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


  1. These are so great. How fun for the students to have your work included in their journals. I've experienced paper cracking when folded against the grain, but have not used this particular paper myself. Although I'm intrigued as you and your students really like it. Hmmmm, I'll have to try it.

    1. Thank you, Donna. We liked the 400 series paper for flat work and Strathmore just came out with their 500 series Mixed Media paper and it is available in large sheets. I have some in my studio now to test out. I hear that it is beautiful paper and works great for book binding.

  2. Found your blog through Roz...great work here. Lovely watercolors, and love the projects you describe that your students have been doing!

  3. I will bet you are the most inspiring art teacher on the planet! What a great opportunity to paint among your fledglings. These are priceless and the whole subject will give them an eternity of great memories. I found you through Roz, as well.