Stillman & Birn Beta Hardbound Sketchbooks (two sizes)
Stillman & Birn new Zeta paper (soon to be available in books)
I have adored the new, extra heavyweight sketchbooks that Stillman and Birn manufactured. The 180 lb. paper takes everything I've thrown at it. These sketchbooks go everywhere with me and I can have confidence that no matter what medium I decide to use in my travels, it will work on this surface! It's such a joy to be able to work across the spread (since the books open completely flat) and on both side of the page with no show-through or buckling. I can travel with a book half the size, and in using the full spread, I have double the space. They're amazing.
Stillman & Birn has also made a new paper called Zeta. It should be available in hardbound and wirebound books very soon. I've been able to test drive some loose sheets of the new paper, and I am chomping at the bit to get my paws on a book of it! Since I love fountain pens, the very smooth, plate-like surface of Zeta is perfect for my pen and ink work. Nothing shows through this 180 lb. paper to the other side, and the heavy weight and abundant sizing enable it to handle wet media too.
Speaking of pen and ink, here is another favorite product: the long-anticipated TWSBI Mini fountain pen:
I've always loved my larger TWSBI, but it's a bit heavy in my hand. I got a fine point TWSBI Mini when they came out a month or two ago, and it's the smoothest fine point I've ever written with. If you have a large hand, you may find the Mini a bit small, even when the cap is posted on the barrel of the pen. But for me, it's absolutely perfect. I couldn't be happier. It goes everywhere with me. I find it comfortable in my hand, it writes like a dream, and holds a ton of ink. It is currently loaded with Private Reserve Copper Burst.
I hope you'll give some of these new products a try. Many new items hit the art supply market every year, and it's hard to get around to sampling everything, but I do feel the new Stillman & Birn products and the TWSBI Mini are worthy of rave reviews from among the large number of new materials I sampled during the year.
In the past year or so, I've also been working with a lot of products that are not new to the market, but are new to me. Some of them have become favorite painting, drawing and sketching materials. I'll be featuring those in the last installment of my "Best of the Year" series, so stay tuned.
You can see "Best of the Year Part I" on this link.