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March 15, 2008

Recycling an Old Book as a Watercolor Sketchbook

Robyn of Have Dogs, Will Travel asked if I was planning to put a demonstration of this technique on my blog - and I'm having so much fun making these journals that I quickly said "yes."

I like to look for old books that are a specific size.  The most important thing for me is the price and condition of the cover, but I also love one with illustrations and an interesting theme.  Most of the books I have are more than 50 years old - and they cost $1-2.  They are on the final sale cart and will be discarded if not sold.  I love giving them a new life.

I first learned about recycling books as journals from Jan of ...In My Spare Time and loved how she used the theme of her book to match the destination of her travel to Provence. 

Required Tools:


From Top to bottom - a bone folder to press folds and to smooth the paper onto a surface when gluing; an 18mm Olfa rotary cutter that I use for cutting the watercolor paper and the end papers; a craft knife for removing the original text block from the book.

Step 1.  Carefully remove the original text block using a craft knife to cut through the fold between the block and the end paper.   I look for books that are made of multiple signatures that are not glued directly to the spine.  This is what the book cover looks like after the block has been removed.


I mistakenly sliced into the spine book cloth recently and had to reinforce it by gluing on a piece of muslin to strengthen it.  This is a photo of the inside of the cover after the muslin was attached and the outside of the cover to show the repair.  This is the book that will be photographed in the remainder of these entries.  I love it and was upset with my carelessness.



Step 2.  Preparing the New Folios of Watercolor Paper:

Carefully pick apart the original signatures from the book in order to obtain one folio for a pattern for cutting the watercolor paper.  I also always save the title page to include in my new journal and select illustrations.

This is a folio from Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.  It was the pattern that I used to cut watercolor paper with a metal ruler, the Olfa rotary cutter, and a self-sealing mat.  I discovered that the metal ruler was essential as I sliced a few of my plastic ones.  I also prefer the rotary cutter to a craft knife.  I used 140 lb. watercolor paper for the folios and made 5 signatures for this book.  As I folded each folio, I pressed the fold with my bone folder and then decided how many folios I could put into each signature and how many signatures fit into the original spine area.


Here are the 5 signatures:


Here are the signatures loosely placed in the original book cover to make sure that I have the right number of pages to fill out the spine:


Step 3.  Stitching the Signatures Together: 

The method that I use to stitch the signatures together is outlined with illustrations by Martha of Trumpetvine Travels.  She inserts watercolor paper into small Moleskine journals, but told me I could still use 5 holes for the stitching in my larger format books. 

I make a punching guide from a piece of card stock, making the first hole one inch from each end, a third hole in the middle, and the two remaining holes somewhere in-between.  

I use our Manhattan phone book as my base (Thank you, Gwenn Diehn).   Using the 5 hole guide, I punch all 5 holes in each signature with an awl. 



This is what all 5 signatures look like after the holes are punched:


I use bookbinder's linen thread and a darning needle originally given to me by Gwen Diehn in an evening workshop where we made 2 signature/pamphlet stitched journals.  I cut my thread 5 times the height of the book cover plus a little more.



In this book I markeded the top of each signature with the letters A-E (for 5 signtaures) in the upper right corner in pencil so I knew that the signature with the title page was added last - and that all pages with writing were in the correct orientation.  Martha starts her sewing with "A" so this is really the last signature in your book.  "E" is my first signature and gets sewn on last.

I follow Martha's stitching method, keeping a printout of those 2 pages in front of me at all times.  I use a kettle stitch (also called a half hitch) when passing the thread under the stitches holding the signatures together.  In the instructions, these steps begin when attaching the 3rd signature (C) to the 1st and second (A and B).

This is what the new watercolor block looks like after the signatures are sewn together:


Step 4.  Attaching the End Papers

The end papers are glued onto paper block and onto the original book cover to hold the new paper block in the cover. 

I love selecting end papers that add a little more fun to my finished book.  I used a map of Italy for my Michaelangelo sonnet book, a NYC subway map for my NY State Tax report book, and an illustration of the human skeleton for my second figure drawing book.  I selected a map of the US for this book because Parnassus on Wheels is a horse drawn "bookmobile" and the major characters set off on an adventure to sell books.   All of these papers are available by the sheet in art stores or paper stores.  The biggest selection here in NYC is at Kate's Paperie.

I use the original folio and my rotary cutter as a pattern to cut the end papers and then fold them in half right sides together.  One half of the folio will be glued onto the book cover.  The other half will be glued along the fold edge (approximately 1/2 to 3/4" to the paper block).


They must now be glued onto the front and the back of the watercolor block.  I use PVA glue and a bookbinder's glue brush - and follow a technique I saw demonstrated by "Paper Source" at a craft show.

 The Method:  Lay the fold of the end paper between two sheets of newspaper, allowing 1/2-3/4" of the end paper to be exposed.  Soak the glue brush in water and then shake it almost dry.  Ihen dip it in the glue and start brushing on glue from the center out - making sure to cover the surface completely.  Then glue the fold of the end paper over the edge of the watercolor block - making sure that all designs are oriented in the proper direction.

The consistency of the glue is really important and if the brush is too wet, the glue is too thin and it is a mess!  Been there and done that! 

Here is the end paper ready for the glue to be applied:     


Here is the block after the end paper is attached.  At this point I wrap it in wax paper, put it under some heavy books/trays to weight it down and allow the glue to dry overnight.       


Step 5.  Attaching the Watercolor Block to the Original Book Cover:

Place a piece of newspaper in the fold of the end paper to protect the watercolor block while applying glue and use the same method to brush on PVA outlined above.


Then carefully glue the front and the back end papers to the book cover - positioning them exactly - and then "rubbing" them well with the bone folder to make sure there are no bubbles and that the paper is in contact with every part of the book cover.  I then wrap the book in wax paper again, weight it, and allow it to dry overnight.  This is what the front and back endpapers looked like in Parnassus on Wheels. 



Step 6.  Covering up the Gaps Between Signatures.

I don't like the gaps between the signatures and actually like having strips of the end papers on my watercolor pages.  I therefore cut 1 1/2 inch strips of the ends papers and glue them over the gap using the same method of glue application.  Here is the gap which I can't prevent with this paper regardless of how much I tighten the thread while stitching.


Here is the gap after I cover it with end papers:


Here is my finished book - with a few of the original pages that I inserted because I love the illustrations.



I purchased several bookbinding "how-to" books when I was trying to figure out how to recycle a book inserting watercolor paper.  None of them were sufficient by themselves - so I hope that these illustrations are helpful.  I have to thank Jan and Martha for being so patient with me and answering all of my questions.

March 1, 2008

Pearl Paint - New York City


This past Wednesday I was completely free to play - no work or other scheduled activities.  So I headed off for Soho for a visit to Pearl Paint and some of the galleries in the area.  I only had several items on my art supply list, but I always love browsing at Pearl.  It has one below ground floor and 5 above ground floors.  This trip I purchased watercolor paper for my next recycled book and several pencils, but seriously wondered if I should begin to invest in some 5ml tubes of Schminke watercolor paints since there seems to be so much enthusiasm for the brightness of their pigments.  Each 5ml tube (1 tsp) is $12-15 so I would only start with 3 primary colors - but then I wondered if they should be cool or warm primaries since I use both to mix colors with my Winsor-Newton paints.  So I didn't get any.

Gallery-hopping is always one of my favorite activities in Soho, even though many/most galleries relocated to Chelsea and on Wednesday I was not disappointed.  I discovered several new artists and saw lots of "eye-candy."

This sketch was done from a photo I took of Pearl Paint from the other side of busy Canal Street.  It is much too cold right now in NYC to work outdoors - especially in my shearling mittens.  It is on "rough" watercolor paper which I now know I hate!  But when I recycled my NY State Tax Book last year I filled it with many types of paper so I could decide what I preferred.  It didn't take me long to settle on HP 140lb paper. 


February 29, 2008

Recycled Book #5

I love making recycled books in order to replace the text block with watercolor paper.  This is another one of my $1.00 books and is the perfect size for me - 5.5 inches X 7.5 inches.  And it is portrait orientation which I really prefer.  I was only able to buy Arches 140lb HP paper the day I went to Pearl Paint so I used it for books #4 and 5.  My next book will have Fabriano 140lb HP so I'll be able to compare.  Someday soon I hope to teach myself (or take a one day workshop) to learn how to make my own covers.  I love traditional book covers and by the time that I recycle them, they are wonderfully worn and unbelievably sturdy.  I also really enjoy having pages from the original book included - it adds a certain charm that I love.  I don't know what material I would use if I made my own covers.



This book is a series of lectures by CP Snow on Science and Government.  Seemed really fitting for my career in science/medicine since I've depended on government funding for programs in the medical school my entire life.  Here is the original title page - the book was published in 1961 and is >50 years old like my other forgotten, almost discarded, recycled books.   


I selected end papers of E.H. Shepherd's original Pooh drawings.  Our daughter's house in London was not far from A.A.Milne's home, CP Snow is from the UK, and Pooh's befuddled, bemused expressions seemed to  fit the theme of politicians wanting the best science, but always cutting the government science budgets to train physicians and support research.    


  I also used the Pooh paper to cover the small gaps between signatures.  I actually love working on those pages and will probably always add these pieces, even if I get better at sewing the signatures together.         




February 9, 2008

Recycled Book + Figure Drawing


I am really enjoying the recycled books I made (originally inspired by Jan Allsopp - and now made with Martha's methods)  and was ready for a new one.  My recycled Michaelangelo Sonnet book is completed -  full of my "figure and face drawings" - so I was looking for a good replacement.  This 1960 $1.00 book purchased on the final sale cart at Housingworks in Soho was a perfect candidate.  The cover measures 5.5" X 8" and is really sturdy.  I was able to put 4 signatures of 140 lb Arches hot press paper inside.  Each signature contains 3 folios of WC paper, one folio of brown Canson paper for sketching, and one folio from the original book.  The end papers that hold the page block in place are anatomical drawings.



The spine is not glued so it opens very flat, but this means that in spite of tight stitching there are small gaps between the signatures.  I therefore put a thin strip of the anatomical drawing paper over each gap for aesthetic purposes.  Martha paints the inside of her Moleskine cover spine black instead.


One of the joys, for me, of recycling old books is being able to include pages from the original text - the cover page and at least a few others.  Here is an example of one of the pages, with an illustration that I selected.


I need to overcome new journal angst as quickly as possible or I might not ever want to use the book for fear of ruining it.  I immediately added both a figure sketch and a face sketch - and hopefully I'm on my way to a new adventure.




December 27, 2007

Art Progress 2007

Progress Report for 2007

I copied my Goals from the 2006-2007 Progress/Goals entry on this blog and recorded 2007 PROGRESS after each Goal.  I am currently reflecting on where I am and where I want to be at the end of 2008, so my 2008 GOALS will be posted this weekend.

1. Continue to sketch/paint everyday in my large Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

 I did do a daily sketch - and sometimes 2-3.  On a few days when I was too busy to even open my sketchbook, I did my daily sketch the next morning and then another one at my usual time in the evening.  The majority of my sketches are pen with watercolor washes.  Most of the time I used the large Moleskine watercolor journal (I'm halfway through the 5th for the year), but I also added sketches to my London sketchbooks and all 3 recycled books that I made. 

2. Complete each EDM weekly challenge and try to expand my skills by what I choose to paint for the challenge.

For the second year, I did all of the EDM Challenges in the 3-10 days after they were posted and tried to stretch my skills slightly by what I chose to sketch.  I posted all of them on my blog, as one of my planned 2 entries per week.

3. Make plans for how I will use my new Eliz. I recycled book.  I'm currently considering using it for more London sketches -  from photos that I have taken during our visits.  I have another Cachet journal for my London Travel Sketchbook Volume 3 and decided that I want to continue to use the same journal type for all of my London travel

I completed 3 full Cachet Linen Watercolor sketchbooks during our London travels.  There are approximately 150 pages in total from our 6 visits to London - my goals certainly were exceeded and I will always treasure these books.  One sketch that I never posted was added as the final page to honor the birth of our grandson last Christmas in London.  This sketch was made using colored pencil from a postcard I purchased at the Guercino drawing exhibit we saw at the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House.


My Eliz. I recycled book has been used for playful sketches of Big Ben and most recently the Tower of London from photos that I took - using different techniques, even collage.  If you look closely you can see I used the Holbein Henry VIII painting from the Tate Britain exhibit for the collage.



4.  Recycle another book since I have more paper from my previous purchase.  This time I will look for an old New York book that I can use for special days out and about my own city.

I recycled two additional books - one for New York and one Michaelangelo Sonnet bookfor some of my figure drawings.   

5.  Spend more time sketching human faces and figures.  I'm not sure yet whether I want to take any life drawing classes because I love the challenge of learning on my own.  I collected some copies of Holbein's portraits and Rodin's figure drawings from our museum visits this week.  And I now own two Hockney drawing/portrait books.  I will recreate some of these pieces from the 16th C, 19th C, and 20th C for fun and then immerse myself in my city and draw people to try to develop my own style. 

I was very productive sketching figures - or body parts - and almost filled my recycled Michaelangelo Sonnet book for some of the sketches and my Moleskine for the rest.  I alternated among Derwent light wash pencils, Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils, Zig Millenium pen with watercolor wash, and 2B pencils for the sketches. 

My references included:  Greek and Roman sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photos of dancers, photos of nude figures from an artist book  I purchased just for these exercises (The Nude Figure by Mark Smith), and occasionally even real people!  But very few of my figures have faces - a goal for 2008!

6.  Read some of the new art books on my shelf - starting with Betty Edward's book on color.

I continue to read art technique books, but never opened Betty Edward's book.  This year I did 5 lessons from a Watercolor Skills book by Linda Elsworth.  There are 5 more lessons to do, but I was temporarily derailed by a lesson on landscapes, my least favorite type of sketching/painting. 

In May 2007 I decided to finally start an Eric Maisel book entitled The Creativity Book - a year's worth of inspiration and guidance (it has been on my shelf for several years).   There are 2 exercises to complete per week and I am now on Week 31!  I have done some sketching and painting, but mostly writing, as I explore creativity in general and my creative dreams in particular. 

7.  Make a "larger-than-journal size" watercolor painting of the house my daughter and son-in-law rented this year in London so we have a personal visual memory of this wonderful year when they return to New York mid-year.

I did this painting and included it as part of a big "London" Christmas gift that I gave to my daughter and son-in-law.  The gift also included a DVD of all of the photos (1000s) that I took of their family and London and a Guest Book that our family kept everytime we visited them.  I printed some of my sketches for the book and even included an essay re: my reflections on our visits.  I was also able to make a photo collage of them at the moment when they were leaving New York in May 2006 and then leaving London in June 2007.  The children grew lots during the year and and another grandson was born there mid-year.


8.  Be a visitor in my own city and keep a Manhattan "travel" journal.  I now have scattered journal pages throughout my daily sketchbooks

I did continue to sketch in NYC throughout the year - and even started a series of sketches entitled "10 blocks from Home."  My New York City sketches, however, are scattered through my New York recycled book and my regular Moleskine sketchbook.  This occurred because I used whatever book I had with me when I decided to sketch.  Since I use both sides of a page in my Moleskine, I can't easily move these sketches - and I just have to be OK about this level of disorganization!

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