Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sketchbook Hacks

I'm off to Montreal but as I was packing my art supplies I thought I would do a post about my sketchbooks.

I use a lot of sketchbooks, some I make some I buy.

But I always add a few things that make it work better for me and I thought I would share my sketchbook hacks.

First thing I add is a ribbon bookmark, very few sketchbooks have this feature at least not the ones with the paper I like.

This is very easy to add, just turn to the back of your sketchbook, cut a ribbon about 4-5 inches longer than your sketchbook, and then tape into place.  I use packing tape.

Next thing I like to add is a pocket.

I tape this in place with packing tape again right in the back of the sketchbook as well.

For a large sketchbook I just take a business sized envelope and cut it on the diagonal.

I save the other half as I can use it in the next sketchbook, just tape the opening closed and turn it to the other side.

With smaller sketchbooks I will use different envelopes and cut them to size, taping as I go.

Next thing I add is an elastic,  I know seems pretty low tech but I get asked about this.  As your sketchbook gets to be about 1/3 or more full it expands. (especially if you are adding paint)

The elastic helps to keep it together.

You will also find with a bound sketchbook that you will need to reinforce the binding as you go, again packing tape works great for this.

Even with a coil bound book I use an elastic.  Some people will use a binder clip but I find that it can make dents in your pages and there is never a big enough clip and it ends up falling off.

I then add a large ziplock bag.  With my large sketchbooks I can't close it but I will still store my sketchbook in one.

This has saved me more times than I can count especially when travelling.

It protects your pages from rain, spilled coffee, rogue ocean waves, sticky fingers, etc....

Another habit I have developed is using a date stamp.

I carry it with me when I travel and I use it in my sketchbooks.

 I don't use it if I think the painting is framable.

The first few pages of a sketchbook I leave blank.

I use them to add technical info or ideas that I want to always have available to me.  Lists, reference material, photos from my sprocket, stickers from my travels.

I usually add a business card or at least my name and cell # in case I lose my sketchbook.

So what types of sketchbooks do I really is personal preference.

I like these bound Peter Pauper Press books.  You can find them at Chapters/Indigo which is great, they have very nice paper that holds up to painting and come in a few sizes.

They are also cheap.  Now with watercolour paint the paper will buckle but it is thick enough to get some paint effects that you don't get on lightweight paper.

Amazingly Michaels has a good bound sketchbook,  their Artist Loft one, which comes in lots of great colours actually has pretty good paper in it.  You will have to maintain the binding with tape as you go though.

I also really like these Nature Sketch books.  It has some of heaviest paper out there in a sketchbook.

I also like the wide variety of sizes it comes in.

The Nature Sketch books have off white (buff) paper in them.

Here is the Nature Sketch and the Peter Pauper Press side by side.

I also make a lot of sketchbooks using a Zutter machine.

The main reasons I make my own are:

- can have a variety of papers in one book including good quality watercolour paper as well as tan and grey sketch paper

- I can make it bigger, more pages

- I can make it the exact size I want. A lot of times paintings in my sketchbooks end up being framed, I can make a sketchbook that corresponds to common frame sizes.

Another system I use a lot when working with really high quality watercolour paper is a hand bound book and detachable cover.

So I will take 150-300lb wc paper,  score with a bone folder and tear into full pages (a large rectangle that is folded for 2 pages).

I will then stack them usually 3-4 deep and sew them together with a few binding stitches.

I then have a cover made from gatorboard and duct tape.  I use an elastic to hold the wc paper book into the cover.

I could give you all the instructions but you just need to watch these videos if interested in this system.

Video 1 Sketchbook

Video 2 Cover

One of the best parts of this system is that the cover is large enough when open that I can add these magnetic clips.

I just got these at Staples.

I can then have my metal watercolour palette attach to the book for easy painting in the field.

When I am not using the watercolour sketchbook I then close the cover and clip it together.  The gatorboard is thick enough that I don't get any dents in my paper and the elastic inside holds the paper in the cover.
 I prefer metal watercolour palettes so I can use those magnetic clips for both the sketchbook and on my easel.

I buy them empty and then fill up plastic half or full pans with my favourite paints.  I let them dry and then place them in the palette.

I do put magnetic tape under the plastic pans to help them stay in place, this also lets me add an extra row of paints.

This system also lets me change out the colours in my palette really easily.  I also have palettes of colours for places I travel to frequently.  I have a Maui palette, a Cabin/Mountain palette, and a desert palette. (Palm Springs, Phoenix).

For travelling my kit looks like this.

I have 2 metal watercolour palettes with the colours I'm using at the moment.

- pencils, eraser, sharpener, small ruler
- water brushes, I like sakura, make sure your water brushes have the little valve so they don't leak
- some watercolour pencils
- some fountain drawing pens
- molotow white paint marker

I put the water brushes, fountain pens, and molotow marker in a ziplock. This way I can easily remove it and set it out if I'm going thru airline security and the plastic bags helps with any leaks I may have.

One hint I also usually put a paper towel in that plastic bag to absorb any leaks.  I find my fountain pens may leak a bit while flying due to cabin pressure.

This post ended up being longer than I expected, hopefully I didn't ramble too much.

See you next time.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Flower Letters

Welcome back to school everyone!

I have been seeing a lot of these flower letters lately but wasn't sure how successful it would be as a school project.

So I came up with an art hack to make it a bit easier.  Click on image to see larger.


- good painting paper, more about this in a minute
- disk tempera paint
- smallish paint brushes
- letters cut out with a cricut, Ellison machine, or just old fashioned template
- glue
- pencil


The paper I am using is this white construction paper by SunWorks.  I really like it.  The white is not actually construction paper but more like a good quality sketch paper with a bit of texture.  It works well as a student painting paper..... you will still have some buckling but it is much better than just regular paper.  It's cheap too :)

By all means you can use watercolour paper (wc) if you have it but it's pricey and out of most schools budgets these days.

First the HARD way, I traced out a letter on the paper in pencil.

Then using disk tempera and a small brush I began adding leaves and flowers. You need to maintain the edges of the letter so you need to be very careful while painting.

You also need way more flowers and leaves then you might think to get a good impression of the letter.

I don't know about you but I was thinking there has got to be an easier way for students.

So now the EASY way:

I still traced out a letter....

But this time I didn't really worry about maintaining the edges of my letter I just started painting.

I did this one with just leaves but again I am not worried about my edges.

I then take my letter tracer and trace and cut a letter out of poster board or painting paper. (You can also use your cricut or Ellison machine)

I then glue it into place on my painting.

I get the same effect but much easier.

Here is a side by side for you to compare.

Now you don't just have to do flowers. I did the all leaf one, a cactus one, and a sunflower one.

Here is a little cheat sheet on how I painted everything. (click to see larger)

Hope that gives you some inspiration and I will see you next time.