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.

 

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 

 

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 .

 

Drawing is good for mental health

sketch of art materials Science says drawing is good for mental health. Not only does it make you happier it is good for your brain. Print.com recently ran an article by Robin Landa. Draw Yourself Happy: Drawing, Creativity and Your Brain makes some very interesting points in favour of establishing a drawing practice.

Researchers have found that drawing not only effects the brain but also improves makes you happier. I think most people who draw know this but it very nice to have science back you up on this! So, instead of an art practice being a guilty self indulgence it becomes an activity that promotes good mental health!

Another confirmation of a personal belief, is when I talk about the muscle memory of drawing things like an elipse or a circle or even a straight line – I discovered I am not talking rubbish. Discoveries like this is always a relief and obviously just has to shared. (She says with a grin)

In another piece of research “Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing” used voxel-based morphometry which is a scanning method, used in this case to study how observational drawing effected the brain. They worked with art students and non-art students and measured the volume and performance of grey and white brain matter while drawing. Guess what they discovered?

… drawing relates to changes in fine motor structures in art and non-art students. Also, the scans revealed that the art students had more grey matter in the precuneus in the parietal lobe, an area of the brain linked to a wide spectrum of integrated tasks, including creativity, visuo-spatial imagery and more.

So put simply (I think) is that when we draw we grow more grey matter in the area of the brain that is responsible for things like creativity. What this says to me is that practice really does lead to improvement because what is happening is that your brain is developing. So the mantra practice, practice, practice makes scientific sense.

Also when drawing dopamine is released but, as James E. Zull points out,

the dopamine is released in the newest region of cortex, the part that we use to create ideas, make decisions, and plan our actions. Thus, we feel rewarded when we create new objects or actions. And since creativity is based on the decisions made by the creator, the reward system kicks in when we are in control and inventing things that we have thought of ourselves.”

This  little nugget had me thinking, particularly the phrase “the reward system kicks in” I think it kicks in even stronger when others recognise the activity. The reward is enhanced in social situation which explains why various internet drawing challenges work so well. This is my hunch, but I am sure somewhere in the world researchers are looking at social learning and the internet. What do you think?

Anyway over cuppa do pop over and read Robin Landa’s Draw Yourself Happy: Drawing, Creativity and Your Brain

sketch of art materials About the images. These are a couple of recent sketches. I have decided that this blog needs a redesign so I am drawing art materials and working out ideas. These were 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. Click on the thumbnails to be takes to larger versions.

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