Friday, January 27, 2012

The sketchbook project

In a few moments of decision over the Christmas Holiday, I signed up for the Sketchbook Project.  I went for it, the whole enchilada...and am so glad that I did.

When the sketchbook itself arrived, I was a bit disappointed.  It's a rather small and slim Moleskine with very light paper (suitable for drawing, but not for too much more).  The paper is a nice quality, and there are only 8 leaves in the (single) signature, making for about 15 double page spreads in total.  The cover is plain, recycled cardboard brown, and it has a little bar code on the back with my name and my theme, 'The Science Of Story'.

The plainness, the thinness of the sketchbook is part of the genius.  It really does represent the 'blank canvas', the emptiness on which we participants can improvise and riff our way to a completed book.  The 'rules' of the project allow for all kinds of shenanigans.  We can alter and replace, unbind and rebind, fold, cut and burn our books into almost anything we long as the final closed/storage size is the same width and length, and no thicker than 1".

Once I started playing around with actual images, doing paint sketches for the parts that were already clear in my mind, I realized that the best course of action for me is going to be to make the book as individual pages, then to assemble and bind them into the existing (or a modified) cover, replacing the existing paper.

I've rediscovered watercolour.  The existing book pages are too light to take the water and paint, and I have a block of bright white 100lb watercolour paper here to play, naturally I'll be making my book from the paper I have on hand.

I could probably fill over a hundred blog posts with all the things that I've forgotten about watercolour as a medium; the how-to's and all the little terminology items like, 'grisaille' and 'impasto'.  Been operating mostly on instinct, feeling my way around the medium again, relearning all the little things (like that I should have taped the dang paper down - fundamental, Lisa!!).

 I ended up doing two parallel paintings, both from the same base image/reference photo.  I wanted to try something that used a lot of heavy black, that let it run all over, that took multiple glazes of colour to bring to life, and something completely controlled, almost 'comic book' style for the actual title page.

The photo of the black and white self above and the one above left are two stages of the same painting.  The one above right is the grisaille, the one at left is after multiple washes were applied and let run around, doing their wonderful damage to the base image.  The final painting is very gestural and warm, with a lot of dimension.  It was a good way to play and loosen up so that I didn't get to tight doing the other image, the one that will probably end up being the title page of the book.

 This one had more steps and stages, and many, many more washes.  Using a totally different approach (but one I'm far more comfortable with), this one began with dropping in the shadow areas of the sketch.  Each layer applied overlaps and deepens the colour of the existing layers, while is translucent on the paper and other exposed areas.

If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you will remember that this is the same method used for 'Bacchanalia' and 'Blossom Lady' quilts.

I love the under painting stages every bit as much as the finishing, when it comes to this method.

The second picture is an intermediate stage that shows a few more layers dropped in.

The last photo here, at right, is the finished image.  Once the painting was all done, I went in with some fine tipped markers (black and brown) and tightened up here and there, creating greater definition and doing the lettering. This one will get a little work yet, as I need to balance the composition a bit more.  I'll probably do some nice lettering borrowing from what the project has already established, dropping 'the sketchbook project' into the upper left hand corner.

Next, I need to make some real decisions about how this is all going to go.  I have a loose idea, but am at the 'rubber hitting the road' stage, and need to just get working on the more difficult stuff.  Can't wait.


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