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Another Look at Painting Your Stonehenge Journal Covers

February 23, 2011

See the full post for another experiment by Frank Bettendorf in altering the covers of his Stonehenge Journal. Following his experiment I’ve also included additional tips and tools the I use to alter book covers. It’s time to turn that journal cover into a unique personal statement.

FrankFrontOutsideCovers
Above: the outside covers of Frank Bettendorf's latest Stonehenge Journal. Read how Frank painted his covers below, and see the inside covers. Note: when viewing the above image imagine you have the book open flat, but text pages down, in front of you, so that you can see the front cover on the right and the back cover on the left. Look closely and you'll see the debossed imprint of "Stonehenge" on the back cover at the left. Image ©2011 Frank Bettendorf.

On January 26, 2011 I posted Frank Bettendorf's first attempts at painting the covers of his Stonehenge Journals. Frank was working from instructions I posted on altering your Stonehenge Journal Covers, on September 22, 2010, when I first had these books with which to work.

Frank has been at it again, this time trying out my suggestion to gesso the boards first. With his permission I'm sharing his cover images and his comments on his experimentation. His comments are presented here italicized and indented. I have some comments and additional thoughts following his recounting of his experiments.

Gentle mist falling here so I'm using the time indoors to send you the latest experiments with Golden Fluid Acrylic paint and the blank Stonehenge journal covers.

1. I used gesso on all sides applied with brush strokes all going in one direction. I used my old 1 inch household brush. I then immediately brushed across the just gessoed side, trying to create a texture as well as sizing the surface. You may recall that my first attempt was on unsealed surfaces and I didn't or couldn't work fast enough to create an interesting image.

2. I have a very old Sumi brush, almost an inch wide, that is missing several hairs and is therefore perfect for dry brushing. I used it for all the applications of color. I put the fluid acrylic paint in empty 6 oz yogurt cartons and dipped the dry brush tip in the color, then splayed the hairs against the inside of the carton to widen the hairs and to further create the dry brush effect I wanted. This step needs to be experimented with so you can determine what effect you desire.

FrankInsideBackCovers
Above: the inside covers of Frank's new journal. Imagine that you are looking at your book but all the pages are removed. On the right is the inside back cover, on the left is the inside front cover. ©2011 Frank Bettendorf. Click on the iamge to view an enlargement.

3. My first attempt was with the Inside Back Cover [see image immediately above, right side] thinking that that would be the surface least likely to be seen by anyone so I could experiment there. The dark "figure" was done with undiluted sepia. I was surprised how dark the sepia became on the gessoed surface. I let the sepia dry before applying the next color. I next went acrosss the sepia by doing dry brush strokes in yellow at an angle. This was part of the discovery process; I wanted to see how the yellow enhanced the dark of the sepia. Then I applied a red over the existing colors at an angle. Before the red could dry, I dipped the brush in clean water, spread the hairs, and lightened the red in a few areas to create a contrast to the red. I thought this gave an interesting reaction—it caught my attention as a technique to remember.

When the red dried I named the image "dancing figure" and thought that is the mental approach I should take in doing the other sides. I should try to create movement with the liquids to enliven the cover. So that was the key to my approach.

4. I worked on the inside of the front cover using the same colors in the same order and the same techniques. [Inside front cover is on the left side of the second image above.] You can see in some passages where the water beaded and left dots allowing the yellow to peek through. I like that. I also like having more yellow show. I used the same colors to try to approximate end papers, like in a book.

5. The back cover [left side of the first image above at the start of this post], which I really like, I used water to lessen the blue in some places while retaining the dark as a contrast. I used a yellow in random directions trying to include my elbow movements as sweeping gestures. I finished with an orange that was strong but very lightly diluted; notice how the dots create interesting patterns.

6. Finally, the front cover [right side of the first image above at the start of this post], has a lot of richness in the dry brushed blue, contrasted with the yellow, green created by the yellow over the light blue, and the strong orange to complete the effect. If you enlarge this image you can see some extremely varied contrast in color and texture, perhaps a good example of how to approach another try at this.

So that's what I did. Once again the learning was fun and I can see a number of possibilities for the future. I'm almost sure that someone could go on and on with this, perhaps perfect the process, and paint and sell the finished product, which I have no interest in. Thanks for lending me the idea from your blog. I also haven't forgotten the idea of cutting out one page and creating a small accordion page like that friend of yours did. [Follow the link to Suzanne Hughes' blog post about creating accordion pages in another wirebound journal.] I'm saving that idea until I see how well I like using the square 7 x 7 size Stonehenge journal.

Frank has created another wonderful book he'll be able to journal in. His approach at experimenting with color and stroke is one that everyone can try, whether working on a new journal's bare boards, or on single sheets of paper. His experiments help us to remember a couple things about having an open mind when experimenting, and building on our first steps to develop techniques which we can repeat and reuse.

In item 3 he writes about the saturation of the sepia paint he used. Gesso keeps paint from sinking into a surface so all of your colors are going to have a greater saturation on gesso than without the gesso. By letting a color dry as he did, and glazing over the covers with additional colors, Frank was able to enliven the earlier colors and change them in subtle ways. You can do experiments like this with your own paints on single sheets of gessoed paper, to discover for yourself how glazing will bring new dimension to your color combinations.

I loved that Frank kept a theme of movement in mind as he worked on all the remaining covers of his book. Despite the color change from his painted "end papers" on the inside covers to his outside covers the idea of movement is maintained.

Playing with the amount of dilution of paint, and adding water while paint is still wet, or even splashing it or spritzing it with a bottle, all will case the paint to change in some way. If your gessoed surface has texture, paint will also pool and move about within the confines of that texture, creating interesting patterns of the type that Frank discovered.

Using Specialty Tools and Different Media
To play with the texture of your surface I recommend that you try a number of different tools. After using a house brush as Frank did to first cover his boards, repeat the gesso application in an angled direction, or even with random strokes. You'll end up with a white on white effect that when painted over will allow your texture to emerge.

Also, use other tools to finish the surface of your gesso. Try applying a second layer of gesso with a brayer (either smooth, or one into which you've carved a pattern); use a moist sponge (natural sponges are great for this) which you have squeezed the water out of, to press everywhere over the surface of your still wet gesso, or to apply more wet gesso. You will get an interesting texture caused by the suction of lifting and pulling the sponge away from the wet gesso.

If you have rakes and paper marbling tools, stroke them across a second application of gesso while the gesso is still wet. (You don't want to do this with your first application of gesso as you may scrape down to the bare boards and leave some areas not covered with gesso.) Woodgraining tools of the type you find in the home construction stores make fabulous tools to play with in this fashion.

Color Shapers (rubber tipped, brush like tools used for paints and clay), can also be used to add texture to a wet layer of gesso. Roughly woven fabric, cheese cloth, and even corrugated card stock are just some of the other items you can turn to for texturizing your surface by pressing them into a wet gessoed surface like a rubber stamp (and of course you could use stamps if you clean them thoroughly immediately!). You can even leave the cheese cloth in place, beneath a layer of gesso. (You may also be able to do this with most fabrics and cardstocks, but the result will be more dimensional and I would suggest that you—1. let your first layer of gesso dry completely, 2. apply the texture items such as fabric and cardstock using gel medium as a glue to hold them in place and again allow to dry fully, 3. then apply a covering layer of gesso. Finally when the gesso is dry, paint on your surface, enjoying the fun of exploring those textures with your color choices.)

All of these techniques can be explored on the bare boards of your Stonehenge Journals, or on books you make from scratch.

On my website you will find books that I made using a variety of surface embellishments, including some of the ones discussed here. I've used stencils on the book at the top left, to lay in a coating of modeling paste in a checkerboard pattern (you can create any pattern you have a stencil for—which is a great excuse to make some stencils, if you needed an excuse!). (Allow extra time for drying when using media which are applied thickly, before you paint them.)

In this series of books on my website you'll see examples of painting on covers that include painting with bubble wrap, painting with string, using masking tape masks, and adding variety of dimensional media.

If you are painting on a non-gessoed board, or on a fabric-covered book cover, keep your paints and medium as dry as possible to avoid any buckling and warping of the board or fabric-covered board. As you can see from the variety of examples I've made in the two linked images on my website, if you keep the moisture content low you'll be able to create sturdy and decorative covers on bare board or fabric covered boards.

Again, when working with dimensional media always allow additional time for drying. I find that it is best to leave an object (painting surface, bookboard, cover, etc.) for at least 24 hours or longer, until you are sure it is complete set and dry.

The patience you exert while waiting for your item to dry will be well repaid when you get to painting and exploring the extra texture you've created.

It's time for you to start experimenting like Frank has been doing. I hope you create some lovely book covers, great vessels for your visual journal!

    • lizcarlson79@yahoo.com
    • February 23, 2011
    Reply

    Hey Roz great post! Tomorrow at Wet Paint I’ll be showing some Journal covering techniques. Two on Stonhenge pads, tissue collage and stenciling. F.Y.I.! Have a good day!

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