Thursday, July 2, 2015

Painting on sketchbook covers

This is one of my favorite sketchbook cover paintings that I've done recently. So simple and I love how the background and her skin tone are so similar. It is from a photo reference and an experiment in using Alizarin Crimson for flesh. 

For a couple of months I've been painting my sketchbook covers. I got this idea from a sketching friend of mine (Tim Young) and he got the idea from James Gurney. Here (above) you can see I have a lot of old sketchbooks. I have saved them mostly for sentimental reasons. Most of the drawings inside aren't very good at all. I have learned (and have come to accept) that sketchbooks are a just the perfect place to make all kinds of mistakes.

I'm reasonably certain that when Gurney advanced this idea of painting directly onto your sketchbook cover he meant that you would personalize your sketchbooks as-you-go...but I decided to do mine retroactively.
The sketchbooks in the photo show that I gessoed the books in advance of painting them. I textured the gesso also (with a paper towel). I used oil for these paintings and Tim used acrylic. Almost all of these books are Aquabee Deluxe sketchbooks, but I know this will work on any hard cover.

You may wonder what is to be gained from doing this. Well, for one, it is just plain fun. Tim and I both have noticed that sometimes these efforts can come out great*. I've been trying to paint them energetically (for the "brushspeed"). *(There may be less onus to painting on an unconventional surface). Below are what I have done so far: 

I'm glad I tried this and if you're looking to do something really different, you might try it too. The only downside to it is that you can't stack the books until they are really super-dry...and that people might be disappointed when they open a book with a pretty painting on the front... only to find  mediocre crappy drawings inside. Oh so what.. haha! ("The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." --Elbert Hubbard)

(Sketchbook covers): Celeste Bergin: Red truck from photo reference, Profile from photo reference, Man & dog from memory (I have to re-take that photo), Portrait of John Singer Sargent, Landscape from memory, Profile from photo reference, Hoodie from photo reference, Figure inspired by Manet, Flowers from life, Cup and saucer from life, "Lonely" trees from memory


Christine Troyer said...

I love this idea! And especially the quote. So very true.

John Simlett said...

What a great idea ...and it works so well. I don't have sketch books - which drives some painter friends crazy ...... just as not having notebooks drives my writer friends bonkers. It comes from me never being being trained I guess.

But I love your 'so what?' approach ... my old mum used to say, "Never judge a book by its cover" ... I can only suggest if you take off all the covers they would make a brilliant book

Sheryl Anthony said...

Well, that is a lot of fun! I bet your sketches inside are wonderful, I can't believe there is much wrong with them! Thanks for the encouragement, though. I guess I should get some sketchbooks!

Libby Fife said...

Well, you have been busy! The covers look great especially when viewed in a group. May have to give this a try. Sounds like the perfect place for some experimental ideas:)


I love the idea too!.

Helen Moreda said...

How much fun. Great job. They are lovely. And they are filled with your journey.

Pam Huggins said...

These are BEAUTIFUL!!! I love this idea. Your paintings are gorgeous.

Great quote too. And a good reminder not to make sketchbooks precious. They are practice after all.

Happy 4th.

Oh and John's idea about making the covers a book... BRILLIANT!

Julie Ford Oliver said...

Great idea and your work on the cover makes them even more special.
I have too many from over the years to paint but may do a new one.
Just got back from your neck of the woods giving a workshop in Portland and one near Seattle.
Met some lovely and talented artists.

CrimsonLeaves said...

Each and every cover you've done are fabulous, Celeste. Your talent is just so exquisite!! You can always remove the covers and frame them too. If you are of a mind, of course!

mary maxam said...

Thank you for sharing this most fabulous idea and all these covers! They are really inspiring . what talent!

Meera Rao said...

just came across your blog ! I love the idea of painting the covers :) I have used maps to decorate the cover of my travel journal and once used color pencils but yet to paint on any ! you have done a great job !