Starting Over

People often ask me, “What happens if you make a mistake in your journal?” Sometimes I live with it, sometimes I work through it until I can correct it, and sometimes, it’s best to start over. That was the case with this page, which started out as a watercolor sketch of mountain laurel trees in a dappled afternoon woodland. I jumped into it without any drawing and never recovered. So I glued an old dictionary page over the laurel to experiment with painting on book paper– something I’ve long wanted to try. This brought an immediate sense of relief and new possibilities.

Click to view larger. Acrylic and ink in Stillman & Birn beta sketchbook collaged with old book paper.

Click to view larger. Acrylic and ink in Stillman & Birn beta sketchbook collaged with old book paper.

I found a killdeer nesting on the beach two weeks ago and went back to check on it again this week. These robin-sized shorebirds nest right in the open– sometimes at the edge of parking lots or ballfields. The adults sit on the nest for nearly three weeks and when the young hatch they are fluffy and mobile. Once their feathers dry, the chicks totter around after their parents in search of food– a sight I hope to see on my next visit.

A note about painting on book pages: Think of it like working on toned paper. Subjects with strong lights and darks will work really well. The tricky part is that it’s really hard to see pencil or pen lines when there’s a lot of text. Watercolor is my usual medium, but book paper is much too thin for it. Gouache, acrylic, or colored pencil are better suited. Check out artist Alissa Duke’s Exhibition PreviewCan you draw in books?” to see some outstanding examples.



18 Comments on “Starting Over

  1. This is one of your most stunning paintings. I love everything about it … the subject matter lends itself perfectly to the camouflaged nest/eggs and the little killdeer leaps off the page. I like the blue background for the letter K which is a beautifully illuminated letter. Whatever lies beneath is forever a secret. A great journal page. I shall eagerly await my library’s next book sale or look for books I can use to try and emulate your technique. Beautifully done!

    • Thanks Carole! I enjoyed using acrylics for a change. It seems so easy compared with watercolor. I like the effect here too and I’m eager for more. Might have to take myself to a used book store!

  2. What a wonderful page in your sketchbook, thanks for the tips on the best media to use too! I am working on a similar idea using maps and maybe printed music pages, you’ve really inspired me.

    • Hi Valerie– Yes, I think maps and music pages would be great. I like the thought of putting birds on music pages. A bit more thought about the fit between the subject of the page and the painting would enhance the finished artwork. Good luck with your artwork!

  3. Your experiment turned out striking and I enjoyed the info on the Killdeer. I love those birds and it’s fun to watch the adult try to decoy people who are walking near their nest of eggs.

    • That’s how I came upon the nest. I was watching sandpipers when I heard a racket nearby. A couple was walking close to the nest and the adult killdeer did the injured wing distraction display– it worked…but it also lead me to turn my focus on the killdeer and find the nest. Beautifully exposed and camouflaged at the same time. I liked getting the white on the bird to pop off the darker paper– something that would have been a little harder with watercolor.

  4. I adore this. You captured the killdeer-ness so completely, and I love the feeling of the illuminated manuscript. I hope you do go to the used bookstore for more pages.

    • Thanks! I sort of cringe at taking apart old books, but I like the effect and can see good possibilities with it. More to come!

  5. So clever! I love the idea of gluing an old book page on top of the ruined art and start fresh. Plus, the printed page make paintings look doubly interesting.

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