At The National Gallery Big Draw

The Big draw is a world wide drawing festival for anyone who loves to draw, including those who think they “can’t draw”, or are “not good enough” or “just a beginner”. In other words it is for everyone and promotes drawing.

The National Gallery of Australia held drawing events today and some of the members of the Canberra Urban Sketchers group decided to go along, join in the activities and have some lunch afterwards.

This year’s Big Draw theme is “Every Drawing Tells A Story”. When I noticed that there was story telling in the Asian galleries I decided to take a look and do some sketching.

Sketch of GaneshaI had a very enjoyable hour or so tackling the task of representing a very complex sculpture. This is a 1000 year old sandstone sculpture of Ganesha . In the Hindu belief system Ganesha is revered as the God who removes obstacles. He is also the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom so Ganesha has a pretty large brief!

My sketch was done in a hand bound journal on Canson 180 gsm paper using a 2B and 6B graphite pencil because the Gallery here is totally neurotic about any wet media, so no ink pens allowed. That said it is nice just to keep it simple and work in pencil. The gallery has loosened its rules about taking photos so I thought I would share with you a photo of the statue as it is a highly decorated and complex piece to draw! Click on the image for a larger view

Sculpture of ganesha at the national gallery of Australia I am sure you will agree it is not the easiest of pieces to sketch and I found my concentration span lacking at times and towards the end of sketch my focus was definitely straying but I loved the challenge too! When I felt I had learnt what I could from the process,  I joined the rest of the group for coffee and lunch. Once again it was great fun to get together with a bunch of sketching buddies, share our work, talk about the event and generally chew the fat.

Canberra Sketchers

Yesterday a cluster of 7 people decided 5 degrees was far too cold to draw outside so we headed inside the Nishi building. It is actually a hotel that is eco-cool. Everything at Hotel, Hotel in New Acton screams modern hip design.

sketching and coffeeFor us as bunch of cold individuals the coffeeshop downstairs was most welcome. Not only is the architecture of the building interesting but the decor is littered with interesting objects. As you can see we all found lots of things to draw.

sketchbooks on table

Draw something you can keep in your pocket

I sketched this beetle a while back and forgot to share it. If you look carefully the real beetle is sitting in the fold of my journal.

Xmas-beetlesIn Australia these beetles are called Christmas beetles because they appear in early summer. As children we loved them as they alway arrive just before Christmas. Even though they are scratchy to hold, I often kept a beetle or two in my pocket and held them in my hands hidden under my school desk, daydreaming about the summer come while the teacher droned on in the early summer heat.

Towards the end of summer and the end of summer holidays the beetles start to die. this always was very sad to me. I found this dead beetle one on my morning walk and took it home to draw. As you can see I needed a magnifier to draw it.

I sketched it using artist pitt pens, watercolour paint, and pencil on a page that I covered in clear gesso as the paper was very smooth. It is page from my hand bound journal

This is EDM drawing challenge number 326 which reads Draw something you can keep in your pocket. Here is the full EDM List

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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