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1. The beginnings of Firefly Hollow. A fortunate delay, a change of venue, the kindness of neighbors, and finally...taking my own advice


The fortunate delay.


It was one of those rare times in publishing where there was a lull in the constant demand of my production schedule.
I was waiting for feedback from a publisher on a final round of sketches for a picture book.
In the past, I would have begun feverishly scratching away at the waiting heap of work for the next book. But there was no heap of work. I had been turning down projects-waiting for and wanting something that I felt a particular type connection with. This could have been a bit nerve-wracking for any self employed artist.  Fortunately, I had other things that were demanding my attention.


A change of venue.


At the time, my studio space was located in a revolutionary era merchant building. While it was charming, the roof had begun to leak and late nights of driving from Providence back to our little bay-side town were getting tiresome. Given my usual level of exhaustion, it was actually getting dangerous.
It was time to go.


The kindness of neighbors. 


Anika (see posts relating to Anika Denise) and I decided that it was time to to renovate our dilapidated garage.
But that process would take several months to complete so where was I to work?

This is the magical part, the part where the greatest gifts come out of the ether unannounced and without fanfare.

I asked for help.

I asked my friend and next door neighbor Doc Pete (he is really a doctor) to help me move some of the larger items out of the way so I could begin evaluating the task of rebuilding the garage.
Two minutes later I was looking at my new temporary studio, Pete's shed.
Doc Pete's shed was an eight foot by ten foot structure. It had a door, two windows, and electricity. Rent free. We cleared it out, opened the windows, and I could hear and smell the waves on the bay.
I was in heaven.


Taking my own advice...finally.


I taught at Rhode Island School of design for a few years.
Part of the job was handing out lots of unsolicited advice.
One of my favorite tidbits for aspiring illustrators was to use any "down time" they might have to create personal projects.
I had given that advice enough and now it was time to follow it. I quickly realized that this was quite a bit harder than I imagined.

But I had been given the gift of time, the gift of change, and a quiet place to accept those gifts.

I began to sketch and wrote this above my drawing.."Cricket and Vole"
This is what they looked like.



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2. Free eBook — Thank You Wisconsin: The Punk Farm Sketchbooks

A free eBook in honor of Punk Farm's 10th anniversary and next month's paperback release of Punk Farm on Tour!

It will be a trip down memory lane as you dig through my archives.

Best viewed on a tablet.

Download Thank You, Wisconsin: The Punk Farm Sketchbooks here:

http://www.studiojjk.com/Thank_You_Wisconsin_The_Punk_Farm_Sketchbooks_by_Jarrett_J_Krosoczka.pdf

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3. The Man Who Was Thursday

 
I'm in the middle of The Man Who Was Thursday at the moment and couldn't resist a quick sketch of Lucian Gregory and Professor de Worms (shudder).
 

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4. Rediscovering the Archive


One of the very pleasing by-products of the drudgery of all the scanning I have to do at the moment, is that I am getting to look back over all my favourite sketches of past years - well, the ones of people anyway. It's been an interesting journey. Every image is imbued with memories. Some are a record of an important or touching occasion, like the day I came across this little girl and her brother fishing for their dinner in Kerala and ended up in their home, singing carols with their family:


Some are interesting because I tend not to work in the same techniques any more. Some are just old favourites that make me feel good about myself. It's never a bad thing to look back at work you are proud of: it's great for the confidence, which is in turn good for feeding back into new creativity.


It's rather ironic but, since I have been working on this book, I seem to have been drawing people far less. I don't know if you have noticed, but I have got rather into architecture this last year and have been far less prolific on train journeys than I was in 2013/14. I'm not sure why. Anyway, looking back through the archive has inspired me to get back to it. 


I need to get some people-practise in to be honest. I have a 2-day job coming up next month, as Artist-in-Residence at a conference, at Manchester University. There'll be nothing but people to draw and I have volunteered to do a short presentation of my work at the end, to show the delegates what I have been up to. No pressure... 



It's a good job that I am a show-off! 

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5. WARNING: freaky ventriliquist dummy alert

If you follow my blog you may well know
that I draw anywhere and everywhere.
But where better than somewhere that combines your other interests. And I bloody love stuff. Old stuff. Which is why I love the antique auctions.
Which is why I love an antique auction house. Today I was at Adam Partridge's auction house in
Where else can you sit on an antique chair and draw surrounded  by spooky ventriloquist dummies and tiny chaise longue? 
 
And then there's the vast array of fabulous and insane subject matter. It's everything I love in one afternoon.
 And if I'm drawing I'm not bidding.
Although, I always end up bidding too. Not on the spooky dummy though. Not this time anyway.

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6. High-Res Scanning - Grappling a Monster


Yes, it's definitely a bit of a monster, scanning all the artwork which I have selected from my archive of sketchbooks. I haven't counted how many individual sketches I have picked out to go into my urban sketching people book, but it's quite enough to keep John and I busy.

Originally, we had thought that John would do all the scanning for me, but I am working on the computer so much at the moment that he's having trouble getting sufficient time on the scanner. 



So we tried a bit of teamwork this week, which really speeded things up. I found the low res version of each of the images on the computer, which was tagged with a reference number to remind me which sketchbook it was in, then John ferreted through the sketchbook piles to find the right book...



...then he flicked through the book to find the sketch. We had marked the possibles with post-its right back at the beginning of the project, so that helped too:



John held the sketchbook down flat on the scanner bed for me, while I set the scan parameters, then saved and filed the final file, while he was trying to find the next one in the sketchbook piles. All very dull, but it's got to be done (and over 400 times...).

Then of course, I still had to spend a while on each of the images later, correcting the tonal balance and touching up anomalies, like unwanted marks which had transferred from the opposite page or other sketches showing through from the reverse. I also have to get rid of unwanted text  - my publisher is keen to remove any text that is not essential, so it doesn't create problems with co-editions.



We've made a fair old hole in the job now and I feel much better for it. I was originally going to wait until all the layouts were back, so I would know for certain that all the sketches I have chosen are in fact going into the book. It's possible that, by doing the scanning early, we have scanned some artwork unnecessarily, but I was getting a bit concerned, as time is passing and the deadline is looming. It's one of those tasks - very hard to know if you've allowed enough time for it, because it's impossible to judge how long you'll need. At least this way, hopefully I won't get caught out!

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7. Creative Play

It is always so inspiring when I get to step out of the studio and work in the field with sketchbook in hand. My most recent painting trip was in France.

Bicycling

My goal was to gather ideas for a book I am just starting that is set in France, but even more importantly, to take some time away from the intense studio work and create an atmosphere of creative play and exploration. I want to see and record as much as I can when I am working in a sketchbook. But I also want to stretch myself as an artist, try new methods, experiment with new surfaces, tackle paintings I would never do in the studio, basically just climb out on a limb and PAINT. On this trip I painted in gardens and on street corners, I painted rooftops and sculptures, I even painted self portraits of myself because I wanted to record how happy I was while exploring. I worked in ink and watercolor, fountain pen and pencil. I had fun collecting bags from Paris shops and experimented with watercolor on toned surfaces. The warm brown paper bags made a wonderful surface to bounce the blue skies and dazzling light of Paris. Sketch trips are always a wonderful time to really push yourself to see new things and play with ideas on how to capture them in paint. I always feel thankful after painting trips and even a little reluctant to give up the freedom I find in the field as apposed to the studio. But journeys with sketchbooks always recharge me and fuel my ideas for stories. They make the work I create in the studio all the more meaningful because the work was started during such joyful adventures.

Here are a few of the sketches from this last trip.

Amboise 2015

Amboise, France

Amboise, France

Amboise, France

Amboise, France

Amboise, France

Degas bather, Musee d'Orsay

Degas bather, Musee d'Orsay

Gates of Hell, Musee d'Orsay

Rodin, Gates of Hell, Musee d'Orsay

Iranian pot, Louvre

Iranian pot, Louvre

Mesopotamian Stone, Louvre

Mesopotamian Stone, Louvre

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Paris

Paris, night scene

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

The Burghers of Calais, Rodin Museum

The Burghers of Calais, Rodin Museum

Tours, France

Tours, France

Villandry, Loire

Villandry, Loire

Villandry, Loire

Villandry, Loire

The post Creative Play appeared first on Lita Judge.

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8. I'm walking down your street again

Right, once again I haven't posted here in too long. So, here's a mega post. I won't bore you with words. I'll just show you in drawings and photos some of the things I've been doing (drawing) in all the gaps between posts.
I've been drawing in bars
and in antique showrooms
drawing bikes in galleries
and skeletons in museums,
drawing the guy at the bar of the brasserie
and the girl at the café,
the chip van
and at lunch with my niece
at the cricket with friends
more bones at another museum
whilst working at the gallery
at another bar
on the high street
at a transport museum
and another bike
at another pub
with a sharply dressed man
at a bus station
at a flea market
and at another museum.
Which all tells me that I like old things and spend a lot of time eating out in bars and cafes. Yep, I think that pretty much sums it up.

Have you signed up to Sketchbook Skool yet? The course I teach on starts today. You too may end up drawing your life too if you do. Enrol on 'Seeing' HERE.

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9. A New Invention: Improving My Sketchbook


I have come up with a new idea that I thought I'd share with you...

At the back of my mind, I am preparing for my up-coming residency with The Morgan Centre in Manchester, thinking about the art materials I will need and how to make things run as smoothly as possible. I have tried out my new concertina sketchbook design and am satisfied that will work well. There is one drawback to concertinas though - in order to make one page flow into another, you often need to open 3 pages at once, which means the paper is wider than the book and you have nothing to rest on. It can all get a bit cack-handed! 

While I was thinking about this, I got a tip from another sketcher about water pots, which I thought might improve upon my hairspray-lid system (which does impinge upon my palette's mixing space). My friend suggested using the little, metal clip-on container that oil painters use for their linseed oil and white spirit. Sounded good, so I bought one. Trouble was, when I tried it out, there was no excess on my sketchbook to clip them to.

As it happens, these two problems have a common solution. I cut up one of those plastic folders you buy in stationers and created a sheet of plastic just over an inch taller than my concertina book and about half as wide again. This provides somewhere to clip the water-containers, while also providing an extended back-board to rest on: 


The plastic is really light and flexible, so won't be a nuisance to carry around, but with the aid of the sketchbook cover, it is still stiff enough to support the water. I'll be able to tuck the plastic into my bag with my sketchbook and clip it on when I am working:


I've yet to give it a test-run, but it feels really comfortable. As you can see, the plastic doesn't extend quite as wide as 3 sections of paper, but doesn't really need to - that width is enough, because the 140lb watercolour paper is sufficiently stiff to support itself for the little bit of overhang. I didn't want to create something that would be too big and awkward to fit in my bag.

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10. Sketch Day No.3: My Visitor from Paris



One of the lovely things about the Urban Sketchers group is that we are like a family. If you are travelling, you can always look up any sketchers in the area and they will happily meet up with you for a bit of sketchcrawling.

Yves Damin is a fabulous sketcher. He lives in Paris, but has relatives in Sheffield. Which means that we have twice been lucky enough to have a visit from him. He came this time last year, so Urban Sketchers Yorkshire got together to spend a day sketching with him 
in Sheffield City Centre.  I was absolutely delighted when he told me that he was coming back this year.



We met up with half a dozen other members of Usk Yorkshire after lunch on a Friday afternoon and sketched into the early evening.  We started local to me at Nether Edge crossroads, drawing the shops. This is the sketch Yves did. He has really captured the feel of Nether Edge:


I got a bit cross with mine. I ploughed straight in with paint, the way I do, with no planning, which was a bit unwise with such a complex view, so the drawing underpinning the sketch doesn't bear close inspection. It's not quite as bad in hindsight as I thought at the time (often the way). 



Another sketcher who did a far better job of Nether Edge than me was my friend Sian Hughes, whose work is just gorgeous:



Next, we went to the Abbeydale Picture House: once a grand cinema, music hall and restaurant, now sadly out of action. It's been derelict for years, but is still beautiful. It's pretty enormous too, so this is just a tiny section:



Most people went closer to draw details, but I sat on the opposite side of the road with Yves and Justine. Justine is a fellow illustrator, who has lived round the corner to me for years, but neither of us knew until she came on Saturday's sketchcrawl - I love the way sketchcrawling has linked me up with so many like-minded people from my area (and well beyond). 



We were sitting outside a barber's shop which had a big front window, so the cutters and their customers were watching us in action. The lovely sketch on the wall is the one Yves did - he preferred the view down the street to the Picture House. 

It was a bit cold, so most people headed home at that point, but the three of us kept going. We wandered about for ages, looking for a cafe with a window so we could sketch from indoors, but everywhere was closed, as it was getting late. Eventually, we found a fish and chip shop who let us sit in their window. This was the view:



It was only when I was half way though the drawing that I realised that, by pure coincidence, I was sketching the very barber's shop where we had been sitting earlier:



As I finished off, I glanced at my watch and discovered to my horror that it had somehow become 7pm. I was going out to a dance at 8.00 (I still do my beloved jiving), so had one hour to get home, make and eat some dinner and change into my glad-rags! Yves took this quick photo and I was in such a rush that forgot to take one of him (so sorry Yves - what a rude host!). 



Despite the slightly undignified scurry at the end, it was a really nice afternoon. Yves is such a lovely person as well as being a super-talented sketcher and his visit was a great excuse to get out in my local area with a sketchbook (I almost always end up sketching elsewhere).

Needless to say, the glad-rags and the dance took preference over the dinner: that's what bananas are for :-D


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11. Sketch-Day No 2: a Visitor from Manchester



Sheffield's Crucible Theatre is home to the World Snooker Championships. Now, the partner of one of my sketch-buddies, who lives across the Pennines in Manchester, is potty about snooker. He had a ticket to come and watch it, so my friend decided to take the train to Sheffield with him, but to spend the day sketching instead.

Which is how come I ended up taking the day off work (don't tell...)


We met up with 3 other sketchers, who'd also escaped for the day, and had a lovely time, pootling about the city centre, sketching whatever took our fancy. We had fun and games with the weather again though: I left the house in a hail storm! Then we had a couple of hours of alternate brilliant sunshine and heavy showers. 


We sheltered under an overhang for the sketch above, but we were freezing by the time we were done. There was quite a lot of interest from passers-by. I know some people find it annoying when people stop to talk, but I rather like it. It's the random connections with complete strangers that I enjoy.

We needed to warm up, so spotted a wine bar with really big windows upstairs and, because it was on a corner, it afforded great views. Unfortunately, we discovered the upstairs area of the bar was closed. When we looked all forlorn and explained what we'd wanted to do, the waiters let us in anyway. They even brought us up coffee and muffins while we worked - how nice is that? 


Because we had the place to ourselves, I got down onto the floor, sitting virtually under a table to get the best view of the building above. It's been turned into another wine bar / restaurant now, but I fell for the typography craved into the stone, from the days when it belonged to Sheffield Water Works.

After lunch, we decided to stay indoors and keep warm, so went into the Winter Gardens and bought yet more coffee, so we could sit at the cafe's tables: 


My friend from Manchester drew the greenery...


...but I fancied having a go at the view out of the windows again. I seem to be rather into architecture at the moment. Also, given the snooker was on, I thought I ought to take the opportunity to sketch the Crucible Theatre, where it all happens:


We still had over an hour left before the snooker turned out, so we girded our loins and braved the outdoors. We found a sunny spot, sitting on a grassy mound (just to the left of the view above), opposite where a big screen was streaming the snooker from inside the theatre. I drew this man who was watching the play. The view behind him was rather boring, but at least the cast shadow added a bit of interest:


And then it was time for my friend's train home to Manchester, so we all said our goodbyes.

What a lovely chilled and very sociable day. It was still only day number two of my three sketching days last week though. I'll tell you about my visitor from Paris next time.

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12. A Bumper Urban Sketching Week

It was a funny old week, last week. Despite having lots on, I ended up doing almost as much sketching as working. 

It started last Saturday, with an Urban Sketchers Yorkshire outing, because it was the 47th Worldwide SketchCrawl Day. We spent the morning in one of my favourite places: the old General Cemetery. It's stuffed with the massive, crumbling tombs of the steel magnates and other wealthy types from the last 200 years, but it's also a veritable nature reserve and very beautiful, with lots of mature trees and wild flowers.



Luckily I had just about finished the painting above when it started to rain. We sheltered for a bit in the porch of the old church, then someone suggested a cup of coffee. We took a vote for what to do...

The local Wetherspoons proved the perfect venue for an early lunch, as there was space for about 20 of us to pull tables together. Irritatingly, the sunshine poured through the windows all the time we were in there and promptly dipped behind a cloud as soon as we left. Undeterred, we headed for venue no 2: the old Picture Palace on London Road, now a Sainsbury's:



We managed about 45 minutes I think, before it started spitting. We hovered, but it got worse. In the end we abandoned ship and walked to a local pub, the Cremorne. I put the colour into my sketch from memory...


...and then drew out of the pub window. I was fascinated by the density of the signage on the shop-fronts opposite. As I was working in the concertina book I made, I ran my 3 sketches from the day together, letting the view of the shops help join the other two together:


I think I'd better tell you about my other two sketch-outings next time as, after all that time off, I really do have to get on with some work!

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13. Sketchbook-in-Progress: A Peek

I'm back from a last-minute holiday, jetlag, and then general panic as I try to catch up on my artwork for college. So here's a peek at what I've been working on, just a couple of the many ideas and sketches that I've been scribbling out so that I have a better idea of what my final project will be. Which is due far too soon for my liking ...

 

 

Sketchbook-bird-by-Floating-Lemons

Sketchbook-page-by-Floating-Lemons

 

The bird probably won't make it to the final piece, but the drippy dots might, in a slightly different form. I'm very tempted to place them, as is, on some clothing over at my PAOM store though ... if I have the time. Will keep you posted.

Have a fantastic week. Cheers.

 

 

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14. the fear of a people sketcher


Yesterday I went back to Gallery Oldham where I'd previously done research for the Museum job that I've talked about in my last posts. This time though I returned for a little mini sketch meet up with some friends.
When I was there last time I made this sketch, below, of the guy who worked in the gallery's lovely Naked Bean cafe. It was a sneaky sketch, I didn't show him but I did post the sketch on Twitter and the cafe saw it. They said that he loved it - even though i'd made him look pretty grumpy in it. Which he wasn't. He was the opposite to grumpy. 
Anyway, yesterday, when I returned and with the knowledge he was happy with the sketch I took the opportunity to get a photo of him with it. He said "I've never been drawn before. It made my day. I put it on Facebook and everything".
think the fear for all of us that sketch people is their response to it. Will they be offended? Will they hate it? I know it's my fear which is why I don't often show them. But his response made my day. This time it paid off.

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15. Scribble, scribble, scratch

 

That moment when you realize your top knot needs its own postal code...

And, two bits of nice news:

*If you're in the Netherlands, I have a bit of lettering in this issue of Flow Weekly.

*Some of my embroidered postcards are in the newest issue of Hoop-la magazine.

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16. getting with the programme

So, I'll be honest, this is basically a test post. For a long time my blog has just been chugging along. There was a time, way back when, when I would blog, religiously, a few times a week. Then social media happened.
Like many people, I suppose, I started 'blogging' there. It seemed easier. I'm not really interested in sharing the ins and outs of my life online, or social media, but sharing my artwork through those platforms seemed to make sense. Blogging suddenly seemed like much more of an effort. I mean you had to switch in the laptop and all that palaver. 
I blamed blogging, and blogs, for that - for being behind the times. Not catching up with social media. But it was me that was behind the times and not keeping up with the technology. It hadn't even dawned in me to download the Blogger app. But now I have. 
I took these photos on Friday. My friend and I, Kate of Emily Pickle design (haven't worked out if it's possible to add a link when blogging on your phone. Anyone?) took her 'pencil case' out to the pub to draw. Her pencil case/make up bag is filled with all sorts of goodies I'd never have dreamtof using to draw with. The drawing above is made with glitter mascara, liquid eyeliner and Christmas wrapping tapes amongst other things. I loved experimenting with all this stuff. I'll never look at an old eyeliner in the same way again.

Right, I'm going to put the laptop on to see how this worked out....

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17. A Sunny SketchCrawl in Manchester


Last weekend, we had another SketchCrawl day, but this time it was a bit different. 


Simone Ridyard (in the centre of the photo) is my counterpart in Manchester Urban Sketchers. She set up a street-sketching day with the Society of Architectural Illustration. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so sketchers from both the Usk Yorkshire and Birmingham Urban Sketchers groups also joined in.

The event didn't kick off until 11am, but I got a slightly early train and so managed to squeeze in an extra sketch at the beginning of the day. 


The Palace Hotel, just round the corner from Oxford Road Station, is a stunning colour, especially with the sun on its red bricks. Better still, you can get a great view of it from the warmth and comfort of the Corner House cafe, on the opposite side of the road. I passed a very relaxed 45 minutes with a sketch-buddy, then we had to hot-foot it across town to the meeting place for the official start. 

A group of 20 or so people were milling about when we got there: some familiar faces, some people I had so far only met on Facebook, some new introductions. After the hellos, we split into two groups, with half of us drawing the buildings visible from Bridge Street and the others venturing down to Chapel Wharf. The modern architecture provided an exciting interplay of shapes, especially with the sweep of this suspension bridge:


I sat myself in the sun but, unfortunately, my spot quickly got swallowed up by the shade of a tall building behind me. Once out of the sunshine, is was FREEZING but I couldn't move until I had finished my painting. Just five minutes before I stopped, the sun taunted me by working it's way back round. Typical. I was very pleased with the results though, so it was worth the pain. 


I had decided to take one of my new concertina books for a trial run. You might remember that I made a test book, to perfect the technique, so I sketched in that throughout Saturday, running my sketches together. I love that the concertina format lets me keep unfolding new pages, so I can add more space as I go along. Everything worked a treat, so that's good news after all my cutting and folding and sticking (although I had a major water-bottle leak in my bag, which was nearly a disaster).

Everyone regrouped before lunch, to share the work so far, because some people had to head off. That's when we took the photo at the top. Then it was reward-time. We were too big a group to eat as one, but I went with 10 people for lunch at a fantastic Greek self-service restaurant. We were all too busy scoffing to sketch. Gorgeous food (and cheap too!).


The afternoon's sketch-venue was the area around Albert Square. I have wanted to sketch the Town Hall for a while, but until recently it has been surrounded by builder's barriers. It's a monster of a building, so I tackled one tiny section, being very careful this time to pick a truly sunny spot.

At 4pm, we regrouped again at a pub, where we looked through each other's sketches and got the chance to chat to some of the people from other groups. It was all too short unfortunately, as I had to dash for a train home. 


It was still sunny though and there is one section of the journey across the Pennines to Sheffield, which is especially lovely in good weather. It's only visible for a very short time, so I had my sketchbook ready - this time a ready-made, mini Moleskin concertina, just A6. 

A thoroughly lovely day. Thanks so much to Simone for organising things.

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18. Museum Week

 If you've followed my work in the past, you may know that a favourite subject matter of mine is collections. I've drawn collections of keys, badges, matchboxes, pens, buttons and souvenirs to name but a few. I've drawn souvenirs of all kinds, like in the drawing above, which comes from an entire sketchbook of collection drawings. Well, recently I've been commissioned by Greater Manchester Museum Group to create four drawings based on their collections from four of their museums.
I'm so thrilled about getting this gig. I've always wanted to draw museums' collections. I used to dream that I'd get a job cataloguing them all. It would be my perfect job, but unfortunately photography happened and then computers and so the call for museum collection illustrators and cataloguers waned. But, anyway, now I have the opportunity. My problem is how do you make just one drawing from each museum?
Well, firstly we narrowed it down by choosing the four museums from Greater Manchester's 21 venues. The first was Stockport's Hat Works Museum which is the building in the picture above. I already knew of, and love, this place. In fact we did a sketchcrawl there just a few weeks ago. It contains everything you need to know about hat making and the most amazing hats. But, not only do I get to visit the museums, but I also got the opportunity of looking through their archives and storage. This has been such a privilege, rooting through the stores, holding history (and antique top hats) in my hands.
 The second collection I'll be drawing is the Egyptology collection from Bolton Museum. They have an impressive collection of  Egyptology artefacts. Unfortunately, I didn't get the best photos from that trip but I did get a sketch of a dinosaur before I left the building!
 My third collection is from the natural History collections of Oldham Museum. I spent the best few hours with the curator, down in the cellar archives, surrounded by so many treasures of nature, whilst being educated on bugs and butterflies and birds nest. Actually, that too has been another joy and privilege of this whole experience, learning about, not just Natural History, the social history of this region and about the collectors. Learning from passionate people.
Again, I managed to sneak some sketching in before leaving the building. Well, what else do you do when waiting for the rain to stop?
 Today was my final visit and final collection. For that I went to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment to view their medal collections. I wasn't quite prepared by how touching an experience that would be. I shed a tear or two reading the heart breaking stories of the soldiers who lost their lives.
So, that's what I'm working on right now. My drawings were commissioned by the Museum Group for a new online shop they are building, which is coming soon. Very soon. Which reminds me, I don't have time to sit here blogging, I've got (a lot of) work to do.....
 
Oh, and unbeknownst to me, and quite coincidentally, this is actually Museum Week 2015. So Happy #MuseumWeek one and all. Go visit a museum because museums are great places. 

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19. How to Make 35 Concertina Sketchbooks!


Although my residency doesn't start until the autumn, I wanted to get the sketchbooks made well in advance, in case of difficulties. So, a couple of weeks ago, a HUGE roll of watercolour paper arrived in the post. It was 10m long and over 1.5m wide: a bit of a nightmare to manoeuvre, but perfect for making concertina books, as you don't need any joins (usually the trickiest bit).

This morning we got stuck in!

We had to pull a 6ft table up alongside my work bench, just to have somewhere big enough to cope with rolling the paper out so we could work with it. Everything had to be scrupulously clean too - another nightmare.


I had worked out that I would get 7 sketchbooks out of the roll's width, each a max of 2m long (so they would not be too unwieldy to exhibit at the university, when I'm done at the end of the residency). Given the roll's 10m length, that meant 5 sets of 7, so 35 books in total.

I decided to cut a couple of the 2m lengths from the roll first, to make things more manageable. I had intended to get the lighter weight paper I usually work on, but at the last minute went for the 140lb instead, so the finished lengths will be more sturdy. Trouble is, that weight means the paper is really springy, so absolutely everything was a two-man job. Thank goodness for John!


I thought long and hard about the order of things and realised that it made sense to do all the scoring (for the folds) before cutting the paper into the separate books. That way I could score across all 7 books at the same time, with only one lot of measuring. The books are going to be 14cm x 21.5cm, but you only need scores for alternate folds (because the folds go in 2 different directions), so we began by measuring out 28cm intervals down each of the 2m lengths.




The book-binder's devise I used on my last sketchbook experiment seemed a bit thick to be accurate enough for a long concertina (where any errors quickly multiply), so I sanded the sharpness off a bamboo pen, which was perfect. We didn't have a ruler long enough to straddle the complete 1.5m width, but John dug out a really long spirit level: 


That too needed a jolly good wash but, once clean enough, it saved a lot of time at the scoring stage, as we only had to measure up each edge of the paper and not in the middle too.


I had tried to use the spirit-level as a straight-edge for cutting across the width, but that was a BIG MISTAKE. It's depth interfered with the handle of the knife and so I have one rather raggedy cut, before I realised the problem. Ah well - it's a learning process.

Next job was to mark the width with the 12.5cm intervals, ready to cut the paper into strips for the separate books. It would have been really easy to mis-measure, so again I was glad to have my man-servant with me, double-checking as we went along. I was still rather nervous when I actually began cutting: 


We had to get 3 separate cutting mats lined up along the bench, because of the ridiculous size of the paper. It worked a treat though. By mid afternoon, we had curls of watercolour paper perched all over the studio, ready for folding:


I worked down the length of each book, folding at the scored lines we had created every 28cm: 


I lined up the in-between folds by eye, working without pre-measured scores, so that I could try and make sure the concertina didn't wander too far off square: 


The thicker paper took a bit more man-handling and got chunky quite quickly, which was another reason I limited the length to 2m: 14 'pages' of 14cm. 300gsm paper certainly has very strong opinions of its own, so the experience was a bit like wrestling an octopus at times. The folded books are still pretty springy and rather keen to explode - I have put them under heavy books to see if that tames them at all.


So that's the papers for 14 books done so far. I'll tackle another batch tomorrow, while I remember how we did it (and while the studio is clean). Although I must also get on with my book. Eek!

Plus I also have to make a cover for the sketchbooks. Instead of individual covers for each book, which would take ages, I was given a great idea by my sketch-buddy Lucie Golton: a detachable cover which you use again and again. She made me one as a present a while back, so I can copy her system. Thanks so much Lucie! 


I'll take some pictures as I make the cover, as well as showing you the finished item, but that's for next time.

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20. Spring Fairies

Unleashing the last spirits of winter
Something about spring makes you think of fairies. I think it is all of the new life that emerges. So, I have been doing a lot of them in my sketchbook lately.

The council is in session...
We also just saw Song of the Sea, a wonderful film by the folks who did The Secret of Kells. It was a beautiful film with a bit of a Spirited Away vibe with a dash of Tolkien's Silmarillion (he was greatly influenced by Celtic and other European mythology). I loved the design and the concept.

It is common mythology around the world of spirits being a part of everything... The world does awaken this time of year from a dormant state.

I can hardly wait to get outside to sketch!

The Leaf Litter...
Even at the Krohn Conservatory!

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21. Concertina Sketchbooks - Folding and Sticking!


Yesterday afternoon, John and I cut up the very last section of the huge roll of paper for my concertina-format sketchbooks. It's been quite a marathon task, but I now have sketchbook paper coming out of my ears. It has mostly landed on my already full desk, where it is perched on top of all the tagged and numbered sketchbooks, which are still waiting to be scanned for my Urban Sketching book


So, now I have to gird my lions for all the folding. The ones I folded on Wednesday have been sitting under piles of heavy books ever since. They do seem a little tamer for it:


I have folded 10 so far, so still another 25 to go. 

I have made a start on the detachable covers too. There are two to make, as there are two different sizes of paper. This was because the size I wanted to create didn't fit exactly into the width of the roll. Which meant that I got 30 sketchbooks at the 21.5 x 14 size, then another 5 from the 'excess' edge of the roll which were squarer, at 17.5 x 14. 

I made a test one first, to fit a Moleskin-size, just to get the technique right. It worked really well. I bought some proper book-cloth specifically for this project, which was a great idea, as it cuts and sticks down very much easier than regular cloth. I also chose a snazzy print for the endpapers. This time, because I had a budget, I bought the proper stuff, rather than using gift-wrap, like I did for the Japanese bound ones:


Because the 300gsm paper folds up into quite a thick book, I had to create a reasonable sized spine for my covers, which I have done with a book vinyl. This is the inside of one of the covers so far:


In case people want to try making some for themselves, I have taking photos at the various stages to show you, but that's for next time.

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22. Concertina Sketchbooks: Making Detachable Covers


The covers are done - hurrah! Making them isn't as tricky as you think, honest. You need:

Book board: warps less, but any thick board could be substituted I guess. 
PVA glue and a biggish brush (don't let it dry on the brush!).
Cloth: I've used regular cotton before, but book cloth is stiff and paper-backed, so easier.
Book vinyl: for the spine (though again you could try other materials).
Endpapers: any thickish, patterned paper works.
Medium weight card: a small piece to create a flap, to hold the folded paper in place.

You also need lots of scrap paper, to help create both a clean and a 'gluey' work area, side by side.


I started by cutting 2 pieces of book board: you need to allow 5mm more than your folded paper inner all round. I then cut 2 pieces of book cloth, allowing about 20mm overlap on three sides, but cutting it 20mm short on the spine edge. You stick the book cloth pieces to the boards (it's easier to apply the glue to the board, rather than the book cloth):


You turn it over and cut off the corners, snipping within 2mm of the board corners:


Then you glue all the excess cloth edges and stick them down, making sure to pull the cloth tight over the board edges (sorry, just realised this photo is up the other way - bit confusing, but you get the idea):


The corners are slightly tricky (this is where the book cloth really helps). You use your thumbnail to tuck the cloth into the corner on one side, then fold the other edge over to seal a neat corner:


Next comes the spine. I measured the width of my folded-up paper inner at 15mm. I didn't squeeze the paper too tight, so it wouldn't be under too much pressure and the book would close more easily. 

This is where the vinyl comes in: you need a piece to join the two boards together and create a strong spine. Book vinyl is great as it's very strong but also takes pencil on the reverse, so it's easy to measure and cut to size. 


I measured 35mm, to stick to each board, plus the 15mm spine, so 85mm wide. It needed to be as long as the board height, plus an extra 20mm top and bottom to fold over. I drew all this onto the vinyl, so it was easier to line things up when sticking on the boards: 


I put PVA glue onto the vinyl one half at a time, placing each board so it sat within my pencil lines, until it all looked like this:


Then I glued the excess vinyl top and bottom and folded it over, making sure it was pushed well into the spine. 

I then cut another strip of vinyl to go on the spine's inside. That needs to be just 1mm shorter than the book height, both top and bottom, and roughly the same 85mm width. When you glue that on, you need to really push it into the spine edges, so it's snug against the board and stuck tight to the other piece of vinyl:


There is a book-binder's tool which is designed for that job, but there are plenty of things which will do the trick, including a thumbnail.


Then you do the endpapers. You would normally stick the paper to both sides but, in this case, the inside back cover is going to be completely obscured by the flap we need to make, to slip the paper insert into. You just need to cover the front. Measure a piece that is 4 - 5mm smaller than the front cover all round and stick it on.


You're nearly there now. I'll tell you how to make the card insert next time, as this is turning into a very long post.

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23. Concertina Sketchbooks: the Clever Details


I have now finished my 35 sketchbooks, ready for my residency at Manchester's Morgan Centre. I don't know if anyone out there is going to have a go at making the books for themselves, but in case you are, here's the final stage of the process.


The cover is more or less done, but two things are missing - we need the card insert, to hold the paper concertinas we created in place, and we need a way of fastening the book closed, because the paper will try to escape and inevitably unravel itself in the most inconvenient places you can imagine.

The insert is very straight forward. I bought a pack of A4 black card from WH Smith, 240g, which was perfect. The insert width needs to be approx 10mm narrower than your back cover board. The height, needs an excess of 30 - 40mm to fold over, both top and bottom. The centre between the folds should measure 5mm more than your concertina-paper height (which should also be about 10mm less than the height of the book cover). Score the excess and fold (gently, rather than tightly):


Test that this does in fact sit neatly into your back cover (I made lots of measuring errors during the course of making the books - it's best to double-check everything).

I tried using double-sided tape to stick the insert into the book at first. I figured that it would be less messy than PVA when trying to position the folded card, but it started to peel up after just a couple of hours, so I went back to PVA. 


I glued the top flap first, positioned it (folded under) on the inside back cover - 5mm from the top and outside edge - then put it under a couple of books to dry (squeeze out and wipe any excess glue first!)

I did the bottom flap once the top was secure. One trick: I was aware of the potential for excess glue to squeeze out underneath at this stage, unseen, and accidentally glue the insert shut, so I slipped a strip of waste card in between, before pressing the glued flap down. 


Again, put books on top to dry, or it springs up.

The end of the concertina-paper can now be slipped under the card and slipped out again when you want to replace your paper. Ingeniously simple solution for refills. I can't take the credit I'm afraid: my clever friend Lucie Golton designed it.


Many people use ribbon to fasten books. I didn't want to drill holes in the cover through, as it acts as a mini drawing board when I am using the book, so I wanted it unsullied. John came up with the Velcro system. I was going to buy Velcro tape, then discovered these nifty little guys:


Perfect. You pop one fuzzy spot onto the book, back and front, then attach the loopy halves onto a short strap, which I made from vinyl to match the spine. 


I just cut a piece of vinyl twice as wide as needed and 10mm longer each end, cut across the corners, then folded it in on itself, using PVA again. 

The beauty of the Velcro is that, when the book is in use, if the unfastened strap gets in the way, you can detach it and stick it back on at 90 degrees. You don't lose it, but it doesn't keep flapping and springing around the edges your paper.

If you found this project useful and want to check out other handy posts, try using the Hot Tips label on the right. I add the label to anything I think might be helpful to other people. It's a bit of a mix, with other ways of home-binding sketchbooks, but also tips for building up an illustration folio, how to do a school visit, create a 'Flat Plan' to plan out a book, or how to use  / where to buy particular art materials. All sorts. 

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24. one of the issues of working with marker pens

That is all.
Bugger.

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25. Fish Fingers and Custard


A sketch of the 11th Doctor, because I finally worked my way through all the David Tennant  (SOB! WAIL!) episodes of "Dr Who."

Geronimo!

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