Edepol! The cover’s been creased and its perfection ruined! How will I bear to look at it now?

Like a lot of artists and writers, I have trouble with a blank page. Sometimes, that blank page is a beautiful, perfect sketchbook, an actual physical object I might ruin. I find having a new sketchbook to be encouraging at first–this or that paper or shape or size or heft looks inspiring, or the brand was recommended, or it was a gift…Then the sketchbooks lie in the art drawer for years. I don’t have a nice little sitting room or atelier where I can display their prettiness to visitors, so the books stay unseen (plus I don’t actually have visitors). Say someone asks whether I’ve used the gorgeous, lovingly selected drawing journal they gave me–I try to find a way not to say outright that, well, I did a little bitty drawing on the first page and the drawing wasn’t worthy of the journal’s beauty so I was too hesitant to sully more of the book’s pristine perfection with imperfect nonsense.

Therefore, I have a lot of empty sketchbooks. Many of them are made for watercolour, which I used to do a whole lot more of than line art but have kinda sorta forgotten how to do now. As it happens, I have a lot of watercolour paints. Last week/month/year I went to the art store for comicking supplies and saw there was a 50%-off inventory-clearance sale (old-formula-pigment Quinacridone yellow to be had for less than the day’s coffee and morning cinnamon danish? I mean, who can say no to old-formula-pigment Quinacrindone yellow, amirite). But I realised that if I bought it, that too would go in the drawer with the supplies that aren’t used up because I’m always, always afraid to DO ART WRONG.

So, to get past this, I assigned the sketchbooks a purpose: In January, once a day, I’ll do variations of a subject in each of several sketchbooks; and not as an end in itself, not trying to do the Arting right, but to a technical and practical use–to determine the paper that best suits investing in more of the same. For the time when I might want to do a real sketch journal or go out for some for reals urban sketching or really use those fancy-palette watercolours in the way they deserve. It’s not that I’m messing up sketchbook pages so they won’t be inspiring carnets for others to see. This is specifically the task of figuring out which paper I like best. I’m trying spiral bound pads, and those economy watercolour paper blocks that are glued down on the sides and give you mad deep papercuts when you loosen a sheet, and softcover sketchbooks that come several to the shrink-wrapped package, and hardbound journals like what those urban sketchers use, and if the art is so-so–or so, so bad–so what. That’s not what this is for. This purpose does not include “BE PERFECT” anywhere in the description.

The sketchbooks, at least, have found a meaning in life for 2017.

Yesterday I only used Sennelier paints, plus that of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold. This is on Cotman Montval 300gsm cold press paper:

Things I don’t plan to fret about just at the moment: perfect uniform details; perfect body proportions; perfect use of colour; colour theory (don’t get me started; at least, not in this post). The sloppiness isn’t bothering me at all, nope nope nope. I do need to care about skin tone–this particular paint sometimes dries paler than I’d expect, but I wanted to scan the drawing before I go back in with another glaze to fix Felix’s pallor. Maybe adding a layer will mess up the drawing, but, hey, that doesn’t bother me, nopey nope nopers, not at all I tell you.

On Arches 300gsm cold press watercolour pad, not going to get fussed about the wacky skin tone tests here either:

Pencils with washes, paint over waterproof ink, seeing how that works on the Arches paper:

This paper–Fluid 4×6-inch “Easy Block” cold press–I’ve deemed inexpensive enough to use for itty bitty test sketches and mixing and layering tests. Do I care that the sketch is completely wonky no of course I do not ha ha ha it’s fine no really i am ok with this:

Next test piece in progress in a Strathmore 400 series 300gsm watercolour sketchbook:

Semi-Related Recommendation: If you love the love of history and archaeology and discovery, and are in the mood for a quietly (and sometimes outrageously) funny comedy, try Detectorists, created by actor/writer/director Mackenzie Crook (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean). It’s available in the US on Netflix. It gave me all the feels there are. It made me want to stick with something I love, even if it breaks my heart sometimes, even if it means ruining a perfect sketchbook cover. @detectorists