Thursday, 26 March 2015


Look what I was sent this week:



The lovely Missus B emailed to ask permission from myself and Damian Harvey. I'm not sure that she actually needed it, but it was lovely to be asked and even lovelier to listen to her reading our book. 

If you have children of the right age (or just like to have a story read to you - I know I do...) then take a look.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Back to My 'Urban Sketching People' Book


Now the mural artwork is done (phew) and I have got my concertina sketchbooks sorted, I have cleared my schedule to concentrate purely on my 'sketching people' book. 

If you have been following the project, you will remember that I have a handful of spreads which are more or less finished - the ones we did as samples, to get the US edition signed up, including this painting before you draw spread:


Then, at the start of the year, I sent off a good chunk of the text, along with all the images that will go with it (just photos of my sketchbook pages for now). My publisher has been working on it while I have been doing other things. About two thirds of what I submitted has now been set into very rough spreads and sent back with some suggestions for changes. I had an long phone call with my editor, where we went through everything in fine detail and I scribbled notes all over the spreads:


It's not too bad at all actually. All the text is intact without changes, it's pretty much all suggestions for either squeezing in more images or adding step-by-step breakdowns here and there. 

The publisher also sent out a call for other sketchers to submit work for possible inclusion and I have sheets and sheets of gorgeous guest work to choose from. That's going to make things easier. So far, I have been trying to collect potential guest images by trawling Flickr and saving things into Pinterest.


I have mostly addressed the changes now. I just have some captions and annotations to write, to go with the added images, but I'm waiting until my suggestions have been given the green light before I do that. 

For now, I have moved on and begun writing a new section of the book. This one looks in detail at how to draw specific parts of the body. We did sketching the eyes as one of the sample spreads. I took a couple of days to get my head back into things, after such a lengthy pause, but I am motoring nicely now and have already written 'feet', 'hair' and 'ears'. Still got mouths, hands and noses to do. Better get on...

Friday, 20 March 2015

Concertina Sketchbooks: the Clever Details


I have now finished my 35 sketchbooks, ready for my residency at Manchester's Morgan Centre. I don't know if anyone out there is going to have a go at making the books for themselves, but in case you are, here's the final stage of the process.


The cover is more or less done, but two things are missing - we need the card insert, to hold the paper concertinas we created in place, and we need a way of fastening the book closed, because the paper will try to escape and inevitably unravel itself in the most inconvenient places you can imagine.

The insert is very straight forward. I bought a pack of A4 black card from WH Smith, 240g, which was perfect. The insert width needs to be approx 10mm narrower than your back cover board. The height, needs an excess of 30 - 40mm to fold over, both top and bottom. The centre between the folds should measure 5mm more than your concertina-paper height (which should also be about 10mm less than the height of the book cover). Score the excess and fold (gently, rather than tightly):


Test that this does in fact sit neatly into your back cover (I made lots of measuring errors during the course of making the books - it's best to double-check everything).

I tried using double-sided tape to stick the insert into the book at first. I figured that it would be less messy than PVA when trying to position the folded card, but it started to peel up after just a couple of hours, so I went back to PVA. 


I glued the top flap first, positioned it (folded under) on the inside back cover - 5mm from the top and outside edge - then put it under a couple of books to dry (squeeze out and wipe any excess glue first!)

I did the bottom flap once the top was secure. One trick: I was aware of the potential for excess glue to squeeze out underneath at this stage, unseen, and accidentally glue the insert shut, so I slipped a strip of waste card in between, before pressing the glued flap down. 


Again, put books on top to dry, or it springs up.

The end of the concertina-paper can now be slipped under the card and slipped out again when you want to replace your paper. Ingeniously simple solution for refills. I can't take the credit I'm afraid: my clever friend Lucie Golton designed it.


Many people use ribbon to fasten books. I didn't want to drill holes in the cover through, as it acts as a mini drawing board when I am using the book, so I wanted it unsullied. John came up with the Velcro system. I was going to buy Velcro tape, then discovered these nifty little guys:


Perfect. You pop one fuzzy spot onto the book, back and front, then attach the loopy halves onto a short strap, which I made from vinyl to match the spine. 


I just cut a piece of vinyl twice as wide as needed and 10mm longer each end, cut across the corners, then folded it in on itself, using PVA again. 

The beauty of the Velcro is that, when the book is in use, if the unfastened strap gets in the way, you can detach it and stick it back on at 90 degrees. You don't lose it, but it doesn't keep flapping and springing around the edges your paper.

If you found this project useful and want to check out other handy posts, try using the Hot Tips label on the right. I add the label to anything I think might be helpful to other people. It's a bit of a mix, with other ways of home-binding sketchbooks, but also tips for building up an illustration folio, how to do a school visit, create a 'Flat Plan' to plan out a book, or how to use  / where to buy particular art materials. All sorts. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Concertina Sketchbooks: Making Detachable Covers


The covers are done - hurrah! Making them isn't as tricky as you think, honest. You need:

Book board: warps less, but any thick board could be substituted I guess. 
PVA glue and a biggish brush (don't let it dry on the brush!).
Cloth: I've used regular cotton before, but book cloth is stiff and paper-backed, so easier.
Book vinyl: for the spine (though again you could try other materials).
Endpapers: any thickish, patterned paper works.
Medium weight card: a small piece to create a flap, to hold the folded paper in place.

You also need lots of scrap paper, to help create both a clean and a 'gluey' work area, side by side.


I started by cutting 2 pieces of book board: you need to allow 5mm more than your folded paper inner all round. I then cut 2 pieces of book cloth, allowing about 20mm overlap on three sides, but cutting it 20mm short on the spine edge. You stick the book cloth pieces to the boards (it's easier to apply the glue to the board, rather than the book cloth):


You turn it over and cut off the corners, snipping within 2mm of the board corners:


Then you glue all the excess cloth edges and stick them down, making sure to pull the cloth tight over the board edges (sorry, just realised this photo is up the other way - bit confusing, but you get the idea):


The corners are slightly tricky (this is where the book cloth really helps). You use your thumbnail to tuck the cloth into the corner on one side, then fold the other edge over to seal a neat corner:


Next comes the spine. I measured the width of my folded-up paper inner at 15mm. I didn't squeeze the paper too tight, so it wouldn't be under too much pressure and the book would close more easily. 

This is where the vinyl comes in: you need a piece to join the two boards together and create a strong spine. Book vinyl is great as it's very strong but also takes pencil on the reverse, so it's easy to measure and cut to size. 


I measured 35mm, to stick to each board, plus the 15mm spine, so 85mm wide. It needed to be as long as the board height, plus an extra 20mm top and bottom to fold over. I drew all this onto the vinyl, so it was easier to line things up when sticking on the boards: 


I put PVA glue onto the vinyl one half at a time, placing each board so it sat within my pencil lines, until it all looked like this:


Then I glued the excess vinyl top and bottom and folded it over, making sure it was pushed well into the spine. 

I then cut another strip of vinyl to go on the spine's inside. That needs to be just 1mm shorter than the book height, both top and bottom, and roughly the same 85mm width. When you glue that on, you need to really push it into the spine edges, so it's snug against the board and stuck tight to the other piece of vinyl:


There is a book-binder's tool which is designed for that job, but there are plenty of things which will do the trick, including a thumbnail.


Then you do the endpapers. You would normally stick the paper to both sides but, in this case, the inside back cover is going to be completely obscured by the flap we need to make, to slip the paper insert into. You just need to cover the front. Measure a piece that is 4 - 5mm smaller than the front cover all round and stick it on.


You're nearly there now. I'll tell you how to make the card insert next time, as this is turning into a very long post.