Handmade Sketching Journals

16 December, 2018. I made up a few sketching journals last week and almost as an afterthought posted photos of the results. I do this to document my process and thinking, so I was caught by surprise by the reaction: a lot of people contacted me privately, they wanted to know more. A few asked if I would construct a journal for them.

My answer was no. I make sketching journals that are customized to my needs and wants. They are made to various non-standard sizes I like, using my favorite papers, some of which are not available in sketchbook formats. I only make these three or four or five at a time, so doing this as a “commercial venture” would not be a good business model. Plus, it’s fun to do and I encourage others to jump on board and enjoy the rewards of “making” yourself.

This is what a sketching journal looks like when I pull it off the shelf. It’s very simple – in this case, it’s just a piece of colored poster board cut to size, scored in two places to allow for the thickness of a sheaf of paper to be inserted, then folded into a “portfolio.”

Here you can see the depth of the sheaf of art paper, which is slightly thinner than the gusset I’ve scored and folded.

The paper is dimensionally smaller than the fold size of the cover. I do this to protect the art paper.

The art paper is concertina-folded. The sheaf of art paper is comprised of several concertina-fold pamphlets. I like to leave any deckle or rough edges showing whenever feasible.

Importantly, I don’t bind the paper into the portfolio-style cover. Much experimentation with hand made journals has led me to conclude that accordion-fold signatures are too awkward to work with in situ. By leaving the sheaf loose leaf, I wind up with far more sketching options. 

First off, I remove one pamphlet at a time, and only as I need a new drawing surface. The other pamphlets remain safely between the covers, usually stowed in my sketching kit. Secondly, the format allows me to consider options of working on a single panel, or on multiples – in either horizontal or vertical orientation. Should I choose to pursue an extreme horizontal or vertical, that option is viable. It’s much easier to handle a thin pamphlet than it is to awkwardly wrestle a book offering the same folding patterns.

The paper I’ve used in this most recent stack is two of my favorite to draw and paint upon: Strathmore Aquarius II and Stillman and Birn Nova Series (grey).

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