Friday, November 30, 2018

Early Autumn Sketchbook Bound (Plus Biennial Sketchbook Angst)

My sketches from August through October are within.

I finally got around to binding my sketches from August through October. On the covers are the east side of Green Lake (one of my favorite fall color sketches this year) and the crazy cell tower on Queen Anne Hill.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I went through sketchbook angst, and it seems to be that time again. I’ve been mostly happily binding my own sketchbooks since 2013. Hand binding meets all my sketchbook needs perfectly: I can use any papers I want while keeping my sketches roughly in chronological sequence; I can carry a slim signature at a time instead of a bulky, heavy commercial sketchbook; I enjoy the Coptic stitching process; it’s significantly less expensive than buying commercial sketchbooks. And yet . . .

Making the covers has become a tedious rather than an enjoyable process. I looked for alternative materials to the chipboard I’ve been using – something that could perhaps be painted with acrylic instead of covered with paper – but nothing has been quite right. If I could stitch the signatures without covers, I would, but the Coptic binding stitch needs some kind of support. I’ve even considered simply storing the completed signatures on a bookshelf as they are without binding them together, which would certainly be the fastest process of all. But I do love the bookness of collecting several months’ worth of sketches into a volume. It gives me a very satisfying sense of order and completion that a stack of loose signatures does not.

So here I am again considering switching to Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbooks. Carrying one is heavier and bulkier than a single signature, and I’ll have to constantly choose which book to take when I leave the house (Beta for watercolor pencil sketches? Epsilon for graphite? Nova for toned paper?). My sketches will be scattered among several books instead of in chronological order. And then there’s the mechanical issue I discovered two years ago that made me return to binding my own again: Although the softcover binding opens flat, I can’t fold back the side I’m not using – a major benefit of my DIY signatures when I’m sketching while standing.

I’ll soon be choosing one of the S & B softcovers for my annual winter minimal sketch kit challenge. That experience will refresh my memory of how it feels to use one on location again (I use them regularly in my studio). We’ll see if that increases my angst or leads to a resolution.


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