Well, it took some research and a lot of help from facebook friends and artists, but I finally got my hands on a Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook.
It arrived earlier in the week and I had to longingly look at without touching while I dauntingly completed my taxes. As a reward, I got out my colored pencils and odorless mineral spirits and tested it out. But first I just had to run my hands over the gorgeous, thick paper (180lb!) It has a smooth surface but somehow Stillman & Birn has managed to create a bit of a tooth. The paper accepts wet medium well with no warping. When blending colored pencils, I use quite a bit of odorless mineral spirits. Other sketchbook papers tend to distort a little bit when wet meets surface. While sketching in this book, I felt like I was spreading butter on hot toast . . . so smooth and creamy!
When creating faces, I add colors in layers starting with a base fleshy tone then adding the cool shadows and the warmer highlights. This paper accepted layer upon layer and remained easy to work with - no shredding or lifting!
Other benefits to this sketchbook were that I had absolutely no bleeding through, even when applying wet medium on top for highlights - even in the binding! I have had that problem with other books in the past, but the Zeta seems to absorb the wet medium and is tough enough to take it! The finish is beautiful and the page behind is just as stable so I can paint right on the back. I'm looking forward to filling this art journal!
I wholeheartedly recommend the Stillman & Birns Zeta series sketchbook (if you can find one!) My understanding is that the hardbound and wirebound books will be plentiful and retailers soon!