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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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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EDM challenge drawing 132

I have been very remiss and not shared my drawings much lately. I am still drawing mundane everyday items as practice but not as often in January. Anyway here is everyday Matters drawing challenge 132 “draw a chain”. It sounds easy but is more of challenge than I thought it would be!

drawing of a chainI used watercolours, watercolour pencils, and pitt pens in a Strathmore  Mixed media sketchbook, which is nearly finished. There are a couple of pages left and it is full. It is the second I have filled this year.  I have decided to bind my own sketchbook and mix the type of papers in it so I have a variety of drawing surfaces. I have also decided to make it larger, I am not sure if this will be successful but I will find out as I use it.

If you are interested in this challenge here is  the EDM challenge list .

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An everyday item becomes a fabric pattern

I have got myself merrily side tracked creating this. I set about to do one of my everyday drawing challenges  and then decided to scan and digitally manipulate it into repeat pattern. This is how fabric prints are designed.

scissors sketchHere is my original sketch for prompt #105 on the EDM challenge list As you can see they are scissors. If you click on the image you can see a larger version. The drawing was done in a Strathmore mixed media sketchbook using watercolours,  and pitt pens. As I worked the scissors I decided that I did not want a shadow behind the objects because I wanted to turn it into a design. I knew I was going to take it into photoshop and set the objects on a transparent background and I did not want to have clean out the shadow.

scissors patternOnce I had scanned it I decided I liked the red handled pair and created 3 versions each with different coloured handles.  I then arranged them and set them into a repeat pattern. Fabric designers do this so that the pattern repeats seamlessly across the fabric. This is what the pattern looks like in repeat. I have a larger version of this which people can see if they click on it.

scissors patternMost people like a simple background of one colour. So at this stage you could make the background white layer a colour.

scissors pattern But I like to play with pattern on pattern. It makes it more complex but I like complexity. If you click on the image you will see in the larger version that there are wavy lines behind this.

scissors pattern I liked the effect and tried some chevron stripes. Once again if you click on the image you will see better what I am talking about.

scissors pattern

Then I decided I wanted a lighter feel so experimented with laying another pattern behind the scissors.

scissors pattern I then tried a subtle second texture over the grid.

I am still experimenting and having fun with this. Of course I created and stored the scissors as a photoshop pattern preset too- so now I will be able to set it behind other pieces! I feel a sewing theme coming on.

Its interesting what can be done with simple sketch let me know if you want to see more because I think I started something… Off to go back to photoshop!

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