the types of compositions I tend to choose. (Too bad it’s just a little too large to fit well in my Rickshaw bag – I’ll have to carry it in an auxiliary tote bag.)

All of that was the first good reason I had for testing the book today. The second reason – and the reason for choosing this historic Carnegie library as the subject – is that every year Urban Sketchers Seattle partners with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to raise funds by donating sketches for auction. I have been wanting to participate for a long time, but whenever I’m near one of the historic buildings, I don’t have with me a separate sketch pad (I refuse to tear a page out of my regular sketchbook). So today I was able to kill two birds with one sketch: Test the S&B book for the symposium and make a sketch that can be removed easily from the book to donate to the WTHP.


  1. Good thinking to use the S&B Beta. I like the paper in that book, although I agree that the spiral does create a few problems. I think it will work well for you.

  2. Great idea. In the past all my mixed media books have been spiral bound - I like that it can fold back on itself. But as I became involved with sketchers and read about their supplies, many seem to prefer hardbound books, so that's that I'm trying out. I bought the S&B Alpha 6x9 or similar and have found that I do like using it though I rarely go across the gutter - have the mental block that it's "wrong" to do that. :)

  3. Do you know Mike Rohde's work on SketchNotes? It strikes me that the combination of your lovely sketches and his principles of presenting information could really be super. See SketchNoteArmy.com. Rohde's books are readily available online as e-books which is a much better option than lugging around the large printed books. Some of the principles of SketchNoting could be adapted for a "sketch correspondent." The SketchNote Army web site is really the place to start to see if this is useful.


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