16 June, 2019.

We got a little wet at first, but the morning dried out nicely by ten. Urban Sketchers Kansas City held a pop up sketchout at the invitation of Liberty Hospital Foundation to sketch the surroundings of The TreeHouse, a place offering amenities to guests, including sleeping quarters and quiet rooms, and the tranquility of trees, walking path, and swaths of wild flowers.

The path is certainly peaceful and calm. At one point a baby bunny hopped right up to my foot as I sketched and seemed not at all taken aback when I exclaimed in surprise, “Well, hello there!”

I struggled to get started this morning, abandoning my first page. Each time I had myself positioned to begin, the rain returned and drops of water dotted my paper making it difficult to use my pen. After two aborted tries, I waited out the rain, turned the page, and began again.

I like the weight of the Stillman and Birn Beta paper, but I’m unsure about the spiral binding. On the one hand, each page lays perfectly flat, and I really like that aspect. On the other, it’s not really possible to draw across the spread as I might do with a perfect bound or stitched book. I’m not sure which outweighs the other. What do you think?

Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook.



  1. carmelcampbell · June 16

    I go back and forth. I have some spiral sketchbooks in my stash. So I will need to use them at some point. I find the spiral gets in my way of the sketching for the first couple of pages. However, I find the spiral works if you are sketching standing up or moving around during an event with your sketchbook. The spiral hasn’t taken anything away from your two pages. Super layout. Enjoy seeing your work arrive in my inbox each day.

    • azorch · June 16

      Y’know, if I could limit myself to working on a single page, the spiral binding wouldn’t be a factor at all. And because I work standing up when I’m on location most of the time, it’s really the better choice for my purposes. That spiral gutter bugs the jeebers out of me when I want to work across the margin though.

  2. the #1 Itinerary · June 16

    Great post 🙂

  3. Michael Scandling · June 16

    Different tools for different jobs…

    • azorch · June 16

      True. My goal is to one day find my tools pared down to the barest of bones… one sketchbook to rule them all, so to speak. 🙂

  4. miatagrrl · June 17

    A nicely composed spread, just like the individual sketches. I can’t stand spiral bindings most of the time. I have been using Stillman & Birn’s softcovers ever since they came out, and I love them because the pages open nearly flat (much flatter than hardcover books), and the books themselves are relatively thin and lightweight. I wish I weren’t so fickle about materials (graphite, fountain pen, colored pencil, marker…). If I could decide on only one, my sketching life could be so much simpler and lighter. But different subject matter calls for different material. Sigh. I applaud your simplicity.

    – Tina

    • azorch · June 17

      The spiral is a love/hate thing for me, as are hardback sketchbooks. I’ve a stack of both from Stillman and Birn, along with hardbacks made by Canson and Moleskin. I love how the Canson 180 lays nearly flat, and as a matter of fact I just began a new Moleskin yesterday (sketches to be posted today or tomorrow) that lays nearly as flat. The Canson 180 paper is my favorite for just inking lines, but the heavy Moleskin paper is also excellent. Not to sell Stillman and Birn short! Theirs is the best choice for multiple medias, by far. And I agree about their softcover option: it’s proven to be my favorite of all their books.

      I smiled when I read your line, “I wish I weren’t so fickle about materials…” It’s certainly a characteristic with which I can readily identify. Pens come quite naturally to me. While I don’t consider myself especially adept at watercolor, I enjoy using it to enhance my line drawings. But I like to experiment, and I can be quite fickle myself. About the time I find my sketching going in a really positive direction I will suddenly think to myself, “Hmmm. I haven’t painted in gouache for a while…” This, even though pens tend to be the tool that best aids me in seeking out the simplest of lines and forms.

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