These are 16 volumes of the daily sketchbooks I've kept dating back to November 2011. Actually, once I found this brand they became my everythingbooks, or zibaldones, because I enjoyed writing in them as much as sketching. There has always been one within a hand's reach of me since then.
Alas, now it appears one can no longer purchase Daler RowneyCachet Earthbound sketchbooks, and I am unconsolable. Seven years ago, unsatisfied with the usual glaring white, flimsy-floppy variety I'd had since art school, I went on an extensive search for something better, and these were my reward.
This is why they are brilliant: the spiral binding lets them lay open flat, or be folded back, which is so much easier for drawing than signature bound books. The back and front are both hard-covered, and sturdy, which means you can shove them in a backpack without wrinkling the paper, and that they can easily be held or set on a knee when sketching in the field. By far, they are the best sketchbooks for traveling. They went with me everywhere, from the local cafe, to India, Israel, Canada, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, and Germany. Their gorgeous, substantial pages are the perfect warm neutral, a colour that just makes me want to draw on it. And they are not perforated, which means the pages don't separate and fall out like a lot of other books do.
These 16 volumes are every inch filled with fleeting ideas, storyboards, mechanical diagrams for puppets and automatons, day dreams, lecture notes, grocery lists, personal histories, research, and anything else that crossed my mind.
The first drafts of Luna's Sea reside here, as well as plans for the Mermaid Statue, sketches of Istanbul, and the mysterious meanderings of my subconscious.
In the later sketchbooks, so enamored of the paper itself I started it using it as a final surface, often manipulated digitally later which brought out the fiber-fleck texture in a great way.
I've come to the last one I have left, #17, a small 5x7. A scouring of the web brought me to the dreaded conclusion that they are no more. This has happened twice before in my artistic career, first with Strathmore's 5-ply hot press Bristol board, from which I still haven't recovered, and later with Winsor & Newton's Finity acrylics. From those I learned not to become reliant on a single art supply, but alas, for the Earthbound sketchbooks, I mourn. If anyone has a lead on surplus, I'm all ears!
I'm an occasional student of a Russian Orthodox icon painting class in NYC. It's in a perfectly organized, quiet little basement studio in Soho, and it is as old school as painting gets. The method is egg tempera on carved gessoed wood. Not thin board, but big, glorious chunks of wood, covered in linen and 30 coats of gesso to make the silkiest, glowing white surface. A saint or archangel is traced onto the gesso and etched into it. Pigments are ground with a pestle and mixed into egg yolk. Real gold leaf is applied with breath onto red clay. It is a pure kind of heaven for a painter who truly loves paint.
Every step is carefully instructed by dedicated teachers Tatiana and Dmitri. And no small step comes without spiritual meaning which is explained with likewise care. It is as much a ministry as an art class. Painting is meditation. The students work quietly to monastic chanting. I get to indulge my teenage fantasy of being an medieval monk-artist. ("I and Pangur Ban my cat, 'tis a like task we are at....!)
Where much of my art-life is art-work: complete with the usual deadlines, decisions that may or may not be liked by a client, doubt, pressure and all that regular life stuff; to paint like this, with time, no decisions, no client, just yourself and these basic materials from the earth. What relief! What joy! A 6 hour class, with mid-way tea break, flies by.
And I love icons and early Christian art. My picture book art was always leaning toward this elegant, posed formality, but modern publishers wanted action any dynamic expressions. So my work sort of drifted between the two. The closest I got away with was some of the formal montage pages of Chiru, when it made sense to depict Tibet with thangka-inspired scenes.
It's going to take me a year to finish my first icon of Michael, since 12 hours to travel to NYC and back for a 6 hour class isn't a reasonable weekly activity for a puppeteer. But with this, there is truly no hurried destination, it's all about the glorious slow process.