Taking a break from writing about my past artwork to write about some current stuff. Specifically my little red sketchbook. As I’ve written before I, like most artists, have a great affection for sketchbooks and have more of them than I have time to fill them up. I have them in all sorts of shapes, sizes and paper types. Over a year ago I bought a small 3.5 x 5.5 inch Moleskine sketchbook. It’s has a red hardcover hence I’ve been calling it my little red sketchbook.

I have certain sketchbooks that I buy all the time to do certain tasks in but when I get a new and different sketchbook I try to do something in it that I usually don’t do. So for this little red sketchbook I decided to draw in it with only a red pen. One of my favorite markers to draw in is an old time Pentel sign pen. By old time I mean the 1970s or so but these pens were ubiquitous throughout my childhood. They’re not around as much anymore but they can still be found and I rediscovered them in the late 1990s and have been using them ever since. I usually use the black ones but since they come in red too I decided they would be perfect for my little red sketchbook.

Since this sketchbook is smaller than the ones I normally use I decided to drawn in it slightly differently than I normally do. I’d treat the page as one whole unit and wouldn’t be drawing boxes on the page to draw inside. The only borders to be found would be the edges of the page. There would also be no underdrawing. It would all be spontaneous drawing right in pen with no going back to change anything. Each page would be its own finished drawing made up of a lot of small images interlocked. Don’t ask me how I decided this was how things were going to be done it just kind of ended up that way as far as I remember.

Things always take longer than I think they will. That’s one of the truisms I never seem to be able to escape. All of the pages of my little red sketchbook are dated. It took me about an hour to draw a single page. That’s not too bad. With forty one pages in the book that’s forty one hours. That doesn’t sound like too long does it? It took me over a year to fill the book. The first page is dated 1/11/12 and the last page is dated 2/17/13. That took a much longer time than I expected it too. Partially that was because this wasn’t a main project of mine so it only got done in between the cracks of other things I was working on but also because I underestimated what it took to do that type of drawing.

I’m used to drawing spontaneously in ink. It’s how I start a good percentage of my art work. But it’s how I start things and not how I finish them. Part of drawing spontaneously in pen is allowing yourself to make mistakes because they don’t matter. The whole point of drawing that way for me is to free my mind to come up with the beginnings of ideas. The little red sketchbook was all about each page being a finished drawing. Turns out that takes a completely different type of concentration. I have to be “On” with each stroke of the pen and make things spontaneous as well as minimizing mistakes. That turned out to be a lot harder to do than I anticipated and I could only get it done when my concentration was good. I made good time at first but slowed down to nearly a halt as the summer came and finally got things finished this winter. After getting ten pages done in the first month I never thought it would take me a year to finish the next thirty one pages but it did.

Today I’ve been doing some production work on turning my little red sketchbook into a digital book. I’ve scanned in all the pages plus scanned in the book itself. The idea is to keep it looking like the actual little red sketchbook and you’ll be able to turn the digital pages in it. I have a story that’s going to go alongside the drawings that’ll tie things together. I haven’t written the story yet but I’ll get to that as soon as I get all the scans set up.

Doing the production work on my own stuff can be the most boring thing in the world. Production work is all the technical stuff that needs to be done in order to be able to make something into a book or some such. I have to scan in all the pages, line them all up at the correct size, come up with some sort of design, and them put all the pages into their proper place in the design. Everything has to be done in a certain order and in a certain way and it’s all kind of tedious. I’d much rather be doing something creative with my time but this has to be done if I want to see this project through.

I have to say that I’ve enjoyed working in my little red sketchbook over the last year. I think that’s mostly because I actually came up with an idea for it that I liked. Most of the sketchbooks I buy on a whim and try to come up with a theme or project for never end up as anything special. Most of them get mixed in with my utilitarian sketchbooks after a while because whatever they I had going for them petered out as the idea was not so interesting to begin with. It’s tough to come up with something different to do with a sketchbook. I’m glad I finally did.