Sunday, March 26, 2017
Thursday, March 16, 2017
A few years ago, I realised that I didn't need to carry a 124 page sketchbook around with me when I only use 1-3 pages during an outing. That's carrying the weight of around 100 extra blank pages for nothing. And I dislike carrying heavy bags. With a lightweight sketchbook, I could carry one in my bag everyday without any strain. And it would encourage me to sketch anytime, anywhere. So I studied some bookbinding books, bought some paper from my local paper supplier, and got the essential tools to make my own sketchbooks.
Here's what I use:
1) 1 sheet of thicker cover paper
2) 9 sheets of sketching paper
3) A long arm stapler
4) Metal ruler
6) A cutting mat
Each paper supplier has their own selection of paper. Some papers are from Asia and some from Europe. I found that only a small selection of papers can take inks and watercolours well, most of the papers at paper suppliers are more suited for offset printing.
In Singapore, there is Hiap Moh and RJ Paper. For Hiap Moh, you will need a car to collect your order from an industrial estate in Jurong. I personally prefer getting my sketchbook papers from RJ Paper because you can get their papers directly from their office and they carry more paper options that are suitable for fountain pen ink and watercolours. At RJ Paper, I settled on Tangerine White 160gsm (gsm is the measure of paper thickness). It can take light washes of watercolour and ink pretty well. It's not as good as proper watercolour paper. But good enough. If you mainly use ballpoints and pencils or other dry media, you'd have more options to choose from. It's best of go visit a paper supplier and try out different medium on their paper samples.
Make sure that the paper you choose isn't so thick that it can't fold into a book. I'd keep it to around 200gsm and below. For the cover, I chose something that's a little thicker- a brown craft paper.
Paper come in huge sizes eg. 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters. You might have to pay the paper supplier a small fee to cut the papers down to A4 sheets. Sometimes, they waive the fee for students.
If visiting a paper supplier sounds like a pain, just get drawing block paper from a neighbourhood store.
A long arm stapler costs about $15 or less at most stationary stores. They use larger staples than normal ones. This is a good investment. I've used this for years.
I recommend a big cutter because it helps with the grip.
OK, so this is how I put it all together:
1) I fold the cover paper in half. And make a sharp crease.
2) Align the inside paper under it and make sure the crease is centered.
3) Use the long arm stapler and staple along the crease. One higher up. One lower down.
4) Fold in half, making sure the edges are aligned and you are folding along the crease.
5) Press down using the back of the palm.
6) Now it's a book! But the edges are all sticking out. As you can see, my cover paper is slightly larger than my inside papers. My cover paper is A4 but my inside papers were cut to a slightly smaller size by the paper supplier.
7) Hold the metal ruler tight. Then use the cutter and slice off the edges (About 2mm in). It will take maybe 10 - 20 slices to get through 10 sheets of paper. Be patient. Slice off the edges on the side.
Slice off the edges on the top.
Slice off the edges on the bottom side.
8) Then it is done!
As you can see, with all the edges cut, it looks like a proper sketchbook now!
The sketchbooks I make are a little smaller than A5 size. 36 pages + the cover.
The alternative cutting method
I used the hand-held cutter for a few months and then got tired of it. So I bought an industrial trimmer which allows me to cut through 20-25 sheets with one slice. If you are crazy about making your own booklets like me, you could consider purchasing one. I use the Ideal 1038. I bought it from the New York and lugged it back. It's been a good investment because I make a mew sketchbook every 2 weeks and I also like making my own home-made comic books. The blade is very sharp. So do keep it away from little kids.
Don't bother with trimmers that cut 1-2 sheets at a time.
Sketchbooks I've made
These are the sketchbooks I've made over the years. (Just a portion of what I have).
If you buy in bulk from a paper supplier, it really cuts down the cost. Knowing that I have more paper than I have time to use relieves me of the pressure of doing only nice drawings in my sketchbooks. It frees me to try out new experimental styles or draw whatever I want, whether it turns out nice or not.
I think I'm still using the bulk of paper I bought 4 years ago and I still have lots left over.
I've tried out different combinations of paper. Here, I used the craft paper on the inside.
And I also like customising the cover for each sketchbook so I can tell them apart.
If you are a comic artist, you can put together your own comic books in the same way.
The alternative binding method
You'll notice that my older sketchbooks are bound with a string. That's because, after I'm done with a sketchbook, I like to scan some of the pages (as you can see in this blog). But the spine prevents me from scanning them completely flat. So I use a sewing punch to poke holes in the spine where the staples are. Remove the staples. Scan the pages flat. Put the sketchbook together again. Then tie it back up through the holes.
Oh yes, lastly, if you are buying paper in bulk from a paper supplier, and you live in a humid country like Singapore. I recommend keeping unused paper in a dry cabinet (like, for cameras). Humidity will cause spots to appear on some papers. Keeping the papers dry and crisp is best. Or if you want to buy in bulk to take advantage of the lower cost, but have nowhere to store them, share the paper and cost with a few friends!
P.S. Sorry for the scary hands in this post. It was the lighting! My hands really look normal.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Monday, March 06, 2017
Dip pens are great fun because 1) dip pen nibs give you lots of lovely line variation. 2) You can use any kind of ink you like - from permanent indian ink to acrylic inks. 3) Their replaceable nibs are inexpensive. 4) They are low maintenance.
Here is a video demonstration of the process:
But most people say they are troublesome to carry out of the house because, unlike modern pens, dip nibs require you to dip into a bottle of ink every now and then. And that can easily result in spilling/dripping ink all over a cafe table or all over your nice clothes.
So here is my solution:
I found these squeeze bottles from a female cosmetics store in Singapore (Sasa). They have a cap, a nozzle you can pull out, and they are soft. Also very very light, compared to ink bottles made of glass. You can search for the same exact bottles. Or perhaps something similar.
I use a syringe to fill them with ink. (Winsor and Newton, Talens Drawing ink, food colouring.)
A needle with a large hole really helps, by the way.
The good thing about these bottles is that they won't spill ink, even if you turn them upside down. Ink only comes out when you give a squeeze. Because the bottles are small, you can control the flow very well.
When I'm on an urban sketching outing, or when drawing at a cafe, I simply squeeze some ink onto the underside of the nib. (I'm using a G-nib here.) Then I start drawing.
I don't have to worry if the bottle is upright or tilted. It feels a lot neater and manageable than with a glass bottle of ink. I guess the main things is that, I don't have to worry about holding the bottle at just the right angle. It can roll around on the floor and it won't spill.
I've even tried drawing like this at the backseat of a moving car and there were no spills. So long as I didn't add too much ink to the nib during each squeeze, it was fine.
Hope this encourages you to use dip pens more. They are fun!
P.S. This can apply to brushes too.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
I've always wondered about that. Watercolour are easy to bring out. But I've always known acrylics to require squeezing from tubes of paint, a palette, and a good amount of water to wash brushes quickly after use - It's generally messy. The main problem is that acrylics dry fast so you can't leave them in regular portable watercolour palette/containers which are not air-tight. Once they are dry and hard, you can't paint with them anymore.
So here is my present solution:
Light and portable. Everything fits in the small bag I carry. I can even paint in a nice cafe without messing up things.
I use these small plastic containers from Muji. (http://www.muji.com.sg/store/4547315967667.html?cl=no_color_code_4547315967667) They are air-tight. I leave my acylic paints in them for months and they are remain wet. Because I don't carry a mixing palette around, it helps to pre-mix the colours so it's exactly the colour I like to use most. If I want to mix the colours a little more while I'm out, I simply use the cap of the container. Or a scrap of paper. It also helps to narrow the colours I bring out with me. Reducing the number of colours helps me simplify my pictures. More is less, right?
The colours I carry - White, a pale yellow, a dark brown, yellowish red, light blue, dark blue and black. I mixed in white into my colours so they would look more desaturated. But that's my preference. If you like vibrant colours, leave them strong.
I have a wiping towel, made from an old favourite shirt. And also a spray bottle to dilute the paints with clean water. (The washing water gets dirty after awhile).
As for the brushes, I thought of using a bamboo brush roll so they'd be safe in my bag. But it looked long and cumbersome. So I just used thicker scrap paper, folded it to make it stiff. Then folded it over the brush hairs so they won't bend during transport. And then paper clip it! This fits into my pencil case.
So this is the set up. It might not be suitable for big easel paintings. But it is certainly useful for on-the-go urban sketching trips where you stop at a location, do a quick painting in your sketchbook and move on to the next place.
Here is my list:
1. A5 Sketchbook
2. Brushes + folded paper and clip
3. Small air-tight containers with pre-mixed paint
5. Spray bottle
6. Washing water in a bottle with cap (no spills while on the go) - take note not to accidentally drink.
7. Zip-lock plastic bag to keep the paints and towel in.