Binding a Journal: The Saga Continues

Old Journal, New Journal

Old Journal, New Journal

Yesterday I bound a new journal and updated my instruction sheet on how to bind a 5.5″ x 7.5″ sewn-signature casebound journal with watercolor paper.  Each time I bind a journal I learn a little more and update my how-to sheet as I work so that the next time it will get easier for me.

I created the instruction sheet as a guide for myself, compiled from many sources* but you are welcome to download the file if you’d like to make a journal like these. I keep it on my website’s Resources page here on because having it in one place makes it easier to find and update.

Last Journal: Aqua Baby

Aqua Baby Journal (with black & gold ink)

I name each journal (actually they seem to name themselves as I’m binding them) and decorate the cover after I’ve filled it with an image fitting the name. My last journal named itself “Aqua Baby” and is pictured above.

New Journal: Scrappy, covered with 3 pieces of bookcloth

New Journal: "Scrappy" covered with 3 scraps of book cloth

I wanted to try (for the first time) to bind a cover made from pieces of book cloth, one for the spine and two for the fore edges. I thought I had a big enough scrap of the purple but mis-measured (as usual). So I had to use some of the turquoise cloth to cover the other side. This journal has named itself “Scrappy” as it’s covered with scraps and was scrappy enough to demand to get made despite everything working against that right now.

Five Casebound Journals Made So Far

Five Case-bound Journals Made So Far

Although I’ve bound other journals using a variety of methods, here are the five sewn-signature case-bound journals I’ve made and here’s another look at their covers. I love the paper, the dimensions, the feel in my hand, the way they’re easy to use sketching standing and for scanning. They are humble and a little plain, but I’ve always appreciate function more than fancy.

I can’t wait to finish the hated Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (which would be fine if it was just portrait, not landscape) that I’ve used since I got behind on binding. Watch for a flurry of sketching to finish it off!

Insipid Cuppa

Insipid Cuppa

Insipid Cuppa, ink & watercolor 7x5

I like to use my winter holiday vacation as a time to review my past year and sort out what I did well and what needs work. Since this is also the end and beginning of a whole decade, this process felt even more important this year. One thing that really stood out was that I needed to kick  my caffeine habit and its evil companion, sugar (both fake and real).

So, after a week of being foggy-brained, sleepy and witless, I’m now free of caffeine, sugar, and Splenda* and finally starting to feel good and my inspiration is returning.

Without the sweeteners, decaf coffee and tea were tasting pretty vile to me so I began the search for a flavorful herbal tea with at least a hint of sweetness. I finally found a couple that I like but in the meantime spent a fortune buying seductively-named but ultimately insipid teas that taste like something you might use to clean windows.

Case in point: the tin of “Hot Apple Cider Tea” pictured above. It looks and tastes like hot apple cider about as much as a picture of an apple tastes like an apple. If I’d painted a cup of that tea, it would look like a cup of water. The tea in the cup above is Good Earth Tea and warm milk. It’s not bad. 🙂 But it sure isn’t a latte.  😦

*UPDATE: Just looked up “What is Splenda” and here’s what I found:

Splenda is made from cane sugar by replacing three hydroxyl groups on the sugar molecule with chlorine. The resulting molecule is not recognized as sugar or a carbohydrate by the body and as such, is not digested. Some refer to Sucralose as Chlorinated Sugar. Sucralose does not occur in nature.

Eek! I’m embarrassed to admit how much of that stuff I was consuming!

Celebrating 3 Years, 600 Blog Posts… and a winning book cover

Cactus Taqueria, Berkeley, ink & w/c, 4x6"

Cactus Taqueria, Berkeley, ink & w/c, 4x6"

On Monday night I completed another sketchbook and three years of sketch-blogging. Cathy and I had dinner at Cactus Taqueria on Solano Avenue in Berkeley and sketched the other diners.  Then we started walking to see what else looked like fun to draw.

It was cold and foggy outside, and the lobby of the old Oaks Theatre looked warm and  inviting so we walked in and asked if we could sketch. This confused the woman working there who had nothing to do but sit and chat with a younger woman. It was a Monday night and they were showing a French movie and it was a bad French movie and so there were few customers. She told the manager we wanted to sketch (with a tone of voice that implied we might be deranged) and he said it was fine.

Oaks Theatre Popcorn Machine, Berkeley, ink & w/c

Oaks Theatre Popcorn Machine, Berkeley, ink & w/c

We sat on carpeted stairs (the only place to sit except the already occupied bench) and sketched the  popcorn machine directly in front of us. At first it seemed like a stupid, boring subject, but within minutes I was captivated by all the odd mechanical bits inside the machine. Oddly, despite the strong scent of hot popcorn, the machine was completely empty.

At first we sketched listening to the inane conversation of the two women which even they seemed bored by. They left and the manager came over and asked us whether drawing can be learned or if is just an inborn talent (definitely can be learned!). Then he wandered off and we listened to him being lectured to by a customer (inspired by the movie she’d just left?) about race, culture, history, and her philosophies on life,  while he listened patiently, saying “OK.” I jotted down a few of her pronouncements on the sketch.

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My Art on Winning  Bookcover

White Lilac Love Book Cover

Winning bookcover

About a year ago, I received an email from Croatian poet and author Sonja Smolec, asking for permission to use one of my watercolors on the cover of her new book of poetry, “White Lilac Love.” Of course I agreed, and was delighted when she sent me a copy of the book.

A week ago I received an email from Sonja telling me that her publisher had held a bookcover contest and her book had won! The 73 poems in White Lilac Love weave a beautiful and tender love story with all the soaring emotions from hope to despair to true love along the way. One of the poems was so evocative and full of wonderful imagery that it inspired a painting (in progress — more about that later).

It’s been a great three years!

Tilden Botanical Garden Sketches

Pacific May Lilly at Tilden Botanical Garden, ink & watercolor, 4x6"

Pacific May Lilly at Tilden Botanical Garden, ink & watercolor, 4x6"

My plein air group met at Tilden Regional Parks Botanical Garden this cold and foggy morning. Since I wasn’t familiar with the park I explored a bit and then decided to sketch instead of trying to drag my painting gear around the hilly, pebbly paths. Since I only had my large Moleskine and a Micron Pigma .01 pen with me, I added watercolor later at home. The May Lilly above was so sweetly but delicately scented that drawing beside it was like breathing in a dessert.

Bridge & Creek, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Bridge & Creek, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

This bridge and creek was the first thing I sketched when I arrived, still arguing with myself about whether to go get my painting cart, whether to go home because it was too cold, whether to go home because I arrived late, how I should have brought my watercolors, how the scene was so complicated and so maybe I should just go home.

But as I drew,  I started noticing interesting details, how dark and light shapes lined up,  where one puzzle piece fit against the next, the design the water was making as it poured over rocks and down the creek, the sound of frogs and birds, and before I knew it that busy, chattering mind had shut off and I was having fun.

Manzanita Tree, Ink & watercolor, 5x16"

Manzanita Tree, Ink & watercolor, 5x16"

As I sketched this spectacular Manzanita, I began noticing how much like strong lean muscles the branches were, with their smooth, polished red surface. Then I found other human attributes: the knotholes looked like eyes while the bends in the branches looked just like elbows. This led me to consider the oneness of all things and I felt very connected to all the nature around me. During our critique at the end of the paint-out, we each take a turn showing our work and talking about our process. When I shared these thoughts someone laughingly asked what I’d eaten for breakfast! I was high on drawing, not Cheerios!

Cat Napping in the Buckwheat, rev2, Ink and watercolor

Cat Napping in the Buckwheat, Ink & watercolor, 4x6"

Walking to our critique, I spotted this garden kittie, having a nice nap in the buckwheat section of the garden and had to stop and sketch it. Nothing bothered this plump pussy who slept amidst the plants, little signs, wood chips and stones near the garden entrance. I added the whiskers with white gel pen.

Thank You Roz & Boris the Dragonly Critic

Thank You Roz! (Gouache & Ink)

Thank You Roz! (Gouache & Ink)

As second place winner in the International Fake Journal Month contest, I won this amazing t-shirt from Roz Stendahl, the inventor of IFJM. I tried to sketch myself sketching myself myself wearing it. I didn’t do the t-shirt (or myself) justice, but I do like the way the bird and I both seem to have the same expression! THANK YOU ROZ! I love it! (My IFJM posts are here and here.)

I’ve been having one of those crises of artistic self-confidence in my drawing the past couple weeks. I’m not sure if the drawing difficulties are real or I’ve just somehow allowed that nasty internal critic out of his cage and back on my shoulder.

Boris the Dragonly Critic, ink & watercolor

Boris the Dragonly Critic, ink & watercolor

I know the cure though: put him back in his cage and do a whole bunch of drawing until he is so bored he falls asleep for a nice long summer nap. And I’ll start by drawing HIM!  Here he is now, safely back in his cage and starting to get very sleepy….

Bouquet of Mothers’ Day Roses

Mothers' Day Flowers #2, ink & watercolor

Mothers' Day Flowers #2, ink & watercolor

On Mothers’s Day my wonderful neighbors brought me this  lovely bouquet of roses in a crystal vase. Then all three sweet kids wished me Happy Mothers’ Day and gave me hugs. I have the best neighbors. I took the flowers outside and sketched them twice, sitting on my studio porch steps.

The sketch above was done by painting directly with no drawing. The one below was drawn first with my Pentel Brush Pen and then painted with watercolor. Both are in the large Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

Mothers' Day Flowers #1, ink & watercolor

Mothers' Day Flowers #1, ink & watercolor

It was a pretty special day. Son #1 asked his girlfriend of 5 years to marry him (and she accepted) atop a tower in Turkey,  son #2 grilled a delicious dinner for me and his family, and I started the day with a great hike with my best friend Barbara. Life is good!

I Feel Like a Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle Me, brush pen and watercolor in Moleskine

Snapping Turtle Me, brush pen and watercolor in Moleskine

It was one of those days. It started full of possibilities and ended with me feeling like a snapping turtle looking for someone to bite. So I drew how I was feeling and it made me laugh.

And now I’m officially giving up and heading to bed with a good book and a cup of cocoa.

Update: Michelle asked about the pen I used. It’s a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen with code letters GFKB. It’s permanent, waterproof and refillable with cartridges. I bought it from this link on Wet Paint’s website. Wet Paint is a great art supply store in Minnesota that I learned about from Roz.

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