Category Archives: book art

The Circumetnea concertina book



I wrote before about the trip on the Circumetnea train. Finally I get to scan my little concertina book. It is 12cm high by 15cm wide, and there are eight pages.

It was a small, quaint little old train, and we had our books on our knees. We went between Catania and Randazzo (see map), and it took about two and a half hours. We sketched non-stop. I had three different ‘magic pencils’and four watercolour pencils, indigo, a dark green, yellow oxide and an earthy red. We went through many tunnels; there were no lights but we sketched on. More loopy cacti. At one point the carriage filled up with school children. They were very interested in what we were doing, but we had no time to stop. The book was substantially finished at the end of the journey. I added just a little more dark green and blue pencil, and then sploshed on some yellow watercolour, simply because there had been so much yellow in the wildflowers and vegetation.

I have always suspected that obsessive sketchers miss a lot while they have their nose in their sketchbooks. It’s true! I would have liked to go back to the beginning and to do it all again, so that I could look.

imageI haven’t put the covers on the book yet. I bought a lot of Italian decorative papers in Rome, where I found some shops off the tourist trail that had wonderful papers. I think I will go with my first choice, which is the simplest. I don’t want to overwhelm the drawings. These are just a few of what I have.

(Just a little diversion from Bologna, while I put colour on a very complex sketch that I did in pencil in a museum. Done now. Posting that tomorrow.)


Filed under artist's book, book art, Etna, Italy, magic pencils, Sicily, sketching, watercolour, watercolour pencils

Sloshing more water around…

fabriano_bookI made a book for myself from Fabriano paper for when I come home from my travels, because I am using more water when I paint recently and want to use more still. It takes five sheets to make two books this size. I made the red one for a friend, so this one is for me. I chose the Canaletto paper for my travels because it is so robust and served me well last time. But I think the watercolour moves better on the Fabriano paper. I will have to wait and see. The books are just under eight inches square, but the Canaletto is slightly longer in the portrait format and the Fabriano in the landscape format. A good size when you open it up to a full spread.

I chose this blue and green because it appeals to me even though it is so simple. It has only one coat of paste, then it was scraped with a cheap plastic scraper from the two dollar shop. You can see the brush marks, and now you know that with this most recent batch of paste paper I used a house-paint brush. Sometimes I use a one inch imitation sable, but you can cover the ground faster with a two or three inch brush. I like the brush strokes showing.

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Filed under acrylic paint, book art, decorated papers, paste papers, sketchbook

Sketchbooks for Italy

three_booksI am going to Italy well armed with sketchbooks. The first three weeks (in Sicily) will be a workshop including drawing, printmaking and bookmaking. I have already made my books. I liked the format I used on my last trip, and the Canaletto paper is very robust, so I decided to go that way again.

robyns_red_bookThe red one with the medallion is not for me. It is for a gift for a friend, and it is Fabriano hot press paper, hence the slightly different format. I like the way the paint moves on this paper, so my next trip I will use Fabriano, though the paper is thinner…200gsm I think. Canaletto is 300gsm. The Fabriano makes a thinner book with the same amount of pages. Lighter too, I suppose.

The red paste paper (above) was made on one of the scarce sunny days we have had recently. I made a whole lot more paste papers, but I still need to photograph them.


vasari_bookYou will have seen the stencilled papers before. So now the yellow one inspired by Sicilian ceramics is bound, and the other red  is pierced, ready to bind. I will take my needle and thread with me, in case I decided to re-bind on my travels. I am taking print-making paper (BFK Rives), cut to size. I may decide to re-order my pages, so the binding of the yellow may be cut up and done again. Taking an unbound book also means I can take just some pages with me if that would be useful.

This red paper  is recycled stencils from my Bologna artist’s book. This time I have decided to call it my Vasari book, as although I am going to Bologna, I will also be in Arezzo for a week, where there is Vasari’s house and arches as well.

As for endpapers, my two books are plain. But the one that is for a gift has amazing endpapers. I can’t show you. Something has to be a surprise.


Filed under acrylic paint, artist's book, book art, decorated papers, Italy, paste papers, sketchbook, stencils, Travel

Notebook for Sicily

notebook_materials Currently I am working on sketchbooks and notebooks for my trip to Sicily and Italy. I always like to take a notebook with  me. It helps when I don’t remember what I did the day before yesterday, and I have still to write in my sketchbook. It holds the addresses and phone numbers of hotels, and the times of trains.

I found this piece of Gelli print for the cover. You can see a video of my demonstration of Gelli printing here, and maybe I even made this print while I was demonstrating that dasicily_notebooky. More also on the Gelli Arts blog. It is full of great ideas.

This notebook is A6 size. It has six signatures sewn into a concertina, then it has bands glued under the endpapers to hold it together. The Gelli cover is two layers, a lemon, and a mesh of onion bag. Colours are Matisse Emerald and Australian Red Violet. Both with Open Medium. The endpapers are Credit Card Papers. There’s another demo video of that (and paste papers).

Now I can start writing in it. I’m looking forward to filling it up on my travels.

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Filed under acrylic paint, book art, decorated papers, Gel printing, Gelli Plate, Gelli printing

Going travelling again

sicily_paperA slow festive season for me this year, and not even as much art work done as I would like.  But these I DID do. They are about A2 size, and they are meant for cover papers for new sketchbooks.  More sketchbooks you say? Yes, I’m going travelling again soon in a little while. Back to Italy again. Via Hong Kong this time.

bologna_paperI will be doing an art workshop in Sicily. As you can see, it is right up my street, with bookmaking printmaking and sketching. It will be wonderful, making art and seeing Sicily with like-minded people. I decided to make some sketchbooks before I go. I will do the same as I did with my last trip and take some prepared collage and acquire the rest.  I will take another one unbound (well, ready for stitching) so that I can put prints into it that I make in Sicily.

I wanted to do some cover papers that were different from my paste paper ones. This yellow one was inspired by this blog and the colours of the ceramics of Sicily. I used a stencil and many layers. It took some time. Not only do I have to wait for the paper to dry, but also the stencils and the little foam rollers.

For my second paper I reused the stencils I cut myself for my artists book of Bologna that was acquired by Southern Cross University. I am going to spend a whole week in Bologna this time, and from there I will go to Arezzo for almost a week. There are arches in Arezzo too, the birthplace of Vasari. Though Arezzo doesn’t have the red. The Bologna paper hasn’t scanned so well. It has many layers of different reds, topped by layers of metallics (gold, bronze, copper). It looks pretty good IRL.

Thanks to Mary Ann Moss I watched this wonderful video about book-making at the Penland School. I picked up such a good idea from it; to make a frame the size of the book cover and move it around the paper to choose the best place. I do that visually already, but a frame is a great idea. And I think I need  to make some more paste papers after watching this also.

I have a paste paper book by Diane Maurer-Mathieson which is excellent. Amazon doesn’t have it now, but Abebooks does.


Filed under artist's book, book art, decorated papers, Italy, sketchbook, Travel

Something unexpected happened…

blue_sketchbook_2013When I got back from my trip to Europe, my adult nephew from Brisbane came down to visit. I showed him my travel sketchbook. after a while he said, ‘I would like to do that. But I failed drawing when I was six’.  And then he said, ‘But then again, I do technical drawings for my work.’ I said, well, in that case you can do it. Anyone can do it. I showed him Danny Gregory’s book The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are. I also gave him some paper and a pen. He  sketched several times a day for the next few days, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was reading Danny’s book. He got on to and ordered it too.geoff_book_cover

Then I gave him a sketchbook – a bought one – but he expressed the wish to make one like mine. A few weekends later he came down again ‘to go sketching’.  The weather forecast wasn’t good, so I went up to the art shop and bought enough Canaletto paper to make two books. Just as well.

So Friday night we talked sketching and painting and he ordered The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium. I have a review half-written to post on this blog. This book is perspective but so much more. He also ordered The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: A treasury of watercolor secrets discovered through decades of painting and experimentation. This is two books in one and has everything you need to know about watercolour, particularly for landscape.

geoff_book_insideSaturday it poured with rain. I made the blue book above. I really loved this format while I was travelling, and I think I will stick to it for a while. My nephew chose some of my paste paper in burnt sienna and green for his covers, and an old map for the end papers. He had never done this before, but he took to coptic binding like a duck to water. Stitching faster than me, and a beautiful professional result. He has every right to be proud of it.

Then later he looked at some more of my books and ordered Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, and also  The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World. I think you could say he is hooked.


Filed under book art, books, decorated papers, sketchbook