Points to consider when hand binding a sketchbook journal

I have a new hand bound journal sketchbook. I often hand bind my journals and thought I would share some of the points I consider when I assemble them.

hand bound journal sketchbookWhy do I hand bind my journal sketchbooks?
I like to write, and like to draw in the same book. The problem is that the paper in sketchbooks is made for drawing, and not often suitable to write on. It is also often expensive.  On the other hand, the paper in notebooks even if  it is unlined, is often not suitable to sketch on and will buckle, weaken and even fall apart if you add too much wet media. So what do you do if you want to write and sketch? My solution is to make my own journals with a mix of paper types. I have a leaf or two of writing paper and then a page which is suitable for a sketch. Once you are mixing your paper types it is a simple step to mix different types of drawing/watercolour/tinted  paper in the same book. Hand binding my own journals enables me to do this and it is a lot of fun.

different papers in hand bound journal sketchbookThe other advantage is that is cheaper to bind your own. It is far cheaper to buy a couple of sheets of good quality paper and make it into a book than buying mass produced sketchbook. Once you have the skill it takes about 2-3 hours to fold, stitch and case a book of 7-10 signatures. Also a hand bound book can lay flat when open if you bind it properly.

book openI do not use a hand bound journal all the time as I use commercial books too. For the last couple of months I have been using a sketchbook to draw in, and a separate notebook to write in. This split between activities is very rare for me, but it came about when I was given 2 Strathmore mixed media sketchbooks for Christmas. These sketchbooks had 32 page spreads in them. I have filled both of them with drawings and I know if I had also written in them I would have chewed through both of them in about 3-4 weeks. My solution? To use the 2 Christmas gifts as sketchbooks and write in a regular book during that time.

I loved the sketchbooks but did not like the division between sketching and writing. For me a journal runs in chronological order and using one book for this and one book for that feels scattered. My life is not in compartments and areas of life does not fit into boxes so I like to use one book at a time. So when both Strathmore sketchbooks were filled and my notebook I decided it was time to return my regular habit.

Many people like to personalise their journal and hand binding enables me to do this. I have already discussed how I can choose the type of paper to suit how it will be used. I can also make a book the size I want. This book is 9×9 inches (22ms x 22cms) Normally I like a a smaller 5.5 x 8 inches (14cm x21cm) as this size book fits in a hand bag with ease. Sometimes I carry a larger A4 size book but the practicalities of carrying this size can be difficult. It can get heavy to carry but it is possible. For instance when I traveled in Europe I filled 2 A4 size books and 1 smaller A5 book (yes 3 books filled in 10 weeks). My point is that carrying the larger size is possible but not always practical. Anyway I thought I would try a totally new format for me a 9 x9 inch ( 22 x 22 cm) square format. I thought this size might prove to be a compromise between the two as I like a bit of elbow room to draw in.

Apart from being able to experiment with the size of the book and choose your own paper you can make the book as thick or thin as like. In other words you can have something that is only 4-5 signatures or in this case I chose 8 signatures which means it will last me longer than 2 months. It will probably last me about 3. It has a good heft to it which I dont mind but I can see how some people would find it heavy to carry

spacer in a hand bound journal sketchbookThe other aspect of my journalling habit is that I often add ephemera to my pages. You would be surprised how much print matter and ephemera changes. It can really capture the mood of the time. Incorporating things like cinema tickets, business cards, take out menus etc can really add something to a journal. The problem is that if you do it too much pages bulge. My solution is that I add spacer card to each signature. You often see this done in old fashioned photo albums and scrap books. The space allows the book to bulge without breaking the spine. I use heavy (220 gsm) scrapbook papers as spacers.

inside cover hand bound journal sketchbookAs to personalisation the cover in this case is some hand dyed damask which I did a few years ago. Also as pure self indulgence I like to do a collage in the opening page spread. This is personalisation but it also gets over the white first page syndrome. By doing it I feel I have ‘started’ to use the book and I get on with really using it. In other words it stops the muddle headed dithers about a nice new book.

I hope you have found the explanation of some of the points I considered as I bind my own sketchbook journals useful.

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EDM Challenge Drawings 58 and 167

A few more challenge sketches done last week. Both are done as part of the EDM drawing challenge.  The first is EDM # 58 Draw a hat, cap or other headgear. This is Jerry’s  hat. It is only a little bashed about. This sketch was done in a Strathmore mixed media sketchbook which is 5.5 in x 8.5 in (14 x 21.6 cm) using artist pitt pens, Derwent watercolour pencils, and watercolour paint


sketch of a hat

The second drawing is for EDM challenge 167 Draw something that need fixing. Jerry changed the spark plugs on his motor bike as one was not working. I sketched the spark plug. For this drawing I used pen and ink. I have never sketched a spark plug before – in fact I have managed to get well into my 50’s and not had to really look at one so it was an interesting exercise!

sketch of spark plugBoth sketches are very mundane but the challenge  is to use the everyday prompts in order to establish a regular drawing practice. These exercises do work as I am sketching more often. I just dont blog each page spread as I find it hard to believe people find them of interest! That said, they are here as I am crossing off each prompt off the EDM list.

Click the images to see a larger version. This is drawing prompt off the EDM challenge list . The Every Day Matters drawing challenge has a flickr group and a  Facebook page
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Canberra sketchers meeting at the NGA

The March meeting of our newly formed Canberra sketchers group was a really pleasant get together and everybody seemed to enjoy the buzz of activity in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia. As you can see we all  had a productive time!

Canberra Sketchers March 2015I was a bit of a wimp as it was warm and the air conditioned environment of the gallery beckoned me.

Sandstone Buddha NGAI made myself comfortable, and took time to draw a second century red sandstone Buddha which is about to be returned to India because it was stolen. Of course, when the gallery purchased it they did not know it was stolen and currently all key items in the Indian collection is part of a major provenance investigation.

It is only right that it be returned but before it left public display here, I decided to take time to really look at it and draw it. There is nothing like drawing to make you really look at something. It was quiet and peaceful in the gallery and I was really pleased I took time to do this as I probably would not have the opportunity to see this again let alone draw it. The red sandstone Buddha, originally cam from the Uttar Pradesh region of India.

Links to news reports relevant to the provenance investigation of the NGA Asia collection.

National Gallery of Australia to return stolen Buddha statue to India

Buddha statue found to have been stolen will be returned to India

If you are local or visiting and interested in Canberra Sketchers don’t hesitate to contact me for details about our meetings.

Added Later see how Leonie Andrews saw the Canberra Sketchers event 

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The delicate cut paper work of Maude White

Paper cut by Maude WhiteIf you have an interest in line and negative space you will find the delicate paper cuts of Maude White fascinating. Her beautifully rendered paper cuts rely on negative space and line.

In an interview over on Art Voice, Maude White says

“I have great respect for paper. I trust it. There is something very comforting and safe about cutting into the paper, discovering some story hidden inside.”

I could not help but think that Maude White must also trust in a steady hand, as one slip of the blade and would destroy the piece!

Paper cut by Maude WhiteI was once asked by a student why negative space is important. I wish I could have replied by pointing to Maude White’s exquisite paper cuts as her work demonstrates how negative spaces can be everything!

But  design principals or  technical concerns about paper cutting are not what drives Maude White, for in her artist statement she explains

“When I was a child I thought a great deal about hidden spaces. The intimacy, the hushed secrecy – I was always looking underneath objects, or through them. I have always believed that if you look hard enough, you will see something precious and new, or, perhaps, something incredibly ancient and sacred.

When I cut paper, I feel as if I am peeling back the outer, superficial layer of our vision to reveal the secret space beneath. With paper cutting there are so many opportunities to create negative space that tells its own story.”

Paper cut by Maude WhiteThe concept of revealing something, by what is not there rather rather than what is there made me savour the image and consider that moment of perception. Just wonderful!

For further information and to see more visit Maude White’s website or  Maude White’s Pinterest board  and over on Art Voice there is an interview where she discusses her work

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