Off to New York: New Sea Monkey Journal and New Stuff

New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5" x 11" spread

New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5″ x 11″ spread

I’m off to New York City for a fun week of art adventures. I’ll be sketching and visiting art museums with New York art bloggers Shirley, Pat and Carol and the New York City Urban Sketchers. Berkeley artist friend Micaela will be joining me in NY on Friday for a 3-day slumber party and sketching marathon before she takes off to Europe.

As I was preparing for the trip I had fun doing a little shopping when I realized my clothes and makeup were long overdue for a refresh. Above is a sketch of my pretty new cosmetics. If I have time in the morning before I leave (unlikely) I’ll sketch my clothes before I pack them.

I finally bound my own journal again and am thrilled to have exactly the paper, size and format I like. What a treat to paint on real watercolor paper! As always happens as I’m binding a journal, it named itself: “Sea Monkey.”

Sea Monkey Journal Cover, 8x6"

Sea Monkey Journal Cover, 8×6″

I Googled what sea monkeys really look like but they were too creepy so I drew a sort of monkey face on a sea-horse body. Then I decorated it with gold and pink pens and drips from a white paint pen (accidental, but liked it so kept going).

As you can see, I don’t take my journals too seriously. It helps to mess them up (journal abuse I call it) right away so they don’t feel precious. An imperfect journal gives me the freedom to sketch playfully (and imperfectly). This one has a major flaw: the text block slipped when I was casing it in and there’s a big wrinkle in the lavender end papers. Oh goodie!

Quick Sketches in Stonehenge Kraft Brown Potato Chip Journal

Last Page Spread, Chip Journal, 6x7.5"

Last Page Spread, Chip Journal, 6x7.5"

I breezed through this little pamphlet-bound potato chip box journal in a few weeks. Since Roz Stendahl just posted about her problems binding this paper, I thought I’d share my results with binding and sketching on this paper.

Since my sketchbook was small, pamphlet-bound (stitched down the middle only) with just 3 holes, I didn’t have trouble with the pages cracking like she did in her case-bound journal. I found the paper too rough for drawing with a fine point or fountain pen and settled on a Faber-Castell Pitt Medium pen. I also experimented unsuccessfully on one sketch with a white gel pen.

I do like the paper for quick sketching and I’m going to continue experimenting with it. Roz says it’s good for gouache. I’d like to try it using black line and wash with white gouache for highlights. I used it for oil pastel and wasn’t happy with the results.

Monkey Business: New Journal Bound

Monkey Business Journal, covered in flannel, 8x6"

Monkey Business Journal, covered in flannel, 8x6"

When I was a kid I had a sock puppet that looked like this so when I saw this fabric at the store I couldn’t resist. I used a piece of it to cover a cushion on a stool about 5 years ago and then put the rest on the shelf. I needed to bind a new journal right away and was too lazy to go shopping for book cloth or to make my own. Hence off the shelf and onto the book!

Monkey Business Journal inside

Monkey Business Journal inside

For the end papers I used some lovely warm grey paper a friend left at my house from a family history book-making project I was helping her with. This was the first time I could use my case-bound journal making instructions all the way through without needing to revise them and it went really quickly.

Monkey business journal

Monkey business journal

I’ve actually been using this journal already for a couple of weeks and writing this post prompted me to name the journal which I hadn’t yet done. Calling it “Monkey Business” will help me to lighten up as I use it, to get more playful and fool around and let go of “right” and “good” which always trip me up when I get in that judgmental place when I’m drawing, instead of just enjoying the act of looking and sketching what I see.

And since it’s red flannel it’s warm and cozy–perfect for fall sketching.

End of Tablecloth Journal Self Portrait

End of Journal Self Portrait, colored pencils, 7x5"

End of Journal Self Portrait, colored pencils, 7x5"

As I complete each journal I draw a self-portrait for the last page. I really liked the ink drawing I made for this one but then totally messed it up when I was painting it and tried to “fix” something. The more I tried, the worse it became. So I scanned the sketch and used Photoshop to remove all the color, leaving me with just the original line drawing below.

Line drawing for self portrait

Line drawing for self-portrait scanned from bad watercolor sketch

From Photoshop I printed the line drawing onto a piece of the same watercolor paper I use in my journals. Since the ink from my inkjet printer is water-soluble (darn) I couldn’t add watercolor. I used Faber-Castell POLYCHROMOS colored pencils instead and tried to keep a light touch after having overworked the original.

I cut out the sketch to fit into the journal (and cover the yucky sketch), and glued it down with a glue stick. The completed journal is pictured below, covered with a piece of an old tablecloth that lost its “oil cloth” coating when I washed it years ago.

Newly bound journal; cover from old tablecloth

Completed tablecloth-covered journal

It’s so interesting to me how these end of journal sketches turn out. I’d had a rare and unusually good night’s sleep and was in a good mood when I drew this one. What they say about beauty sleep seems to be true, even in sketches — I definitely look more youthful and pretty in this sketch than some of the others I did under less optimal circumstances.

You can see previous end of journal self portraits at this link.

How to Turn Potato Chips Into a Sketchbook

Foil bag of potato chips, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Foil bag of potato chips reflecting on red cloth, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

When my friend Mindy sent me a fun little gift box of potato chips (which were invented in her town, Saratoga Springs, in 1853–read funny history here), I was smitten by the cute box (photo below). Then I opened the box, saw the foil inner pouch and had to try to draw it (sketch above, on a red cloth).

Box of Saratoga Springs Chips

Box of Saratoga Springs Chips

The box was charming, a replica of their original packaging from 1853. I remembered seeing  journals created from packaging on the fabulous Make a Book a Day blog where Donna Meyer binds and posts a new book almost every day. In August she did a whole series of recycled packaging books, from KitKats and Snowballs to root beer books.

Saratoga Chips Journal front cover

Saratoga Chips Journal front cover

So I grabbed a sheet of Stonehenge Kraft-brown paper and the excellent Gwen Diehn book Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books to find out how to make a pamphlet book and got started. Read More

Boring? Not!

Peet's Coffee Corner, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

View north from Peet's Coffee, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

At first glance, the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carlson in El Cerrito is boring, boring, boring: a wide busy avenue with boxy buildings. But when viewed on a lovely summer day from a cafe table outside Peet’s Coffee with pen in hand, it transforms itself into a sketching delight full of fun details and color.

San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

View South down San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Looking the other way down San Pablo, the Wells Fargo Bank building holds little hope for drawing inspiration. But start sketching and it too transforms itself. There are trees of all kinds and colors. A cerulean sky with only a hint of clouds, a pink apartment building and a gold dentist office. Sun, shadows, banners.

Not boring! I don’t think I’ve ever felt bored when I was sketching. Years ago a friend told me that when I was sketching I looked like I was roller-skating. Whee! Let’s skate!

New Journal Bound and the Un-Sketchbook

Beginning of Book "If Found" Notice

New Journal's First Page "If Found" Notice

Along with an end of journal self-portrait, I always put an “If Found” notice and silly self-portrait at the beginning of each book (phone number erased for privacy). I started doodling something I was carrying under my arm that turned into a very fat cat (or is it a pig?) And yes, I do wear Pippi braids and bright green shirts sometimes.

Newly bound journal; cover from old tablecloth

Newly bound journal; cover from old tablecloth

Above is my new journal, covered in a piece of cloth cut from an old tablecloth, stacked on top of the last journal, now complete. I temporarily added the silly butterfly sticker as a reminder of what I intended as the front and bottom of the book.  And then in my usual Jana way, I accidentally ignored it and started sketching from the opposite direction. And it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

Even though I’ve gotten the binding process down to a 6-hour project per book (when done one at a time; haven’t tried batching them yet), I was looking for a way to save time and be able to sketch without having to bind my own journals. I have yet to find a store-bought journal I like as much as my own, so I wasn’t considering that option.

I came up with the idea of using an aluminum form holder filled with individual sheets that I could later put in an inexpensive art presentation binder in order, as if in a journal. I liked the idea I could keep different types of paper in the holder and set it up to use with my little watercolor kit.

As used, with sketch on left;  palette & water container on right

As used, with sketch on left; palette & water container velcroed on right

Clipboard for drawing on left, velcroed spots for palette on right

Clipboard for drawing on left, velcroed spots for palette on right

Interior of section that holds paper

Interior of section that holds paper

While I like this nifty system, and have used it a few times, it just felt weird not carrying a journal containing a little history of what I’ve been seeing, doing and thinking (I don’t share the “thinking” pages here). So now I’m doing both, always carrying the journal above, and when I want a variety of paper, individual sheets, and/or a convenient surface for sketching and painting, I also bring the lightweight Form Holder. Mine is a small size, but a larger one might be really super as a laptop desk.

Page window template

Page window template

Above is another nifty tool I had made at my neighborhood Tap Plastics for about $3.00: a little template made of very thin plastic with rounded corners that I trace around with a pencil to pre-draw borders on my journal pages. It helps me to have a window to draw within (which I sometimes ignore or erase if I want to work across the spread). Once I finish a sketch I go over the pencil line with black ink.

I drew the black lines on the template with a wet-erase marker so it can also be used as a viewer to see how and where what I’m looking at “should” fit in the drawing (though I rarely use it for that).

I neither know why, again in typical spatially challenged Jana fashion, I wrote “Top” on the template (why would it matter?), and even more perplexing, why I wrote “Top” at the bottom of the template. But it makes me laugh when I see it so I haven’t wet-erased it.

%d bloggers like this: