Sometime last year, I decided to create a nice big sketchbook with fabric covers, pretty end papers, and filled with Bockingford 200 lb cold press watercolor paper. I settled on the size (12″ square), pulled supplies from the ridiculous stacks of fabric, paper, and other things hoarded in my studio over the years, cut the cover boards and paper, stitched the signatures together using coptic stitching (which I’m not very good at), glued fabric on the cover boards, applied end papers, did some decorative stamping, added an envelope on the inside back cover, and voilà: richly-appointed, custom-made sketchbook! All in all, it took me about four hours–a pleasant but very focused evening of creative effort.
It turned out beautifully. So beautifully that I didn’t want to paint in it for fear I’d “ruin” it. So on the shelf it sat for months. But finally I decided I just needed to treat it like any other sketchbook and not be afraid to play in it. So I took it with me to an event and sat all day sketching.
Once I started putting some sketches in there, the fear of messing it up dissipated and now it is my favorite sketchbook to work in. One of the reasons is the paper. Bockingford is a cellulose based paper with (I believe) some rag content, so it is quite affordable and (unlike many cellulose papers) a true pleasure to work on. It is heavily sized so the paint just flows on and sits there dancing around on the surface. Because I used 200 lb weight, it can take a lot of very wet washes with no buckling. It’s especially fun to work on when using granulating pigments because the cold press surface has quite a toothy texture. Granulated pigments settle out beautifully. The only trick to it is that paint lifts *very* easily so glazes have to be done with care. In my opinion, this paper is more suitable for wet-in-wet work rather than lots of glazing, although if you were using staining colors they might not lift so readily.
Here are some of the sketches so far. Have you ever heard how you’re not supposed to wear bright colored clothing when painting because it can reflect on the paper and affect your sense of color? Same is true when taking photos! The pinkish tones visible in the lower half of some of the sketches below are the result of color reflected from my neon pink t-shirt. Oops!
Now that the curse of the unsullied page is broken, I’m looking forward to filling this sketchbook. After which I will make another one similar to it. I recently rediscovered some beautiful fabric I forgot I had that I’ve set aside for the cover. Eventually, I WILL use up all this stuff I have hoarded in my studio over the years! I just need to sketch faster…
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