Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sketch Material Wish List for 2021

I'd love a square Stillman & Birn sketchbook in a smaller size 
like the Hand Book Journal I used years ago (green cover).

To be clear, my Sketch Material Wish List does not consist of products I hope to receive or that I intend to buy for myself someday. The items that make it onto this list are products that, to my knowledge, do not yet exist – but that I think should exist. For example, I enjoy ranting about pencil manufacturers that do not make extenders that fit their own products. But more than that, I become ecstatic when a wish list item is eventually fulfilled! It’s usually my favorite year-end wrap-up post.

That’s why I’m a bit glum that I could think of only two things to put on my list this year, and I’m not even ranting about these. I suppose that means I’m mostly satisfied with all my sketch materials and tools, and I should be happy . . . but what’s the fun in that? But life goes on, so here’s my wish list:

  • A softcover, square-format Stillman & Birn sketchbook in a smaller size: For the most part, I enjoy using Stillman & Birn’s 7 ½-inch square books. The square format offers more compositional flexibility; the papers are the same as the ones I have known and loved for years; the lightweight softcover is my favorite cover type. My only complaint is that they are a bit too large for sketching comfortably on location. They’re fine when supported by a desk or my lap. Held open when standing, however, the spread is unwieldy and awkward. And they don’t fit at all in my pre-pandemic daily-carry Rickshaw bag (let alone my smaller pandemic bag).

I propose that a 5 ½-inch or even 6-inch square would be ideal. When I first began sketching, I enjoyed filling several 5 ½-inch-square Hand Book Artist Journals. Portable and discreet for a new sketcher, the book was easy to use even when standing. Its panorama potential was even better than the more typical A5-size landscape book. I hope a smaller square is something S&B would consider.

No handheld sharpener performs as well 
as a good desktop hand-crank.

  • A portable sharpener that performs as beautifully as a desktop sharpener: Since I switched to my minimally sized pandemic sketch bag, I haven’t carried a sharpener at all. I simply check my pencil points now and then and sharpen at home with one of my many desktop options. (I have run into trouble a couple of times, though, when I forgot to sharpen one or dropped a pencil on the sidewalk and chipped the point. But like everything related to the pandemic, I’m making do.)

Sharpening at home is such a satisfying and even pleasurable experience compared to using a single-blade portable. Although the plastic-covered Mobius + Ruppert sharpener that I’ve been using for the past couple of years is the best I’ve found (since it fits my favorite, size-challenged Caran d’Ache pencils), it can’t hold a candle to a good hand-crank (my current favorite is the Carl Angel 5 Royal, shown at right, which I’ll review sometime) or electric sharpener. This wish list item may be a grail riding on a unicorn, however. It’s probably not possible for any single blade to sharpen as well as helical blades.

I feel better now, though, than when I started writing this post. If I have a grail riding on a unicorn to hunt, then my life has meaning.

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