Friday, March 28, 2014

Finishing Touches to My Italy Travel Journal

I always wait to do the title page for a travel journal until after I've completed all the sketches. I like to get a feel for what the content of the journal is before deciding on the style and subject matter for the title page.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman &  Birn Beta series sketchbook

For my Italy sketchbook, I knew I wanted to paint an Italian landscape, complete with vineyards, olive groves, cypress trees, and villas. I also needed a stylish font, a nice border, and a place to include the dates of the trip.


The filigree border was inspired by a drawing I saw in an old cookbook. I adapted it to fit my theme by adding grapes, leaves, and birds.


The landscape is a composite of elements from photos I took while over there.



I planned the sketchbook cover long before the paintings were finished. In fact, the whole time I was in Italy, I was on the lookout for some sort of fabric that I could use for a cover. Finally, in San Gimignano, I found a beautiful linen tea towel with woven scenes of Tuscany. Perfect!


A few doodads from Michaels' scrapbooking and jewelry departments fancied things up a bit.

Metal brads were hot-glued on grosgrain ribbon

The heart was from a make-your-own-bracelet display

The end papers were painted on 140-lb watercolor paper, then cut and fitted in place on the inside of the covers.



I took two Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbooks with me to Italy. After I filled the first one, I went on to use eleven pages in the second, giving me a total of thirty-seven sheets. When I began to finish up the sketches at home, I realized it would be much easier if I disassembled the two sketchbooks and pulled out the pages, so I could work on several of them at once. That way, I could paint one while another dried.

There was just one problem...if I put all thirty-seven pages back together as one finished sketchbook, the original binding was not going to fit. I thought I could just go to an office supply store and get a larger diameter binding, but I soon found out that they're not available in that style of wire binding. Hmmm...what to do now?


I came up with a pretty neat solution - I reassembled everything so that the binding opened on the outside spine of the sketchbook instead of inside the back cover. I bent it apart as much as I needed to allow for the extra pages I had added. Now I just needed something to connect the binding to itself and hold my pages in place.


I had some dark brown satin rattail cord left over from a craft project, so I threaded it through the wire binding and began tying a series of square knots down along the spine. It worked!


It encased the pages securely and added a pretty decorative finish to my sketchbook. Isn't it cool how problems can force us to be more creative?


My Italy sketchbook is finally complete - I love it!


Now on to the next project...and the next trip. :)


26 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your Italy journal.... I was there not too long ago and it brought back fond memories. Your work is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. That was a neat and nice looking solution. The journal is lovely - I wish I could draw like that, but I have to make do with photographs, rough sketches and abstract drawing in my travel journals.

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    1. Learning to draw is just a matter of practice. Read some books on the subject, take a class, or just draw, draw, and draw some more. Your skills will improve with the doing. I promise!

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    2. Have you taken any drawing classes, Bibliophile? I really want to keep a sketchbook, but I'm not confident in my drawing, or painting, skills, so I signed up for an online drawing class specifically for illustrated journaling. It's called Sketchbook Skool (sketchbookskool.com), and it starts April 4. I can't wait! It looks like a lot of fun!

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  3. It turned out beautiful Leslie! You're so creative! I love it!

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  4. That is pretty neat. Love how you covered the sketchbook and how you finished it with the ribbon. What a unique sketchbook. Something to treasure!

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    1. It really is a little gem, one of my most treasured possessions. There's so much of me in it.

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  5. WOW, I love it! So beautiful, creative and awesome!

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  6. Oh, Leslie! Your attention to detail, the love that's shown in your painting and pages..... Magnifico! probably spelled this wrong, but hopefully my phonetic spelling will get you there :)

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  7. I've enjoyed every minute of your trip to Italy from the preparation, all the fabulous sketch paintings, beautifully written script describing the places you visited, now to the wonderful finishing touches you did in covering and the ribbon binding so original, absolutely perfect.

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    1. You've been there with me from the beginning, Barbara. Thanks for hanging in there. It was a long project, but worth it.

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  8. I love following all the posts on your Italy trip. Will you make it into a Blurb book just like you did with the Ireland one?

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    1. Yes, I'm planning to. Should be ready in a couple of weeks.

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  9. Hi, Leslie. I'm new here. I'm so glad I found your blog; I love your painting style! Your sketchbook is so inspiring. I'm going to have to go back and read all your Italy posts!

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    1. If you just click on the "Italy" label in the sidebar, all the Italy posts should come up. Enjoy!

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  10. Magnificent! Now where is the next trip you're taking us on?

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  11. I've really enjoyed following your journey through Italy and the finished journal is beautiful. I'm especially inspired by the reconstructed binding, what a brilliant idea! So where are you going next year?

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  12. What a treasure! Necessity is the mother of invention :)

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  13. Just a wonderful momento of your trip. I am so inspired to do the same (even tho I'm not the artist you are, I sometimes surprise myself) and leave time during vaca's to draw/paint. I love how the binding turned out also, so pretty and functional & free to boot :)

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  14. What a beautiful memory you have created. I only wish I could see it in person. Can't wait to see the next trip.

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  15. Love how you have done the cover! Thanks for taking us on a trip to Italy with you! (Fingers crossed that I get back there this fall or next spring.)

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  16. WHOA, everything about this is just gorgeous; the images, the manipulation of the journal, the retro-fitting of the two journals!!! I just love it!

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