Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Thin Italy Sketchbook

Collages of maps and postcards are on the covers of my Italy sketchbook.

I spent a recent rainy morning binding my sketchbook from Italy. Only three signatures thick, I think it’s the thinnest book I’ve bound with the Coptic stitch and certainly the thinnest of my 37 total handbound sketchbooks. As I mentioned in the sketch kit follow-up post, I ended up making a dozen full spreads in my Stillman & Birn softcover landscape-format sketchbook, which is unusual for me – I typically make only one or two in that book when I travel.

My Stillman & Birn landscape-format sketchbook
did a lot of the heavy lifting in Italy.
I’m certainly happy that I had the Stillman & Birn along when I needed it; I would have felt constrained and frustrated by my usual 9-by-12-inch spreads if long-and-skinny is the shape I was looking at. Still, it bothers me a tiny bit that such a large number of sketches from the trip are not in the same book in chronological order. There’s no way around it, of course; even if I were to cut and fold my own signatures in the long-and-skinny direction, I still wouldn’t be able to bind them together with the portrait-format 6-by-9-inch signatures in the same book.

It did occur to me that the next time I travel, I could try making only landscape-format signatures, since smaller sketches can still be done on the pages without going across the spread. But the long-and-skinny format is also awkward to hold, especially when sketching while standing. (I remember several times on crowded, narrow streets in Venice and Positano when a corner of my landscape book got jostled and bumped by passers-by.) And without the support of a cover, a thin signature of paper would probably be too flimsy when held open as a spread. In general, landscape is not my format of choice – until it is.

Choosing a sketchbook is just like the rest of life: As soon as I make one choice, it means giving up others. At least I’ve got my travel sketchbooks down to these two formats – DIY signatures and the S & B softcover landscape. That’s a far cry from the half a dozen types and formats I used to use simultaneously years ago. Talk about sketchbook schizophrenia! Compared to that, being split in two isn’t so bad.

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