When 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 amazon.com and ordered it too.
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.
Saturday 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.
This week we had a paste paper day. It was the first for over two years, and we had to get back in the swing of it. Julia came, and Annie, and we each made some paste at home the night before. It was a first for Julia. Annie and I had done it many times before but neither of us could remember which recipe we used to cook the paste. Both of us used a different recipe and got different results. Julia used a third method.
My aim for the day was to make some good ‘pulled’ paste papers. This is done by putting two wet pieces of paste paper face together and pressing them down with your hands so that the paint transferred from each one to the other. Somehow we had a bit of trouble with getting interesting ones, whereas , beginners’ luck, we used to get wonderful ones in the past. The first pair of papers here are done this way, but the results weren’t the wonderful mossy marks we are used to getting. Maybe the paste was a little thin.
Later in the day, Annie made a great one by using a slightly larger sheet and folding it back on itself, giving the intricate patterns seen in the green-and-red and the blue-and-yellow-and green. These are my papers, made using this method. We were using slightly thicker paste by this time.
The last job of the day for me, late in the day given it is winter, was a final coat of silver on top of many coats on a paper I wasn’t happy with. Looking good. now!
One thing we learnt from the day,was that the papers done on thicker paper seemed to work out the best. It can’t be too thick, because it then can’t be used to cover book boards. Watercolour paper is both too thick and too absorbent. We used a lot of different papers including 110gsm cartridge paper. The very best paper, we got from a paper warehouse that has since closed down and of course we can’t get it any more.
Just before I went to Bali recently, I made two tiny notebooks. One for Broni, one for me. They were for writing down things like phone numbers, exchange rates, things like that. They were so useful that we pretty much filled them up. Well, when you’re working in millions of rupiah, all those zeros take up a lot of space.
We decided that we would need new ones for Europe, and that they would need to be a bit bigger. We will have train times to write down, a few more hotel phone numbers, and besides that, the trip goes on a lot longer. So, these new ones are A6 size, and the structure is a concertina with a signature sewn into each valley fold. They are stitched with pamphlet stitch, and a band of paper has been threaded through the stitching on the spine and glued into the cover to stop the concertina unfolding. The covers and endpapers are made from credit card papers.
We will be off at the end of the month…….Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Thailand. Send me a message if you want to catch up.
These are the papers I use to collage my sketchbook pages. I buy them from Artwise the Amazing Paper Shop. You can click on any of these images to get a better look!
I lay them on the sketchbook (in this case, a Stillman & Birn Delta series……nice and robust for this sort of work….pages don’t curl) and work out which pieces I will use. I always tear the papers rather than cut them.
I use Matisse Gel Medium, though other mediums would also be fine. Then I glue them against the pages of one of our local papers, the Inner West Courier, which has glossy paper so the newsprint doesn’t come off. One by one, I paint the medium onto the kozo paper, out past the edges, so any loose fibres will stick down. Then I place them on the sketchbook page and press them down.
I could go right ahead and put watercolour paint on now, but unless I am pressed for time I put waxed paper between the pages and let it dry overnight. In the morning I slosh on some watercolour paint. Sometimes I just use what is on my palette but if I think I am going to be painting sandstone I use some yellow ochre or raw sienna.
This page was used for the Sydney University archway sketch, and the one on the left in the picture of the sketchbook was for the tower and roof.
Though I haven’t been sketching much lately, I have been making cards with my Gelli prints. Many of the ones I’ve made previously have been on top of recycled etchings or other types of fine art prints. I made quite a number framed by white and cream (the eco dyed ones for example) so I decided I needed more brights. As it happens, the ones I chose to photograph this time are Gelli printed only.
The first one has been printed with a capsicum (green pepper) and some sewing cotton. It has some glorious colours in there, and of course I don’t have a clue what colours I used. Perhaps some Matisse Primary Red which is quite a blue-red.
The second one is with a commercially available stencil and another layer with some sewing cotton. There is a layer of yellow, some red, then some blue. I’ve noticed that I often use the three primary colours for Gelli printing. This one has some yellow, a warmer red, and some blue. I often use Matisse Southern Ocean Blue. I love that colour.
The third card uses the same colours, but could it be more different? It’s a combination of fruit and vegetable bags from the greengrocer.
Number four with the purple border is just gorgeous ‘in the flesh’. There’s some orange there, some magenta, and a colour that could be Australian Yellow Green. (All these colours are Matisse Flow, used about 50/50 with Matisse Open Medium.) This one is capsicum again, with I think lemons in a pale colour underneath. There are some filmy capsicums in iridescent on top.
The final one is a yellow first layer with sewing cotton, then lemons with green, followed by a stamp with a capsicum in Southern Ocean Blue.
They all have colour coordinated envelopes in brights that contrast with the main colour of the card.
A couple of weekends ago, Diana invited me to her house to try a bit of eco-dyeing on paper. She’s recently become very keen on it, and I’d popped over one other day to look at and be impressed by her results.
All I had to take with me was the paper, as Diana had collected and experimented with many kinds of plant matter. I took Strathmore Aquarius watercolour paper and some mixed media paper from Melbourne Etching supplies.
We made little parcels of our paper and plant matter and boiled them up. You are supposed to leave them to steep in the water overnight, but we couldn’t wait.
When I tell you about the results, you have to realise that the scans are not accurate. I’ll explain. The backing paper is a very deep cream, almost yellowish. In the top and bottom image, the greetings cards are cream, while in the middle one they are white. Fiddled in Photoshop but can’t get it accurate.
It is amazing the difference the paper makes to the results. Diana was using Arches 300gsm paper and that was by far the most colourful. The Strathmore was less colourful, but with distinct patterns transferred nevertheless. That paper is the one that doesn’t buckle when wet, so I’m assuming there is a different process when it is made. The Strathmore cards are the first and last images.
The centre image, on the white cards, is the mixed media paper. They are actually quite a bit paler than it shows in the scan. I wouldn’t use it again for this process as other papers have so much better results.
And the last image shows my new little rubber stamp that I got from Jemac Rubber Stamps to complete my greetings cards. Very reasonable, ordered Monday, arrived in the post friday and gives the cards a more professional finish.