My 2011 Minnesota State Fair: A Video Flip Through

February 27, 2012

If the above embedded video flip-through of my 2011 Minnesota State Fair doesn't work please view it here on YouTube.

The other day I met a woman who loves animals and loves painting animals, but when I asked if she sketched her cats she replied, "You can't sketch animals from life."

She was adamant.

Well, I'm equally adamant that you can. I do it a couple times a month at Como Zoo (sometimes I even get down to the Minnesota Zoo). I do it when I visit friends who have dogs. And I do it every year when I go to the Minnesota State Fair.

I don't think I'll be able to convince this woman to sketch animals from life, but I hope over time, if you read my blog, I can convince you.

To that end I finally had an opportunity to make a video flip through of my 2011 Minnesota State Fair. In the video I discuss the types of pens and paints I'm using. I worked in a handmade journal that was 7 x 8.5 inches. I filled 84 pages this year, which is down from last year's total of 121 pages; but I'm pleased with the results.

You'll see that there is a color image insert on the front cover of this book. That was made by creating a depression on my cover board before the board was covered with fabric. At the Fair I made two pieces of spin art. I scanned both pieces, selected a portion of one of the spin art pieces, and printed it out as a full color, archival print. It was sized to fit the label depression I'd earlier created in my front cover. Before attaching the color image to the front cover depression I laminated it to protect it. I scruffed up the back of the photo paper so it would adhere better and glued the image in place with PVA. 

Tip: I put wax paper over the image and then put a thin piece of foam or a towel over the cover before adding weight for the drying process. The soft material helps push the label into place better.

In the video you'll see some tabs in the gutter where pages have been cut out of the book. These pages were cut out at the start of the Fair, before I had worked in the book. This process allows me to add collage material without bursting my spine. If a tab occurs on a page where I want to work across the gutter I simply paint over it.

Before I started this blog in the fall of 2008 I would post journal selections on my website If you look down the list at this link you will find Minnesota State Fair Journals from as early as 2003

If you would like to look at Minnesota State Fair Journals from 2008 to the present please use this blog's search engine to search for key words, or click on "Minnesota State Fair" in the category list in the left column of this blog. (As you scroll down the posts in that category you'll also come across video of some of our sketch outs at the Fair.)

I have kept a variety of journals for my Minnesota State Fair Journal over the years. In 2007 and 2005 I made portfolios to contain journal cards like these used in 2007. Sometimes I even create a box that is painted to match my pre-painted cards (as I did for my 2003 Minnesota State Fair Journal.)

Whatever form your State Fair Journal takes, make sure to take part!

And note that my posts on the State Fair include a variety of informational posts on how to dress for sketching success for the Fair, manage your sketching time, sketch from life. If you haven't been sketching at the Fair before be sure to read my packing light recommendations. (Use the blog's search engine to look for posts on "Minnesota State Fair Prep."

Please check back during the summer when the date for the Fourth Annual Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out will be announced—it will be at the end of August 2012. There will be buttons again, for sketchers who shows up at the sketch out to sketch from life at the Fair. You don't want to miss out on the fun.

  1. Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed this Roz, and equally impressed with your book making skills. Your signatures stay together with no gaps!

    • Christine F
    • February 27, 2012

    I’d still like to see some of your journals posted over at the website so I can refer to them “all of a piece”

    • LizzieBo
    • February 27, 2012

    What a fantastic treat! And it makes me laugh at myself because I used copier paper at our State Fair (I’m just beside myself with giggles). So along with IFJM, I have next year’s State Fair to look forward to with REAL paper (since obviously now copier paper is fake paper). Thank you so much for this peek inside your journal. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy seeing the texture of the pages as you handle them in the video. It gives it a depth and a visceral quality I didn’t expect. What a delightful way to start the day.

  2. Reply

    Donna, in casebound signatures there are no gaps between signatures. This is a Roz Method binding and the paper holds the glue seams well (some papers are really soft or are heavily sized and they can pull apart in those areas under use, but there still shouldn’t be any gaps). When I make sewn on the spine constructions like the P10 journal
    There are deliberate gaps between each signature because they are sewn to the spine.

    I think both types of structures have their purpose.

    Thanks for the very kind compliment. I do love making books!

    • Miss T
    • February 27, 2012

    Roz, your journal is absolutely marvelous! It’s fun seeing the whole thing. Thank you for posting this.

    I’m stunned at the woman who said that it’s impossible to draw animals from life. Having done it both ways, I’m finding (to my surprise and delight) that it’s actually easier to capture an animal’s personality and essence when you work from life. Of course it’s more challenging because they move, but injecting life into a drawing done from a photograph is in some ways a more difficult challenge. They tend to have a static quality, and always feel as if they’ve been done from photos.

    I’m sorry for her that she won’t allow herself to try drawing from life. I’m learning a great deal by doing it. In fact, I’ve found now that I have a harder time drawing from the reference photos I took at the State Fair and at the zoo than I did working from the real, wiggling critters!

  3. Reply

    Christine, I’m sorry but I haven’t updated the journal section of my website since 2008 when I started the blog. I can’t do both. Not enough spare time, which is when the internet stuff happens.

    I do try to post video flip throughs of journals I really like or which are significant for making a point I want to make on my blog. I hope that gives a sense of the individual journal, as that’s the goal for that activity.

    If I stop doing the blog it’s feasible I could go back to updating that section, but I don’t think I would “fill in the gaps.” I’m not big about going back and “filling in” which is one of the reasons the journals section on my website doesn’t contain any thing from pre-2000 journals except a couple pieces (off the top of my head I would say all Dottie pieces to give a sense of what I was doing with her).

    I made a decision with the website that I could either spend all my time scanning past journal pages and making catalogs of them or I could actually spend my time making new journal pages and I so much prefer doing the latter. So we made an arbitrary decision when I put the “pages” together for the first “grouping” and then it was move forward from there.

    The purpose for the journal section on my website, and really for the blog, is to support my teaching by having up examples that I might want to refer to in classes, so I don’t have to lug so many books to class.

    I do generally post pieces from my journals chronologically so if you quickly scroll through past entries and don’t read the text you can get much the same effect as an old gallery on the website. Sorry I can’t help more. I appreciate you checking in about this.

  4. Reply

    LizzieBo, copier paper IS REAL PAPER, so you go right ahead and sketch on any paper you have at hand just as long as you are sketching at the Fair.

    Of course I would prefer that you sketch on archival paper (and there are some acid free copier papers out there) but sketching is the important thing.

    I’m particularly fond of this book and glad that you enjoyed seeing the pages turn. The paper is a lovely thick paper (and I’m sick it’s no longer available—I have about 5 books made with it left over, though all of them were bound as a bunch and are not suitable for going to the Fair with because they are too big or too small—suited for regular journaling. Maybe a short trip!). This book is just the right size to hold in a crowded barn, yet also have enough space on the page to get going.

    And this paper SMELLS devine. I could bury my nose into a book made of this paper. It is incredible. It always makes me want to get out an sketch.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the video. Keep sketching. If you do decide to switch papers you might go with a 300 lb. watercolor paper and cut it up into cards! Then you can make a box or portfolio for them after the Fair is over and you know how many you have and what size container you need. I’ve done several State Fair Journals with journal cards. That way you can still have your “single sheet” at a time aspect.

  5. Reply

    Miss T, I too prefer sketching from live animals for the same reasons. I find that I notice more stuff sketching from life than when I take a photo and try to draw from it, and that photo never contains enough detail.

    Also if a photo is of sufficient quality to capture the animal then there seems little point to me in drawing the animal.

    There is also a different sense of discovery for me when working from life, that relates to the line and how I’m working with line, when I work from life. The result I suspect, of the constant motion of the model—though I do tend to sketch sleeping or resting dogs quite a lot and that helps.

    Of course you have a pup at home to sketch all the time and I would encourage people who don’t to sketch from photos rather than not sketch at all. (My dog park photos come in handy late at night when there is no resident life-model and I want to sketch something I love.)

    I’m actually working on several week project right now (which will be posted about on the blog at a later date) that involves working on a dog portrait(s) from a photo and in many ways it is driving me crazy. I’m not used to it. But I’m practicing patience.

    The woman I referred to makes lovely paintings of animals so I think if she could see it being done and actually get out with people to do it she might be converted! I gave her a moo card with one of my pen and ink sketches of a chicken from the State Fair, and invited her to this year’s State Fair Sketch Out. So I have not given up hope on her. Sometimes people just need to experience it in context. Sketching out in public (where for me and others the animals are to be found) is still not something that a lot of people do. They haven’t been exposed to the concept, as strange as that may seem. And their journey in art has been through book demos and maybe a studio video or a class where the teacher has them work from photos because you can’t have animals in class, and so on.

    Oh, I just thought of something I have to remind myself to invite her to our July Collective meeting when we have the sketching Birthday party for Murphy the golden retriever!

    Go sketch Maxwell!

    • PeggySu
    • February 27, 2012

    What a delightful and inspiring way to start the day! Thank you.

    I enjoyed the natural way you integrated a few photos. For me they provided a context that underlines the value of the sketching and makes the overall experience more clear.

    Could you tell us how the photos are printed?

  6. Reply

    PeggySu, thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the view of the book.

    I have a digital camera that I take with me everywhere so when I return to the studio I insert the card into the computer, download the photos, open them in Photoshop to see which ones I want to keep. Then I may make adjustments to color, contrast, and most typically cropping. When that’s done I put them ganged together in one (or more) 8 x 10 inch documents and those files get printed on archival photographic paper with archival inks.

    (I gang the images up onto the 8 x 10 inch sheets because I like to save paper. My images have to be sized to fit whatever journal I’m working in so at the least I can get two images per piece of paper, but often I can get 3 or 4.)

    I run the resultant sheets through the Xyron with permanent adhesive, trim the photos apart and insert them in my journals.

    It’s a pretty fast process and once I transferred over to a digital camera (I think it was about 2002) photos started appearing more in my journals because I could get the images almost immediately without going to the processing lab. (I won’t work on pages the next day and so on.)

    Also, interestingly, I print a lot FEWER images because I only print the one or two I really want to save in my journals, the others are just archived as digital.

  7. Reply

    Roz, it was really great to see your 2011 State Fair journal. Under your influence I finally went to our local fair to sketch last summer and had so much fun I ended up going 4 days as well. I filled only 24 pages and took lots of photos but WOW! Since no one here seems to be sketching at the fair, I attracted a fair amount of attention, but the best part (aside from the sketching) was talking to the kids. What fun to hear all about their animals and learn little details of how they were raised/trained etc. I even had a couple kids ask me to draw THEIR animal when they noticed me drawing a competitor’s. I used your suggestions for packing light and had a fanny pack that held everything I needed. I did mostly ink sketches with notations and then sat on a bench outside the building and added watercolor there since the aisles at our fair are kind of narrow and I didn’t want to block access, plus it gave me a chance to rest my feet. I can’t stress how fun and freeing it is to draw on location like this. I hope you’re able to convince that lady to rethink her policy. I’m really looking forward to this summer’s fair and using my new Schmincke travel box and a handmade journal. I may have to spring for the ‘fair pass’ that lets you in for all days…just in case! I’ve posted some of my fair sketches on my blog at:
    Thanks again Roz!

  8. Reply

    Jill I’m thrilled to know you went to the fair in your area 4 days! (I think you wrote me at the time or did I just dream that?)

    I think talking to the kids about there animals is one of the best things about the Fair too. And adult farmers are great sources of information and stories as well.

    I love that the kids wanted you to draw their animals as well as the competitor’s!

    I think your plan of getting out of the aisles to paint was a great one.

    I will go look at your images right now. I’m so glad that you are all set to go again!!

  9. Reply

    Jill, I just left a message on your blog. I loved your Fair sketches!! Can’t wait to hear about your trip this year.

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