Thursday, December 27, 2012

Morning Pears

Bosc pears are a doubly difficult thing to draw.  For one thing they are an odd shape that your mind fights with as you put the lines on the page, especially when neither pear would stay upright.  The second challenge comes when you decide that you want to play with color because they are an unusual shade of warm brownish yellowish that is hard to mimic on the page.  I finally got the color closer to right when I swapped brown for violet in the shadowy areas.

Sketched in a handmade journal using 500 series Strathmore Mixed Media paper, size S Faber Castell PITT pen, and Grumbacher watercolors.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Early Morning Squash

Was awake too early one day last week and painted an acorn squash that has been on my counter at 5:30 in the morning, which is when I normally wake up. I am not going to make a habit of being up two hours earlier than normal but at least I had fun painting before I left for work.

Strathmore 500 series mixed Media paper in a handmade journal, Kuretake pen, Grumbacher watercolor

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Peek at Paris

Faber-Castell PITT pen size F, Grumbacher watercolors,
 Rives BFK in a handmade accordion style journal

This last June I traveled to France and Italy with a group of students.  The trip was crazy busy and had limited time for sketching.  I sketched this at St. Michael's Square in Paris, France while the students in my group had about 45 minutes of free time.  It is a section of an accordion fold journal I had with me on the trip.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

State Fair Sketch-Out 2012

First page spread - I left this open and returned to it after the rest of the book was filled.
Gopher mascot statue and my collaged in gate ticket.
 This year's Minnesota State Fair sketch-out was a combined effort with sketchers from both the MCBA Visual Journal Collective and the MetroSketchers groups in attendance.  (The link will take you to a nice group shot and more information at Roz Stendahl's blog, complete with more links.)
I arrived at the fair at about 2:30 p.m. with a small (4x5.25) accordion journal made with Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper, a Faber-Castell PITT pen size F, and watercolors. Along with a desire to fill the book before I left for home knowing it would be my only trip to the fair this year.

Lunch as well as my first sketch of the day.  
 I had not had lunch when I got to the fair so my first task was to find food and get sketching as quickly as possible being we were meeting as a group at 4:30 and I had gotten to the fair much later than planned.  Both tasks were accomplished after I purchased, ate, and sketched a corn dog.  Of course not being used to the seemingly tiny pages in this book (about 5x8) I drew my corn dog way bigger than planned and it goes so far out of the page that honestly it becomes a bit abstracted and strange due to the limited view.

From my corn dog lunch I move on to the cow barn where cows are being lined up for pre and post judging in an outdoor pen between buildings.  This cow was standing tied to a fence and reasonably still so it made for a good first model.  The laying down cow was done after moving into the actual barn and was added into the space between the cow face and the cow backside (shown below) and is the same cow as the cow backside, which lay down mid sketch.

A couple of cows, the "i draw" button that Marty Harris
gave to all of us at our meeting later that afternoon
and a quickly done horse.
 After the cow laid down, and I drew it's new position and added some paint.  I tried to save the unfinished standing cow by looking at a new standing cow and adding on a neck and face.  I think I drew a tiny bit larger and ran out of room again on the page.  At this point I am discovering that the size I have created this accordion is a little awkwardly small.  It is surprisingly hard to hold and paint in while standing and my sketches keep leaving the page.  I now know that I will go back to the accordion journals that are about 6 inches square as they are still very small and portable but they are easier to manage than this tiny book.
I walked over to the horse barn from the cows, which is usually one of my favorite places to sketch at the fair. I have loved drawing horses since I was a little girl and look forward to seeing some in person every year.  This year there were very few horses in the barn and an overwhelming number of people looking at the handful of horses, a very bad combination for sketching.  I attempted a sketch of a horse tied in a hallway being trimmed thinking it would be standing there for several minutes and was shocked when the trimming involved only it's nose hair and was finished with the horse was being led away in under a minute.  I had no sketch time to waste being pushed into by strollers and fighting crowds so I left the horse barn and moved on to the pigs.

The pig barn is nearly empty of people which is a pleasant change from the horse barn and due in large part to people being afraid they will get sick from the animals.  I was able to draw a sleeping pig and stick around long enough to add some paint and I had only one person even pass down the aisle I was in.  While I was in the barn in a pen across the way they were judging pigs and the judge was making commentary on the status of each pig as it passed him.  I have to say the commentary was very interesting and included things such as "I love the way this animal is set on it's hocks"  "this hog carries its weight well".  

Next, I wandered down to the poultry barn knowing that it was nearing the time for our meeting and the poultry barn is en route to our meeting location.  I draw one warm-up chicken with just my pen and then find a pillar to lean against and paint the next chicken, choosing one with interesting black and white patterned feathers.  Drawing the chickens is always a bit of a challenge because they are never very still even with their limited space to move in the cage and in order to get a full sketch you have to wait for the bird to move back to the position you started from to complete the drawing.  
This book is the first book I have used with the 500 series Mixed Media paper, and I am starting to notice that it takes the watercolor a tiny bit longer to dry than I am used to, so I am walking from place to place with an open sketch before shutting my book.  Which isn't a problem but it is something to be aware of while working on a page spread.  I like that the paper texture is smooth and easy to draw on and that it is not buckling from wet work at all, which makes it nice to work on and I will not have to worry about the long accordion getting out of whack because of paper buckle issues.  The paper is also holding up well in this accordion structure, even with my continued folding back and forth around the book cover to complete drawings that go beyond the expected page spread the folds are not cracking and they do not seem to be weakening either which is good.

At this point our meeting time is close enough that I must leave the barns behind and walk across the fair grounds to the plaza between the food and agriculture buildings to see what the rest of my sketching friends have been up to all day.  I get to the meeting place a bit early and decide to try and sketch some fair goers while I wait for the group to gather.  While I sketch the man on the left I realize that someone is watching me, I ignore them and continue to sketch.  As I work they move in closer and at one point stand between me and the man I am sketching while exclaiming to the world at large that he knows who I am sketching and challenging other fair goers nearby to find the guy I am sketching too.  At this point I realize that this man is quite drunk and he continues to stand directly in front of me, so I have to lean and look around him to finish my drawing.  This drunken man is very excited that my sketch looks just like the man eating his lunch and decides that he would like to purchase my sketch to give to him as a gift.  As he announces this intention to me he tries to take my book with one hand and give me ten dollars with the other.  Needless to say I am not happy with this turn of events and I am glad of two things, one that I completed my sketch before things got weird and two that he backs off as I stand up and announce that I am flattered but my book is not for sale (and worth more than ten dollars empty) and that I have to go.  I have to say that this encounter is my strangest sketch in public moment ever.
I meet up with our group of sketchers at this point and we chat and compare scenes sketched, which is always the best part because everyone does such different stuff and it is always exciting to see all the variety in subject matter and style.  Ken Avidor has posted many images of sketches by group members taken that day as we chatted over on the Urban Sketchers Twin Cities blog.  If you follow the link you can check them out.  
We also had a special guest at our meeting from WCCO, Amy Rea.  She was in the process of writing an article on interesting things to see at the fair that might be unexpected and did a little blurb on our sketching group that day.
As our meeting is breaking up and we are discussing whether or not we are leaving or continuing to sketch I quickly sketched the couple seated at a table nearby to try and get one more sketch into my book as it has come to my attention that I have only three spreads to go and then my book is full.  I decide that I cannot leave until I fill my book so I say goodbye and wander back toward the barns.

The decision to continue to sketch seems like a mistake as I sit down and try to draw the green tea slushy I was drinking but I continue on to the sheep and add in a lamb resting against the back wall of it's pen and then finish my book with a brown goose.
Over all I had a reasonably good day sketching at the fair.  There are a few awkward sketches but they do not take away from the overall effect of the completed book and I feel that it is a great record of my day at the fair.  Looking back at my sketches, I do think that next year I may try to draw more people at the fair as I think that those were my favorite sketches from this year and it is not something I usually sketch while I am there.  Although next year is a long way off and there is no real way to tell what will catch my eye at next year's sketch-out.

The full accordion book as a continuous image.  My day at the fair in one long sheet.
5x82 inches, Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper, Grumbacher watercolor, Faber-Castell pitt pen size F

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stop and Draw the Flowers

A page from my current journal drawn on my front patio from a potted cone flower plant that is patiently waiting to be planted in my garden.
Hand made journal using Nideggen paper, Faber Castell Pitt pen size F, Grumbacher watercolors.  Full spread 7.5 x 16 or so.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sketching Backyard Chickens

Sunday afternoon I went on a sketch-out with the MetroSketchers group to a private residence in Minneapolis to sketch in the backyard.  The great thing about this particular backyard is that they have six chickens which is what we were all there to sketch.

Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Faber-Castel PITT pen size F
Funny thing about chickens  - they move - a lot.  This facet of their personality makes them quite a challenge to draw.  I started out with a handful of gesture sketches.  Seeing the page now I wish I had switched to my brush pen rather than the PITT pen I used to get a stronger line quality, but oh well.  The first two I did are the ones that try for more detail and are more awkward (they are on the left diagonally across the page).  Once I loosened up and let go of detail and aimed for just the shape my sketches got better and look more like chickens with less line.

Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Sketch with PITT pen size F
Watercolor and gouache

I was frustrated with the movement at this point and opted to sketch the chicken coop instead.  I was originally thinking that I would start with the coop on the right and add chickens in the yard after but as often happens, my sketch of the coop ended up a bit bigger than it should have and I did not quite get to the ground level.  I decided to add a chicken sketch to the left anyway, it was why we were there in the first place and I did not want to leave a blank page.  For this sketch I tried to stay patient about the chicken moving around and just continued to work even after the chicken had changed position.  I had also taken a quick reference shot with my cell phone as soon as I started the sketch so I had one still shot to look back at if I got stuck or if the chicken walked away across the yard.  I was lucky and Louise stayed nearby for most of my sketch and she only moved too far away to see as I was finishing up with my paint.
While I was there I also took a few extra shots with my camera to use as reference to draw from at home.
Handmade journal with Nideggen paper
open spread 7x15 inches
Sketch with PITT pen size C (right)
Watercolor and gouache (left)

I also had access to some preview chicken images before I went to sketch.  The color portrait of Louise was done from a preview image to practice a chicken, although a chicken from a photo is not really practice for chickens from life.  The line drawings were done after the sketch-out from images I took on my cell phone.  I used a pen with a heavier nib and drew quickly but not as fast as a gesture sketch from a moving chicken would require.
Sketching chickens was fun and challenging.  I recommend stretching your sketching skills and drawing from a moving subject sometime soon.  It causes you to make different decisions than you do while sketching from a stationary object and it forces you to use your visual memory while you draw.  Both good skills to work on especially since summer is full of moving subjects to choose from and the State Fair sketch-out is so close.

Monday, July 2, 2012

View from the Porch

Fabriano-Venzia sketchbook
12x18 inches, FaberCastell Pitt pen size F, 
Grumbacher and Daniel Smith watercolor
At the beginning of June, after the school year was finished, my husband and I went on a vacation with some dear friends to Madeline Island, Wisconsin.  We stayed in a house on the northern side of the island that overlooked Lake Superior 98 steps up above the lake.  This is the view from the screen porch as recorded in my sketchbook from our first morning.  It was an amazing and relaxing few days and I do believe that Madeline Island is a place that we will return to again.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Paintout at Home

Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook - open spread 12x18, 
Faber Castell Pitt pen size F, Grumbacher watercolors 
Sometimes the best place to go on a paintout is in your own yard.  You can have a chair, use the bathroom and take a break if needed, plus you are finding the beauty in what you are surrounded with everyday.
I came home from work yesterday and my first two poppies had bloomed and were just screaming to be painted so I grabbed my big book, my paints, and a chair and spent a couple of hours out in the yard sketching the poppies
Go grab your gear and paintout at home today!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

PPB Pen Fun

Ok so a PPB pen is a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.  It is just like a regular pen but at the tip is a small paint brush giving you the artist the feeling of drawing with a paint brush rather than with a pen.  Roz Stendahl started a PPBpen challenge a few Friday's ago (now up to four Friday's worth) and I have a sketchbook I made that I have been using to play around with this very fun pen.
During week one Roz recommended just getting used the the brush and the type of marks it was capable of on the page.  I chose to doodle a bit to get used to the pen and remind myself of the types of marks it made.  The book is an accordion structure made with Rives BFK that when closed is about 6 inches square.  Creating an open page spread that is 6 x12 inches.
 Quick gesture sketches are great with the PPB pen!  I sat drinking coffee and sketching my cat Izzy as she discovered and watched birds in our back yard from the window.
Playing with some lettering styles here along with sketching my breakfast sandwich.  Lettering and words in general seems to be when the PPB pen gives me the most trouble.

This one is my favorite so far and several drawings into my exploration of the PPB pen.  I just grabbed the bananas off the counter and drew.  I really was also playing around with using it as a shading tool and not getting the strong black mark but toying until I got the pressure right to get a blotchy mark that reads as grey.
Another quick one of my cat Zoe, she often lays belly up in the sun on the living room floor in the afternoon.  It's the perfect time to grab a sketch as she is still.  You can also see the corner of another sketch of the random objects on the coffee table, so that is a nail clipper.
I am having fun playing around with this pen again as it is not one I had been carrying with me recently.  It has been hard to avoid adding color but on the other hand the pages all have a certain simplicity to them.  Just the black line used to describe enough of the object and nothing extra to get in the way.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Upcoming Talk with the Collective and Upcoming Class

Next week, on Monday night, I will be presenting at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective from 7-9 pm.  My presentation will be about my experience as a part of the moly-X sketchbook exchange project, my frustrations working with the Moleskine books and the paper that is in them, (which pushed me to create my own accordion "molys"), my experience with taking the exchange into my classroom in a high school, and some of my discoveries about journaling on a topic in my own accordion style books.
You can explore the moly-x project sketchbook exchange, started by Marty Harris, on the project's Flickr site.  There are links to all the different project blogs and photos of work done as a part of the many exchanges past and present.  The exchange that I am a part of is Moly_X 81.  I am one of four artists in the exchange and we are about to send our books around for the second time through the cycle.
As a part of my talk I will have many different books with me including my moly test book and in process moly_x books and images of books, along with finished exchange books and my own version of the Moleskine accordion book both empty and full.

I am also going to be teaching a class this spring at MCBA that was created as a result of the sketchbook exchange project and all the fun I have been having with the idea of exchanging sketchbooks or collaboratively journaling on a topic.  It is a combination of a book binding class, a journal/sketching technique class, and a collaborative project between the participants.  The class is called "Hardcover Accordion Visual Journal: Collaborative Chain Journaling", you can register by following this link to the MCBA course list for spring or by calling the Shop.  It begins on Sunday, May 8 from 10-3 with a book binding day where we will make an accordion journal (see above photo) with a hardcover and high quality artist paper suitable for both wet and dry media, which will be followed with five follow-up meetings on Thursday evenings from 7-8:30 where there will be a brief demonstration on a journal technique or tips as well as time for participants to share and exchange their books for the following week.  By the end of the class participants will learn how to bind an accordion style journal and they will have an accordion book filled with multiple entries created on a single topic or theme of their choosing.
It should be loads of fun!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Virtual Paintout - St. Petersburg, Russia

Fabriano Venezia sketchbook - 12x18
Faber-Castell Pitt pen size F
Grumbacher watercolor
The March location for the Virtual Paintout with Bill Guffy is St. Petersburg Russia.  I had grand plans of practicing my architecture drawing skills in preparation for my June trip to Europe but instead I found this view from the Kronshtadtskoye Shosse, which is the main freeway, on an island in the Baltic off the coast of St. Petersburg.
I wanted to challenge myself to achieve the deep shadows in the tree cover while still maintaining the white of the fence. I was originally drawn to the view by the birch trees, they are one of my favorites.  I am also challenging myself to continue to use this sketchbook, a 9x12 Fabriano Venezia, which feels gigantic especially when working across the spread (12x18 total page size).
Painting around those tiny fence pieces was a challenge, especially trying to get the color to transition smoothly.
The crazy thing is this could be a view from the street right here in Minnesota, rather than a view from a Google camera half a world away.  Small world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Inspired to go Big!

Full 12x18 inch page spread in my 
Fabriano Venezia sketchbook, drawing done in 
Sharpie pen with Grumbacher watercolor
On Monday's meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective  we had nature and travel journal keeper Pat Beaubien in the studio showing us her fantastic journals and talking about her journaling/art habits and how they have changed or grown over the years as a part of keeping a journal.  I have to say I was so inspired by her work.  She keeps these large journals, both handmade with watercolor paper and Fabriano Venezia more recently, all between 8x10 and 9x12 in size and she fills them with absolutely fantastic watercolor and ink drawings.  She also talked about the challenge to create art while teaching (she was an elementary school art teacher) rather than just in the summer and how her art habits have evolved since retiring.
Funny thing is, I have a Fabriano Venezia sketchbook right now and have been hating it. Because it was so big, 9x12 closed size, it had gotten banished to my coffee table as a Saturday book.
Having this beautiful journal as my Saturday book was not really a bad thing, it is just that I had sort of given up on it as something to use more frequently and fill up in a timely fashion and was looking at it more as a spare time kind of thing (which is never good for your art by the way).  Well, after seeing Pat's beautiful work on Monday night I was totally inspired to haul this large book around with me for a bit and fill it up - no excuses or complaining.
Last night I began by hauling it to my lap while I watched TV and drew a pair of shoes from my entryway.  I forced myself to fill both pages and to work across the spread with one subject.  I began with Sharpie pen for my contour line sketch and then used watercolor to complete the image.  After I was done  painting, I accented a few spots with some more ink lines and added the text "frame" around the whole thing.  I spent about an hour and a half altogether and was watching Chopped on TV at the same time.
9x12 Fabriano Venezia sketchbook (verso page)
Faber-Castell Pitt calligraphy pen with Grumbacher watercolor
I hauled it a bit farther today.  Luckily the book fits in my backpack and I take my backpack to work with me, so into my bag it went, and over the course of the afternoon I drew the view out my classroom window.  I spent about a maximum of an hour on this image in ten and fifteen minute bursts as I had a few moments to spare between classes and during a study hall I supervise.
I do notice that this larger page takes me a bit longer to completely cover in paint than the journals I typically have been using (around 7 inch square).  And of course it fits in no bag other than my backpack.  But it does have lovely, heavy, smooth paper that takes watercolor well and is a pleasure to write on with pen, especially with the Faber-Castell Pitt calligraphy pen for some reason.  Realistically of course it is also great to stretch myself and work differently than I normally would.
So suddenly rather than dreading this book and wondering how I am ever going to fill it up, I am excited and looking at my environment with curious eyes, searching for the next subject to place on the once seemingly over large pages.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sketchbook Exchange - classroom edition results

This fall I had an idea to have students in my advanced drawing class exchange themed sketchbooks with each other.  The project was a huge success and a lot of fun for me (I was able to exchange too) and the students.  Our exchange project included eleven students as well as myself and spanned roughly three months.  Each participant worked one time in each of twelve journals, each journal having a theme picked by the artist who started the sketchbook.  I have photos of long stretches of these books, but seeing as there is student work involved in the exchange, I am only posting my entry in each of these books.  
The books themselves are made with Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media paper which is available in several sizes and comes in a pad rather than as single sheets.  My students and I had been using this paper in the classroom as a solid choice for work involving nearly any medium.  My students had never been exposed to a paper that was smooth and could handle pen or pencils of all sorts well but also stand up to all manor of water based mediums (gouache, watercolor, acrylic ink and paint).  This new paper experience opened up a new world of working in multiple mediums for many of them and we went through several pads of this paper on flat artwork in my classroom.  It was because of this enjoyment of the sheet that I opted to use it as the paper when I created our sketchbooks.  
As far as a paper for bookbinding I have reservations regarding the 400 series paper.  It holds up well to all mediums, with no buckling or bleed through, which is good and makes the paper enjoyable to work on and makes it seem like a good choice for binding books, however, this paper cracks at the folded edge.  Even worse, it doesn't always crack at the fold edge, so some folds are severely cracked and some edges are fine with no cracking at all.  
When I first noticed the cracking I became worried that the books were going to fall apart and this was troublesome because we had already begun our exchange and were working in the books.  Despite the cracking the paper retained its strength and none of the books broke apart, they all stayed together as one long accordion.  The crack at the fold did make some of the books harder to work in as the crack wicked any water along its length, dragging paint with it.  Sometimes a fold would crack later, after it had been worked on too, opening up a gap in the image.  It is this inconsistency and cracking that will keep me from binding anymore books with the 400 series paper.  
The following images are my own entry into a student's book.  All of the images are first drawn with a Sharpie pen and then painted in using watercolor paint (either VanGogh or Grumbacher depending on if I worked at home or in my classroom).  Very often the image then gets redrawn with the Sharpie pen to create emphasis and refine the image on the page.  I am missing photos of my images from two of the twelve books, if I can get a hold of an image I will add them as I can.
 Music themed book, the final entry after many rainbow backgrounds.
 The pond, I added the dragonfly in the space between two other entries, some cracking evident 
My sketchbook "Must have been Something I Ate"
 Night themed book, I used salt to create a starry effect
 Book theme: Oops!
You can see the impact of the cracked fold
on this image, the green bled down her face and the centerline
is obviously "empty" at her nose/mouth/chin
Nature/Human Body themed book
 Under the Sea
Abstract Mechanics
Life / Death

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Trip to Como Zoo with MetroSketchers

My opening sketches of the puffins and a couple of penguins
Accordion sketchbook about 6" tall
and each page section about 5 1/4" wide
made with Canson Edition paper, 
Sharpie pen, and Grumbacher watercolors
 On Sunday March 4th, the Twin Cities MetroSketchers met at Como Zoo to sketch.  I went along and brought my new accordion style journal, thinking that I needed to see how well this style of journal works out when actually sketching on location.  The MetroSketchers are a group of sketchers started by Liz Carlson and Tim Jennen, that meets the first Sunday of the month from 12-3 to sketch together in and around the metro area.  If you are in the Twin Cities metro and interested in joining the group you can find them on Facebook at MetroSketchers Group or send an email and ask to be put on the email list for notification of the next event location as it changes from month to month.
Bear and Bison sketches done 
outside their respective enclosures
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor 
 It is a fun group of people to sketch with and I feel fortunate that my schedule finally allowed me to join them on an outing.  I think they had about twenty people show up on Sunday which was the group's one year anniversary.  There was no shortage of people to sketch with and artists of all descriptions to talk with about supplies and sketching which is always fun.
A few sketches of the lion, who was pacing
when we first got to the cat building and 
hard to sketch until she settled down to rest.
 I had a great day with Roz Stendahl and Miss T, the three of us stayed together and sketched in a group as we looped through the zoo enjoying the relatively warm weather and each others company while recording our day with the animals in pen and paint.
Lions, giraffe , and the beginning of the orangutan page
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor
 I have to say I had one of those rare sketching days that does not come along often and it seemed that every drawing I did came out reasonably well.  The lion was by far the most challenging subject because she was agitated when we first got to sketching her, so my first two attempts are just eyes mostly.  Then she settled down and stayed stationary for a while and I was able to finish a sketch of all of her rather than just her eyes.
From the lions we moved to the giraffes and I have to say they are strange to sketch because they are such strange animals when you really get to looking at them.  They are huge and have unusual proportions with the long thin neck and legs but overly large cow type body that is hard to capture on the page.  I did the pen sketch of the entire giraffe at the zoo and added the up close face with watercolor from a photo taken at the zoo after I got home.
Amanda the orangutan 
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

 Our last sketching stop was to the ape house which was very crowded and busy.  The apes and monkeys seemed to be enjoying the attention and were busy looking at the crowds looking at them.  We found a relatively clear spot to sketch the orangutan who was down the glass from where we stood and sketched.  She seemed to know that we were watching her differently than the other zoo visitors and after a few minutes she came to where we stood at the glass and sat at our feet.  I got down a quick outline of this closer view before having too many children launched in front of me and then I stepped back to paint my sketch.  After finishing our drawings it was time go meet the rest of the sketchers.  Roz had found out that the orangutan's name is Amanda and that she paints, so before leaving we all showed her our work at the glass where she sat.  She looked from one page to the next and signed something to us. Of course not one of us knows sign language so we do not know what she said but we do know that she seemed to understand that we had made drawings and she acknowledged our work.  Whether or not she recognized herself is hard to say.
Chocolate Chocolate Cake from Cafe Latte
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

 After a brief meeting of many of the sketchers that were at the zoo that day and a discussion about paper and supplies and comparison of pages completed.  Some of us went to a nearby cafe to enjoy some cake in honor of the anniversary and to continue to enjoy each other's company and sketch some more.  I had Chocolate Chocolate cake, which was delicious and of course I sketched my piece of cake before I ate it.  Once I got home I only had one small section of paper left in this small sketchbook so I saw some peeps on the table and added them in as the last spread, completing this entire journal mostly in one day.
Peeps and edging at the end of the book
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

One additional thing I did as I finished the peeps was to add an outlined edge to the entire journal along with some splashes of color from my paints that went along with the edge and with the sketch on the page.  I got this idea from the first video lesson at the Strathmore Online Workshop on watercolor sketching with artist Cathy Johnson.  I like the effect that the edging and splatter gave the book as a whole, it really helps tie together all the different sketches and unifies the long format as one finished piece of work.
I have only worked previously in this style of journal as an exchange between multiple artists or with my students.  This was the first time I had used an accordion as a stand alone sketch journal.  I found that I liked working along the accordion and it was particularly nice to work in this small size when going out and sketching at a particular location.  The journal itself was made from one single sheet of paper and is roughly 6 inches square when closed.  It was also fillable in an afternoon which was great. I left the photos long and so of redundant so you can see the way each image links to the next creating a long story of the day.
It got me thinking about potentially taking small accordions like this with me when I go to Europe later this year as I know we will be in multiple cities and having a finished journal for each city might be nice.  I could then build a case to hold all of my finished journals once I got home from my trip.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Accordion Journal Experiment

First page in the newly made journal. 
Sketch using Sharpie pen and Grumbacher watercolor.
I have been making accordion style journals this winter to use in an exchange project with my students and yesterday after school I taught several students some bookbinding basics and an accordion journal is what we made.  The after school binding session was planned on the fly so we had to make do with some of our binding supplies but I was able to find nearly everything we needed in my classroom.  We used mostly recycled materials including scrap matt board as covers and we painted old mailing envelopes (the large tyvek type) as decorative papers.  One element that was not recycled was the paper for inside the journal, we used Canson Edition paper, which is a paper I have never used before.  
Now it was a risk on my part to go on a paper run to JoAnn's and I knew that when I went but I was in a rush and it was the closest shop that might have art paper, so off I went.  Of course they did not carry any paper that I had used before with any sort of success in an accordion so I was going to have to experiment with a new unknown paper while teaching a book structure and hope for the best.
When I was there shopping for paper I had three important qualities I was looking for 1) sturdy smooth paper that could be used for both pen and watercolor sketching and hold up; 2) a paper that was going to take a fold with the grain and not crack as well as hold up in an accordion structure; 3) a 22x30 sheet grained long so I could use all the measurements from a book I have made before and not have to do new book making math on the fly as well, and the Edition paper seemed to meet all of these qualities best so it got purchased and used without being tested first.  
I am happy to say the paper risk paid off.  The paper took folds well with no cracking ( I am still watching for them as the book wears in) and after using the first pages this afternoon to sketch it seems like a pretty good paper for both pen and watercolor.  I do not think I have just found my new most favorite paper but it works well and I am happy for that because things could have gone terribly wrong considering the circumstances surrounding my using this paper for this book in the first place.  
A couple of notes on the paper itself.  It is a paper made for printing so it does take a while for the washes to dry.  I noticed that even my pen lines took a bit to dry and I had some pen bleed as I began to paint in my orange, although after finishing the color it is not noticeable in the least.  It is buckling a little bit, not badly like some papers but know that after applying watercolor the page is not perfectly flat anymore.  I intend to continue using this little book as my journal and I will repost any new findings about the paper as they become evident.
My students were happy to learn how to make their own books and excited to try them out at home once the glue dried.  And I am happy that the paper worked so their experience making a book was a good one and I am really relieved that it works for pen and watercolor, being that is what many of them were hoping to use the book for in the first place.
 Journal closed, showing the painted
cover and elastic strap to keep the journal closed. I used watered down acrylic paint
and a scrap of matt board to make the design while the paint was still wet.

 Two more views of the journal standing and open on the table.
The first page with the blood orange sketch from the top 
of the post is just peeking out.