It’s been awhile since I posted so thought I would share a few pages from my current travel sketchbook. I’m swanning around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts for a few weeks and enjoying all the sun, sea and swimming. In between I’m snatching a few minutes to do some watercolour and ink sketches to remind me of the beautiful places I’ve been visiting on those cold winter days back in Tasmania!
I wanted to make something personal for my Mum this Mother’s Day. For me as a mum the gifts I appreciate most are the one’s that show thought and caring, maybe they take a little time , like a board game or tell me that my sons know me, like a travel set of brushes. So this year I decided money was out it was time to make something – after all I make stuff all the time for my Etsy shop , for other clients, and just for my own pleasure.
Mum and I took a road trip in New Zealand last year so I decided to make her a personalised concertina sketch book of the trip. It’s an expression of my love for her and my appreciation for those 10 days we got to spend together with no one else to interrupt our conversations or hurry me off to the next place I have to be. Time is a precious commodity I usually meet out stingily so it was a joy to have time to talk, to laugh, to moan, to rejoice, to ponder, to be silent – together. Thanks for those 10 days Mum – and all the other days of my life when you’ve been the one who gave me your precious time and love.
And no – I’m not letting any cats out of the bag – we had Mother’s Day lunch today !
Oh – and I printed the gift box with a ewe and lamb in a nod to our family name- Woolley!
I shared a tutorial on a hand made concertina sketch book earlier this year which was inspired by a trip to my local art store. Just last week I popped in again and came away with an idea for this years travel sketch journal. Of course the art shop had a lovely little number but at $65 it was a bit pricey – I was recovering from a pre holiday trip to my favourite shop for the well endowed woman in need of reinforced swimwear- the bill was still weighing heavily on my mind ! So instead I bought an $11 sketch pad and headed home. Once there I searched around for cutoffs and scraps and in no time at all had whipped up my own version which will be just right for our trip to Italy ( only 14 sleeps to go!!)
Materials I used
- purchased sketch pad
- mat board off cuts
- pva glue
- cutting mat
- metal straight edge ruler
- craft knife
- 250gsm kraft card
Step 1. Marking the covers for cutting
Here I’ve taken a piece of mat board which is stiff enough to form the covers. The Front and Back are the same size – the size of the pad. If you want to make your own just adapt the measurements to your sketch pad.
I need to make one of the spines slightly wider – the thickness of the mat board in fact. This will mean the fold over flap will sit comfortably on top of the front cover. I make the fold over flap roughly 1/4 of the front cover width. Now I cut along the solid lines with a craft knife using my metal ruler to keep everything nice and straight.
After I cut this out I decide I want the cover to be slightly larger than the sketch pad because I’m going to add a brush holder next to the pad so I’ll need a little extra space for that . Luckily I’ve got plenty of mat board off cuts so I just cut a new back cover that’s 2cm wider. I do this quite often – redesign as I go – so it’s no surprise to find I have a lot of offcuts!!!
Step 2 Cutting out the front cover windows.
I love having a cover window or two ( in this case three) so I can add some mini paintings later which will hint at the journal contents. I just mark and cut out 3 square windows at equal distance from each other. I leave a larger gap at the bottom as I think it balances out better. You can leave this step out entirely or cut one big window instead if you prefer. This is a great way to personalise your travel journal.
Step 3 Centering the covers and glueing to the cloth.
I take a scrap of bookbinders cloth and lay it face down. Now I assemble my cover pieces leaving a small gap the width of the mat thickness between the cover boards and spines. An easy way to do this is use some matchsticks as spacers . I just eyeballed it. This gives flexibility so the covers will open and close smoothly . ( not the eyeballing – the leaving of spaces!) I mark the cloth 2cm wider than the covers all the way around and cut out. Next I spread pva glue all over the covers and cloth smoothing it out to the edges . Best to put in all on some scrap paper before you do this step but I was in too much of a hurry and so had to clean up the dried glue off my cutting board later! Now I press down firmly smoothing from the centres of each board out to the edges making sure there are no air bubbles.
Step 4 Neatening the edges.
Quickly before the glue dries I turn in the cloth around all the edges and press down firmly making sure it’s snug against the edges. Now I slash from corner to corner in each window frame and glue the triangle flaps to the cover board. pulling tight as I go. Next I glue a piece of thick sketch paper over the windows on the inside of the cover so when I turn it over the windows have little white inserts. At this stage I also use the blunt edge of a knife to run a crease down the gap between the spines and the covers.
Step 5 Adding an elastic closing strap
I wrap a piece of wide elastic all the way around the back cover and cut it 2cm shorter. I butt the ends together and sew with a wide zigzag stitch to secure . I position it 3 cm in from the spine closest to the front flap with the join on the inside of the cover. If you’re wondering what the black oblong is it’s a piece of fridge magnet I used to try out a magnetic closure but it turned out not to be strong enough. Another redesign on the go!
The elastic could be any colour you like as an accent feature. I initially wanted black but only had white and I think it was a lucky thing as the white looks good against the black cover.
Step 6 Attaching the lining paper.
I cut the kraft lining paper to fit inside the covers leaving a tiny 3 mm edge on the black cloth showing. Smoothing out from the centres again to get rid of any air bubbles. I get out the blunt knife and run it down the creases in the spine gaps. The little white thing is a tiny piece of elastic I glued down to the spine to hold a brush or pen. I just cut a slot in the kraft paper to slip over the elastic.
Step 7 Inserting the sketch pad.
Lastly I remove the front cover of the sketch pad and glue the back board to the back cover. I push my favourite travel watercolour brush into the elastic holder, fold the flap over and flip the elastic band to secure it. Ready for Italy!!
This travel journal might seem a bit slim for a 5 week holiday but the 50 pages mean I’ve got one a day with a couple to spare. I’ll be using it for my round up each night and be using a small store bought sketch book for my out and about sketching during the day. Let’s see how it goes!
I had a very wobbly moment today. I wanted to check one of my travel sketch books and I just couldn’t find it! I spent last weekend moving my art supplies into our home office and my husband out ( he’s retired now – why does he need an office?). It’s a tiny space, 2×2 metre , so not much room to lose anything you would think. Wrong! I’ve got a complex system of wheeled storage that I move around depending on what I’m doing and where I need the space. There’s a lot of storage for such a tiny space. And then there’s all the other nooks and crannies around the house where I’ve squeezed in a bit of art ephemera that just won’t fit in that little 2m cube. ( I used to have a bigger room but the prodigal son returned and there went my art studio).
So I emptied drawers, moved piles of books, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe. I found some odd socks, 2 dollars, a missing earring and finally three sketch books – but there’s a lot more than that. I could feel my skin getting clammy and a mild sense of panic rising at the thought I might have lost them. Of course I eventually found them – there’s always that one drawer you forget about even when it’s right in plain sight. The heart rate returned to normal and I sat down for a satisfying hour of memories.
Why did I panic at the thought of losing them? Because these travel art journals bring back a lot of sense memories that I just don’t get from my photos.
I can smell the lavander…
I can taste the salt in the breeze….
I can feel the heat bouncing off the rocks…
I can hear the sound of my laughing children in the room behind me as I sketch at the open window…
I can feel a frisson of fear as my husband stands too near the edge….
I can feel the joy of finally getting to those US desert national parks after a decade of wearing my husband down – he loved it! ( not the wearing down part – the desert colours part)
Travel is a big part of our lives – and travel sketch books have become an integral part of that experience for me.