WIP: DIY Re-Binding Project

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my notebooks and sketchbooks. I also keep a calendar-style scrapbook, using a 9” x 12” wirebound mixed media Strathmore Visual Journal as the substrate. Each two-page spread covers a single month. I glue in decorative paper, photographs, ticket stubs, and ephemera I’ve found along the way.

By the end of 2013, my scrapbook documented two years of my life. It had grown fatter than its spiral binding could accommodate, even after I removed six months’ worth of unused pages from the back of the book. It clearly needed to be re-bound with a larger spine to allow the pages to turn freely.

I decided to re-bind it by hand. I could have taken it to the office supply store and paid them to rebind it for me, but I decided to re-bind it myself. I purchased a pack of wire binding spines and a pack of spiral binding spines from the craft store, pulled out my pliers, and got down to business.

After prying open the existing wire binding, I removed it and inserted the new wire spine into the holes. That was the easy part. Closing the wire was more of a challenge. Machines that can do the job more quickly and with more grace, but I was doing it by hand. I struggled with the first few teeth, but it got easier after I inserted two wooden dowels to use as leverage. (One larger dowel would have worked, but I used what I had on hand.) The result is a little messy and uneven, but the new spine gives my scrapbook pages room to breathe.

I decided to rebind my current scrapbook using the spiral binding and limiting the number of pages to just cover the current year. Spiral binding is much easier than wire to insert by hand — you just keep threading it through the holes as you twist it in, then finish by bending a little tail on each end to prevent it from working itself out. The result is cleaner and looks more professional.

When I do this again (because you know I will), I will definitely use the spiral binding spines.

Notebook binding

Notebook binding

Notebook binding

Notebook binding

Notebook binding

Notebook binding/

Notebook binding

Notebook binding

WIP: Life’s Too Short; Use The Good Stuff.

Have you ever thought about what the phrase “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” really means? It’s another way of saying that you can’t make a high-quality product from poor-quality materials.

Don’t waste your time and money using cheaply made, sub-standard materials; it will only cause you frustration and end with work you simply aren’t satisfied with.

If you want to produce quality product, use quality materials. (If you are patient enough to wait for a sale and/or use the right coupons, you CAN get good materials at an affordable price.)

Take a look at these canvas-covered panels, to which I’ve applied a thin wash of fluid acrylic.

  • The panel on the top is from a store-brand “value pack” made in China and purchased at a big-name craft store.
  • The panel on the bottom is a Utrecht Studio 100% Primed Cotton Canvas Board made with 7oz primed cotton canvas mounted on heavyweight multi-ply board.

See the difference? The value panel resists the paint and creates a weak, splotchy mess, while the quality panel accepts the paint evenly.

Quality does matter. Life’s too short to spend your creative time re-working a splotchy mess. Use the good stuff.

Good stuff on the left, not -so-good stuff on the right.

Good stuff on the left, not-so-good stuff on the right.

Art Journal Workshop 1: Do-over

My first attempt at the Strathmore Visual Journal workshop exercise was less than satisfying. I didn’t like working with the oil pastels. I thought the charcoal dirtied up the page. I didn’t have gesso, so I used a semi-opaque watercolor instead.

So I decided I needed a do-over, using materials that I’m more comfortable with. After all, they keep saying it’s all about the process, right?

Art Journal Workshop 1.2 - Materials

Steps from Lesson 1

  • I resized the sketches and reformatted the text and printed them out.
  • I prepped a two-page spread with a random application of turquoise watercolor, added texture, stenciled stars, and random sprays of ultramarine blue.
  • Strips of blue metallic tissue paper provided my vertical element.
  • After topping it with my sketches and text, I brushed on a light wash of my turquoise watercolor to tone down the white and darken some of the shadow areas.

Art Journal Workshop 1.2 - Supervisor Art Journal Workshop 1.2 - Lesson 1

Steps from Lesson 2 and Lesson 3

  • I added a few details and “underjournaling” in white crayon, which will provide a resist under the next layer of water-based color.
  • Using Derwent Graphitint and Inktense water-soluable pencils and an unknown brand of watercolor crayon, I added the shading in blue and purple, and highlights in yellow and green.
  • A thin application of white gouache enabled me to smooth out and re-establish the white areas, and to add highlights to the eyes. I then added more shading and color.
  • For the stars, I made a stencil using cardstock and a punch.
  • I used a blue Faber-Castel brush pen to re-darken the text.

Art Journal Workshop 1.2 - Lesson 2 and 3

Lesson 4 is still a mystery. I expect we’ll be able to access the video for it this weekend.

Artist Journal Workshop 1: Continued

In an earlier post, I shared my work-in-progress for the Strathmore Visual Journal Workshop 1. Picking up where I left off, I began adding other media to the now-dry collage page.

Lesson 2 called for adding more layers and color to the page, such as using gesso to paint over unwanted elements, adding “under-journaling” using graphite, enhancing the depth and shape of the elements using charcoal, adding color with oil pastels, and pulling it all together with a gesso wash.

Lesson 3 called for adding more color and texture to the negative space and image elements with oil pastel, re-doing outlines with pencil, and adding hints of color throughout.

I made an honest attempt to follow instructions, but ultimately my method varied in several respects.

Layer 4 — The instructions called for adding lines with graphite and then shadows and depth with charcoal. I also added conte’ crayon because I liked way the reddish color echoed the layer of scrapbook paper. The charcoal just seems harsh and dirty.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 4

Layer 5 — The instructions called adding color with oil pastel, and then giving the whole thing a light wash of gesso. I used oil pastels as instructed, but I simply did not like working with them, and I’m unhappy with the effect. (For more on that part of the process, see “Warming up oil pastels: Cup Warmer vs Warm Cat”.) I couldn’t find my gesso, so I used light washes of white gouche and a mostly-opaque flesh-tone watercolor to tie the elements together.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 5

Layer 6 — I added more color using watercolor, a step that was not in the original lesson.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 6

Layer 7 — The graphite disappeared completely into the page, so I used ink where I wanted to see the lines. This is where I stopped, after adding more color, more charcoal, more oil pastel, and ink. I probably should have stopped sooner. Like the page says, you’ve gotta start somewhere. Knowing where to stop is something entirely different.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 7

I still don’t know what Lesson 4 will hold, but I bet it involves adding more layers to this piece. I’d like to try a do-over, using only the materials I’m comfortable with.

Warming up oil pastels: Cup Warmer vs Warm Cat

I’ve been doing an art journal workshop, which specified oil pastels in the materials list. The object is to add color while also providing a water-resistant quality in the work.

I’m not a fan of oil pastels. I find them greasy and unappealing. I bought a set of Cray-Pas a couple of years ago at Cargo Largo, but I’ve hardly used them. They are just not “my thing”.

Being open to new experiences, I dug out my sad, unloved box of Cray-Pas for this workshop assignment. Due to neglect, or perhaps the chilly room temperature, they were hard, scratchy, and unwilling to blend on the page. I needed to warm them up.

My hands, which are nearly as cold as the room, failed to soften the pastels enough to blend easily. I briefly considered sticking them in the microwave for a few seconds, but decided that may result in failure of epic proportions.

I considered the other two heat sources at hand: a USB-driven cup warmer and a warm cat.

warming pastels 1 - cup warmer warming pastels 2 - warm cat

  • On the cup warmer, I placed several pastels on a scrap of aluminum foil.
  • Under the warm cat, I placed the rest of the pastels, still in their box.
  • After 10 minutes, I tested the results.

The pastels warmed under the cat were only slightly more blendable than the ones at room temperature.

The pastels warmed on the cup warmer were significantly more blendable than the ones at room temperature and the ones at cat temperature. I used these to continue the workshop exercise.

warming pastels 3 - results

I’m still not a fan of oil pastels. They feel like sludge under my fingers, they don’t resist the water-based layer as well as pure wax or crayon, they’re useless for detail, and they clog up my pens and pencils on subsequent layers. This sad, unloved box of Cray-Pas is going back into my box of seldom-used supplies.