Art supplies Bookbinding

Bookbinding a Watercolor Sketchbook Journal: Learning from My Mistakes

The Mutt: My first casebound sketchbook
The Mutt: My first casebound sketchbook

The most important thing I learned in binding my first hardbound sketchbook journal is that the process is very forgiving and not rocket science. In fact, despite making every possible mistake along the way, it still turned out as a quite usable little mutt of a book.

Inside the Mutt
Inside the Mutt

I took notes as I worked: reminders what NOT to do next time, which parts to skip, what really matters and what doesn’t. And now, using the medical school approach for teaching surgery (“See one, do one, teach one”) I’ll share what I’ve learned. Fortunately this isn’t brain surgery, since I’ve literally only seen one and done one.

UPDATE: I have refined the process described below; the most up-to-date version is always available as a download on the Resources page┬áhere. You may also find my more┬árecent bookbinding posts by selecting “Bookbinding” from the Categories pull down menu on the right. Now, to continue on with the original post…

Side view
Side view

I will simply refer you to the resources I used and try to serve as a sort of docent on the journey through the process. If you are an experienced bookbinder PLEASE share any suggestions, advice or corrections and I will update this post with them.

Open and ready to play
Open, not perfect, but ready to play

I’ve divided the post here to hide the details since it’s long…

Art theory Life in general Painting Sketchbook Pages

From 2008 to Blank Slate: A Year’s Work

A Year's Oil Painting Study
A Year's Oil Painting Study

I spent New Year’s Day sorting through the piles of sketchbooks and paintings I completed in 2008 and preparing the studio for 2009. My bulletin board is now a blank slate, ready for new work to go up. I gathered all the oil paintings that hadn’t gone directly to the garbage (121 survived) and sorted them into the piles you see above.

On the left are the 68 paintings heading off to the garage as a sort of purgatory zone. Next year they’ll probably go in the trash.

The middle stack of 42 are now shelved in the studio. These are the paintings that show progress and bits of success, but that I don’t want to hang on the walls.

The last pile on the right (plus the standing canvas of me) are the 11 paintings from 2009 that I like, imperfections and all. Also shown above is the presentation folder into which I inserted my oil paint color studies. I refer to these charts quite often and will be making more for new colors I’m experimenting with. It’s handy having them in this binder.

Sketchbooks completed in 2008
Sketchbooks completed in 2008

Above are the sketchbooks I completed in 2008 (and cheating just a bit, the first week of 2009). Half of them were actually started in 2008, but the other half were left over from previous years, when I was working in multiple sketchbooks at one time, without finishing any of them.

2008 and 2009 Art Goals

I just reread my January 1, 2008 art goals:

“My art goals for 2008 are also very simple: to enjoy myself by exploring whatever directions I find interesting, challenging, exciting, pleasurable, fun. No lists of shoulds, no rules other than play, practice and enjoy the journey.

My hope is that by this time next year I will have earned enough competence with oils that I can comfortably and freely work in the medium most fitting to the subject or idea I want to express, whether it be ink, watercolor, oils, goauche, or monoprint.”

I think I did pretty well in following that plan, pursuing many art adventures, including a considerable amount of plein air painting, sketching and and lots of study and practice in oil painting. I studied independently, with books, videos and with teachers and just tried to put those “miles on my brushes” as they say.

I still don’t feel completely competent with oils; I know what I don’t know, but I know what I do know too.

Goals for 2009:

1. Begin my 10,000 Days of Art project and make each of those days count. And again, the same hope as last year… “that by this time next year I will have earned enough competence with oils that I can comfortably and freely work in the medium most fitting to the subject or idea I want to express, whether it be ink, watercolor, oils, goauche, or monoprint.” Also I’d like to do morewith goauche and monoprint this year.

2. Do something I learned from my best friend Barbara, an amazing ceramic artist and art blogger:

Ask each day: “What can I do to enjoy myself today?
(I know this sounds a bit self-indulgent, but it’s often hard-earned and provides the “filling of the well” necessary to be able to do good for others too.)

Since enjoying myself always involves drawing, painting or other art-making, I intend to have a very enjoyable and artful year.