Monday, June 24, 2019

Summer Sketchbooks


I wonder how many of you, like me, have a collection of beautiful but unused sketchbooks or art journals?  Either they were gifts or you bought them yourself, and you thought, now, finally, this is exactly the right kind of sketchbook for me to use, and I WILL USE it.  And then you don't.
             It has taken me a long time to understand my reluctance to work in a sketchbook, and it turns out to be a surprisingly simple explanation.  There's more to it than just a perfectionist's unwillingness to mess up a lovely journal, or the block that a blank white page can inspire.  The fact is, I like loose paper.  Perhaps it's related to my interest in collage - I like to have several separate components, and be able to arrange them how I like, trying different compositions before committing to glue.

 My inclination for sketching is to use a clipboard and loose pieces of watercolor or sketching paper depending on what I'm in the mood for, and then to collect them in a book.  I dislike fighting with a bound book, trying to work with my hand pressed against a coil binding or trying to keep the page flat when it wants to bend down into the stitching or flip closed. For me, the flat loose paper is simply more comfortable and manageable.  Sometimes I want to draw in pencil, sometimes I want to add paint, and I can simply select a piece of the right kind of paper for the project.  Sometimes I print out copies of drawings or paintings I've done and collage them into a book, sometimes I collage the actual painting or drawing onto the page.  Sometimes I let the drawing remain loose, inserted into a pocket or tucked under a flap.   In this way, my sketchbooks or journals or altered books become collections or assemblages of different kinds of work in different media and can change and transform over time.  I often continue to work around a collaged drawing, adding more paint or rubber stamping, or adding text or more found images.  Stenciling across combined images is often the best way to make this sort of collaged page cohesive.

          Summer, for me, means sitting on my screened porch with the garden flowers pressing up against the screen and the bird feeder busy with fluttering visitors.  I like to have a clipboard and some loose paper handy.  I might sketch from an actual reference like a flower or plant, or I might have my Ipad nearby with photo reference at the ready.  If I don't like a drawing or watercolor sketch, I can toss the single sheet - there's no agony of having a less-than-satisfactory result in the pages of a sketchbook, and because there's no risk, it's easier to dive right in.

          My summer album this year is a small journal with an accordion binding.  This is an easy no-sew binding and has the advantage of leaving lots of room for bulking up the journal with extra layers of paper, and the pages lie nice and flat so it's easy to keep working on them.  I stenciled large sheets of watercolor paper and then cut them down for the pages, but of course, any kind of paper will do.   Leafy, viny, organic shapes and lots of green make this the ideal summer art project.  I'll continue to work with this long after the summer is over, adding to the pages as the fancy strikes me.   But for now, you know where to find me: on the porch. 

Stencils used for this project:

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