I started a new project this week (it’s the middle of May, 2022). Or maybe it’s a new genre for me. I’m not sure exactly what it is but I guess it’s the closest to scrapbooking that I’ve ever done. As an old school paste-up guy (that was what book publishing involved before the digital age) I have the skills and tools to cut stuff out and paste it down with precision and neatness. I like to use those skills.

The project started when I was looking online at sketchbooks and I saw a square 5×5 inch one. I don’t know why but it caught my eye. Then as I was thinking about square sketchbooks it struck me that Instagram made the square photo popular. Maybe I could do something with that.

I like to collect photos and images from social media and the web in general. I usually look at Instagram and Twitter on my iPad. As I browse those social media sites if I see a picture that I like I either download it or take a screen shot. As I’m an organized person I then put the picture in a folder with the person’s name or social media handle on it. I’ve been doing this for years. I usually don’t do anything with the photos but they sit there and I sometimes look at them.

So the thought I had was that I could print out a square photo and paste it into the square sketch book. That idea was enough to get me to buy the book. When the book arrived it gave me more ideas. Just pasting down Instagram photos didn’t seem interesting enough but I knew that was a starting point. Over the next day I thought about what else I wanted the book to be.

By the way I named the book “Small Things.”

Being an artist who has spent three decades making art I’ve got a lot of stuff lying around the studio. Among that stuff is a lot of little drawings on little pieces of paper. Nothing finished. They’re all mostly working drawings. Working drawings are done in order to make a bigger finished piece. I have a baseball card box filled with little drawings that I kept because I liked them but on their own aren’t much to look at. Who cares about an inch tall sketch of a random face?

I’ve also kept some small pieces of paper that I used for testing pens or markers. Usually they have some color in them but otherwise have black and white lines that aren’t really drawings but often look cool. I kept them because they are little works of abstract art.

I took these three things: square photos, baseball card size thumbnail drawings, and those little abstract works and started pasting them down in the sketchbook. I would arrange two or three things on the right hand page and leave the left hand side blank. After getting a few pages done I decided to write stuff on the left hand side. I would write stuff on the right hand side too but the left hand side had more room for wring.

After working on a few pages of art, photos, and writing I decided I needed more variety in sizes. I needed some photos to fit under a 2.5 inch square of art. So I printed out some photos (from Instagram) that were 1×4 inches. After doing that I immediately noticed that I needed some vertical versions of photos that size. So I printed some 4×1 inch photos.

As I made more pages it seemed I needed a bigger variety of stuff to paste down. That’s when I remembered my tracing paper drawings. Sometimes as I’m drawing I need to use tracing paper. Often it’s when I’m drawing something symmetrical. I draw the right side, put a sheet to tracing paper over it, trace the right side in dark graphite, flip the paper and transfer the drawing to the left side.

There is really nothing to do with these tracing paper drawings after I’m done with them. Often I reuse the tracing paper and there are a lot of pieces of different drawings on it. So I decided to pick out some of the pieces to glue down into the book.

A quick word about how I paste things down. I don’t use paste. I use repositional mounting adhesive. That’s sticky stuff on a roll of plastic paper. I put my art or photo on the sticky side of the paper, burnish it down (apply pressure), peel the plastic backing, and at this point the sticky stuff has transferred to the back of the photo or art and it can be stuck into the book.

I mention that because the next thing I though I needed were stamps. At least something about stamp sized. I remembered that I had some inkjet sticker paper so I decided to use it. I made a bunch of one inch squares in Photoshop and put a bunch of my street photos into them and printed them out. I then had a bunch of tiny photos to stick down.

The last photo idea I had was to use my “Objects” photo folder from my iPad. These are random things I’ve taken photos of over the years. Usually just a small something that I wanted to post somewhere. Some dice, purple flowers in my lawn, a toy, and lots of other stuff. Photos that served a purpose for a moment but were then useless. I kept them anyway. In a folder. I like to keep things because I never know if I can reuse them but I am always looking to reuses them. I printed these ones at half the size of the Instagram ones. About 2.5×5 inches.

For about a week I was moving at a pretty good clip on this project. I think I made 50 pages. I also decided to make a digital book out of it too. I scanned in all the pages and set them up in a book in InDesign. That took some time but was still doable. I like the way it’s going.

I’ve lost a little energy for this project at the end of this week. Maybe because I had a lot of energy for it at the beginning. I have gotten a lot of pages done, and that’s a good thing, but I think I need even more types of things to paste down. Even with all the stuff I’ve come up with I want even more variety. We’ll what I can come up with. Time will tell.