Sketchbooks and such

Despite several years of not being able to find the right thing, I keep clinging to the idea that there’s a perfect book out there that works as a sketch book, a wet media book, and a journal. But, everything I try misses the mark. The paper is always too thin or too rough, too starkly white or two creamy yellow, and too flimsy to handle wet media or so thick that I only get a couple dozen pages in one sketchbook. Then there’s the binding, which is always too tight to open flatly or poorly done. And, don’t even get me started on how much I hate cheesy cover designs or having to pick from half a dozen colours I don’t like that much.

They never seen to quite meet my needs. But, today, I’m going on record to admit that the perfect book doesn’t exist and that it’s OK to have more then one book for all of my needs: one to write in, one to sketch in, and one to paint in, when the mood strikes me.

Honestly, I should have just accepted this last year when I had to make the difficult decision to toss an old sketchbook that made me upset every time I looked at it. The sketches were worth saving and the only reason I’d kept the book. But, I’d also used it for journaling during a very frustrating few months. It was full of bitching, whining, and turmoil that I needed to out of my life. So, I scanned the sketches and tossed the book, vowing to never mix bitching with sketching again. [Side note: I also took a long, hard look at how I journaled and realized that I was mostly just using it as an excuse to whine and perpetuate my frustrations, which just made me unhappy. I journal differently now. For example, if I need to bitch, it goes in a digital document that I then delete.]

Some of the scanned images from my doomed sketch/journal book.

Now I have a multi-book system. For writing, I prefer something with lines. I use this mostly for brain storming ideas, writing about things that I’m still trying to work out, writing about new ideas that have inspired me, or taking notes from books. These days, it’s mostly notes from books and things that have inspired me because I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I like to make notes or copy quotes from the books. This allows me to process what I read, but it also helps me to let go of the book when I’ve finished reading it. In some cases, it also helps me to avoid buying a book – I used to be in the habit of borrowing books and buying a copy as soon as I thought I needed to underline something. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up wasting money just to underline a few lines!

My preferred book for writing is a lined A5 (5.8 x 8.3 inch) Leuchtturm1917, but I’ll use anything that’s A5. I currently have two on the go: a gridded Leuchtturm1917 for most things and an un-lined Ciak for art related notes. I use the Ciak for art notes because the slightly thicker paper means that I can draw or paint samples to illustrate the notes.

For watercolour, I have a couple of options, including a Stillman & Birn multimedia book, Carolyn Gavin multimedia sketchbooks, Moleskin watercolour books, and a Global Art book. We can discuss the fact that I have a stupid number of extra sketchbooks another time! I’m going to use my Moleskin for now because Fog and Swell recommended the brand the last time I whined about not being able to use watercolour in whatever book I was using at the time. The thick paper handles wet media quite well and the smooth surface will be good for my fountain pens.

And, then there’s the daily sketchbook. Usually, I’ll use just about anything that agrees with my fountain pens (good quality, smooth paper), like most of the extra multimedia books I mentioned above. But, sometimes I like to buy something pretty and special, even if it doesn’t handle fountain pen ink that well. That’s when I head over to Sprout Press Handbound Books. Her books are beautiful, but I’m not a big fan of her paper choice as it’s a bit thin for fountain pen ink or wet media. If I’m writing, I’m OK with the bleed through of the ink. But, it’s harder with sketching because I get annoyed and distracted by the bled through. One of these days I’ll plan ahead enough to ask for a custom book with different paper, but right now I really wanted something beautiful that would make me want to pick up my sketchbook each day. Life has been frustrating, and I knew I needed to get back in the habit of doing daily sketching, so I opted for beauty over function to give me something to be excited about each day. And, the book I picked is freaking beautiful. The cover is hand-dyed paper in one of my favourite colour combos – white and blue. Carolyn used blue paper and fancy binding to make the spin look stunning. And, there are a few pieces of brown paper in the book, which brings me great joy because I love white ink or coloured pencil on brown paper.

This is definitely a luxury item – it was not cheap, but even with the thin paper, I think it’s well worth every penny I spent. I’ve only had it three days, and I’ve already fondled, oogled, and been delighted by it a dozen times. And, I have a standard ball point pen that works just fine for sketching on the thin paper.

This is definitely a situation where my attempts to minimize and simplify back-fired. I need multiple books and I’m much happier being able to separate my journaling and sketching. When I’m using a sketchbook that handles wet media, I won’t need a separate wet media sketchbook, but I’m OK with needing a third book. Heck, maybe it will help me to experiment a little more with my watercolours.

Colour charts

Last week was a bad week. It seemed like pretty much everything annoying had saved itself up and happened all at once. And, then I found myself without a photo ID. And, then I broke my cell phone. Breaking my phone was the peak of the bad, bad week and damned near made me want to give up on existing. So, the next day (a Sunday), I decided to ignore all the useful things I was supposed to be doing and spend the day puttering on mindless things while watching a season of Numb3rs. I have lots of odds and ends of pencils, pens, markers, and ink (for my fountain pen) and I’ve been meaning to document them. So, I pulled out one of my many unused sketchbooks and started making colour charts.

Except for a few exceptions, each thing (each brand of each type of tool) got it’s own page(s). I’ll share more of the pages later, but for now, here are a few from when I was doing the chart for one of my sets of coloured pencils:

Ready to make a colour chart
Colour chart
As you can see at the top of the page, this was one of the exceptions. I have a few pens made by the same company but have no intention of buying more. So, instead of wasting a whole page, I just added them before the pencils.
Colour chart
I do a blend from dark to light of each colour just to have a quick visual, but rarely take the time to make the gradient perfect (this is meant as a quick tool, not a perfect depiction of every colour and every density).

New sketch books and ink

My brother bought me a fountain pen a few years ago. I never use it as much as I should. I love it, I’m just hesitant to carry it to and from work and I’m paranoid about how the ink is water soluable (OMG, what if I spill water all over my sketch book?). But, I’ve been using it more and more and deciding that I (almost) don’t care if things are ruined with a little water. It’s the creative process that matters the most, and I don’t usually have the issue of spilling water all over my things.

One thing I have been struggling with is finding the perfect sketch book solution. Anything too big gets left at home. Anything too small is a pain. I need something for regular sketching, but would also like something for quilt and cross stitch pattern work (graph paper). I need to have something that’s easily transportable so that I actually take it with me and use it, instead of having multiples everywhere (which, for some reason, drives me nuts).

When I went looking for a new ink colour (I wanted something to celebrate the fact that spring had finally arrived), I found two sketchbooks that are smallish and fit together perfectly without making a giant bulky bundle. I was so excited that I bought them on the spot, even though I usually save up for such things (they’re good quality, so they weren’t cheap).

I love my new ink colour (it’s so gorgeous!) and I have a mental list of about half a dozen other colours I would love to have. I also love my new books. Yes, I do quilt project ideas in both, but I’m ok with that. Mostly, I just want to sketch rough ideas, but sometimes I want a grid to work with. I’m so happy with these that I’m actually copying ideas from a few mostly neglected books (which just a few pages of sketches in each) into the new sketch books so that I can have everything in one place.

New sketch books

Quilt design ideas

Project ideas

Sketchbook title page

You know how books have a page in the front with the title and such? That’s a title page. For some reason not yet clear to me, I randomly feel the need to make title pages for things like sketchbooks (or, at least some approximation of a title page). I’ve had a Ecojot sketchbook that’s been largely unused for ages (2 years?), other than a few odds and ends of sketches in it that I decided to remove (to be stored elsewhere). I don’t really have a grand plan or purpose for the sketch book, but I feel like I need to get back in the habit of doodling (almost) everyday. It will be good to get my creative juices flowing and the practice will help when I want to design my own needlecraft patterns. So, the other day I pulled the book out and randomly decided to give it a title page. This is it, so far:

WIP: sketch book title page

Just so you know, those are sea stars/starfish on the letters, wee snails for the dots above the i’s, and phytoplankton under the waves. And, yes, I am aware that it’s crocked – I always veer upwards and I’m not looking for perfection. I added some more plankton and critters last night (picture to come later) and I have half a page left to fill. I’m not sure what I’ll fill it with. Something random, probably.

Also, I really need to┬áset up better lighting for when I take pictures :p Maybe that will be one of this weekend’s tasks.