My travel journal: A steam/circus anablog

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Like towels, a hard-cover sketchbook is a most wholly useful object to have-  they’re good for killing obnoxious mosquitoes, trapping bits of paper and tickets in a single place (and not in the laundry), keeping track of who has offered you a couch and a hot meal, impromptu tables…the list goes on. Plus, you can draw in them.

Selecting a sketchbook/journal is a sensitive thing. I can spend many hours in an art store pouring over the book minutia. This time, I got out in about 2 hours after selecting a plain, black-leather bound sketchbook.However, the sketchbook industry hasn’t quite caught up with my tastes in book dressings (do I want them to, really?).

..and we can’t have the co-senior sub-editor of running around with a new looking book, now can we?

No, we can not.

More photos and construction info after the jump.

 I started with a plain black leather sketchbook, not dissimilar to the Moleskines that are so popular (though not, in fact, a Moleskine). Other than wanting a distinguished old gent of a book, I also wanted a way to, you know, tell the back from the front. Unfortunatly, I was a bad maker and didn’t take in progress shots. I really wish I had.

The first step was the base layer: for some reason, everything you buy in LA comes in these plain brown paper bags, like the Kinko’s ones but without text on them. I cut out the fronts of a few of these bags (the side without the glued seam) and scrunched them up, flatened, and scrunched them up a few times. Those pieces were then adhered to the book using acrylic matte medium (basically acrylic paint, without the pigment). I only put the medium on the side going agains the book, because after it dries, matte medium is waterproof. If you’ve never used it before, matte medium is the miracle fluid of the crafting world. It’s a great glue, a great sealer, a transfer medium- indespensable.

The next step was the color. I happen to have watercolors with me, so I used those- though for this type of aging acrylic is really better. I did a couple coats of different reds, as if that were the original color of the ‘leather’ when the book was ‘new’. The next part was the fun one- adding the ‘dirt’. Using browns, purples, and deep reds, I added dirty looking areas to where the book would have been handled over years and years. I wanted to accentuate the texture of the crumpled paper, so I did some dry and wet brushing techniques. When you dry brush, you really only hit the raised areas of the texture. Once all the color was done, I sealed the whole thing in matte medium (see? This stuff rules).

The inset pages of the book were marked all over with the companys logo on plain white paper- no good. I’ve been hanging out with a lot of circus performers lately, and wante the book to have some element of the big top. On plain printer paper, I painted rust red stripes. Once the stripes were dry, I stained the paper with coffee (two extra large cups from the restauraunt across the street). I then folded the paper to match the inset size, while leaving a little edge of the ‘leather’ around the inside cover. Again, they were adhered with matte medium, then painted along the edges and corners with more coffee to make the pages look older.

Once all that was dry, I realized that I still didn’t have a recognizable front to the book. After looking through a myriad of different symbols, I decided to create one of my own, for my own little journey, and came up with this: a broken infinity loop, a reminder to keep wandering. Because straight lines are for suckers. I cut the symbol out of watercolor paper, aged it with similar colors to the book. I wanted it to look like something that has been traced over with your finger a thousand times.  Adhered using more medium, and added little gobs of it around the edges of the cut-out to make it a curved instead of straight cut edge (like grime has been building up in the creases).

And..There you have it. It took me about a whole day to do the whole thing, though a lot of that was waiting around for watercolors/medium to dry. Cost wise, I spent nearly nothing on the materials- I already had the watercolors- but I suspect you could get the materials you need for around 15 bucks, not including the initial book.  I can make these on the road pretty easily, so I’m considering doing commissions of books like these if there is enough interest.