Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A First Look: Stillman & Birn Epsilon

11/27/12 fountain pen, Diamine Grey ink, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
Something happened a couple weeks ago that rarely happens to me: I won a prize! In a random giveaway on their Facebook page, Stillman & Birn gave me a 5.5” x 8.5” Epsilon hardbound sketchbook and a set of Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayons.
I’ve been happily using the toothier Gamma series sketchbooks for several months now and recently started experimenting with the heavier Beta and Delta series. Since I work mostly in watercolor, it hadn’t really occurred to me to use the Epsilon series, which has a plate surface intended for pen and ink. But I’d heard that the Epsilon’s paper weight is the same as the Gamma books I’ve been using with light washes, and I knew that other artists were using Epsilons with wet media,** so I gave it a shot.
The sketch above was done with a Lamy Safari and Diamine Grey ink with a light wash. When compared to the sketch below that was done with the same ink (plus a Zig marker for the darker shading) on the toothier Gamma book, I prefer the slightly feathery wash that results on the Gamma. The Epsilon paper held up just fine to the wash, but the shading came out looking smoother, almost like it was done with a marker.

10/30/12 Diamine Grey ink, Zig marker, Stillman & Birn Gamma sketchbook

But what caught my attention was the way my Lamy joyfully skated over the Epsilon surface! I guess that’s why it’s intended for pen and ink. (I almost feel like using it as my journal because it would be such a pleasure to write on it.) One review I read said that ink dries more slowly on the plate surface, which is generally a problem for a leftie like me. But I forgot about that issue as I worked on the sketch above and didn’t even notice whether the ink took longer to dry (and experienced no more smudging than usual; I’ll try writing to see if that’s a problem*). This would be my sketchbook of choice when I'm feeling like using nothing more than a fountain pen without a wash.
Since I’ve only done a few fountain pen sketches in it so far, this isn’t intended to be a full-blown review of the Epsilon. But I’m looking forward to giving it a try with various markers,*** which should look beautiful and behave nicely on that smooth surface. Stay tuned for updates.
Thank you, Stillman & Birn, for the nice prizes!
(Just in case I was on a lucky streak, I bought a Lotto ticket last Saturday. Well, who cares; I’m enjoying the sketchbook more than I would a million bucks. Almost.)

*Updated 11/28/12: Unfortunately, when writing, my hand moves faster than the ink's drying time, so the ink smudged ridiculously. I probably sketch more slowly than I write, accounting for the lack of smudging yesterday.

**Updated 11/29/12: Santa gave me an opportunity to give watercolors a try on the Epsilon. The toothless surface isn't ideal, but the paper held up well under washes with only minor buckling.

***Updated 11/29/12: A rain-streaked windshield inspired a sketch with a Zig marker.

***Updated 11/30/12: I used Zig markers again to sketch a pair of sculptures and Santa at Pacific Place. Although it hasn’t been problematic with light wet media, I’d say that the plate finish is ideally suited for fountain pen and markers, which took to the smooth surface beautifully. Given the types of media I use most often, I think I’m going to save the Epsilon for fountain pen and markers, and keep watercolors in my Gamma and Alpha.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your win!!! It is fun to experiment on different papers. Some take ink so well. Nice sketches!


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