If You Love A Paper—Draw More, Not Less—Don’t Save It for Another Day

May 9, 2016


Above: Quick pear sketches using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (PPBP) in a handmade journal made with defunct printmaking paper that I'm totally besotted with.

Slowly, inevitably, I am working my way through this journal I made in the early 2000s with the last of a now defunct printmaking paper. It is so fabulous not only as bookbinding paper, but for all the visual arts. 

You'll see a tab in the gutter. I actually bound this book with tabs because I collage a lot in my journals and this creates extra space at the spine for that added bulk and protects the spine. However I don't recommend you do this if you're binding your own books. It creates a book that is lower at the fore edge than the spine and when you finish casing it in and have to quick whip it into a press or under some weights, you have to first put in some clean blank waste paper at various points in the textblock to offset this—but this can lead to some impressing of the lines of those inserted papers into the pages of the book if you don't get it right, and you shouldn't be opening your book yet anyway (all my students can hear my voice in their head telling them this), and time is a-wasting!

The sad thing is that I have this lovely book with great space for collage and I haven't collaged anything in it because I want to use each of these pages for ink or paint. 

It is wonderful the way the PPBP and other pens move across this surface. The paper is very smooth, but there is a very slight tooth and that tooth allows you to get interesting "dry' brush shading with the pen. Let's just say it is always fun to work on this paper. On Thursday I'd been at the computer most of the day and really wanted to sketch so I savored the moment.

160505_Pair-of-pears-2Left: The same spread—but I've flipped over the tab so you can see the full right-hand page.

Friday morning on my bike ride I came up with a wonderful plan on how to use the tabs while still savoring all the pages for sketching—if I decide to follow through on that at an event in a couple weeks I will post about it again here.

Enjoy your favorite papers while you have them. Don't let your internal critic or your inclination to resistance fake you out into setting them aside for when you've reached your peak, or mastered your skills, or the planets are in alignment.

Saving or hoarding for another day—it's not a good thing. Work more NOW!

Don't buy into the Myth of Scarcity. You'll find something else to work on later. Something you'll be able to turn to your hand because you've prepared yourself.

Appreciate your materials while you work with them. That loving appreciation will help you recognize the next favorite when it presents itself.

Here's an idea: You know that favorite, really special pen that you put in a drawer and are saving until you can hatch like Anders Zorn? Or those paint sticks that cost the earth but you just don't have the hang of yet, but will some day when you understand perspective? Or…? You fill in the blank.

Go get it/them out right now. Unwrap them; fill them up with ink if necessary; and have them right on hand ready to be called into action the next time you are setting out to sketch or are going into the other room to sketch your luncheon vegetables.

And use them.

Everyday, for as long as you can.

And during that time, write on your pages about how it feels to use them; what they feel like against the paper you're working on; how they create lines that you like, or blend in ways that you hunger for.

Write about everything you notice. SAVOR the entire experience—which includes writing about how they smell (especially if you are using paper, never forget how wonderful paper can smell).

When you run out, or if you lose something, or drop it and it isn't fixable—have a moment of silence to honor your partner in sketching. Thank it for the help and insight it gave you.

Then go to your drawer and get something else to work with. (You can even draw your old tool in commemoration.) 

And get right back to work.

  1. Reply

    Lovely essay, Roz. Too often, I’ve saved journals, pens, paints … whatever … only to lose them or have them dry out or ,,,whatever.

    I am reminded of the time when my mother was dying. I made her a beautiful handstitched heirloom lace pillow case so that she would have something against her head to remind her how much she was loved. I put my heart into that little token.

    When she died and my daughters and I had to go through all the “stuff” she had accumulated over well over 50 years in the same house, we came across that pillow slip carefully tucked away in her cedar chest. Never used.

    It made me sad to think that even as she was so ill that she knew death was imminent that she still couldn’t bring herself to just use something made specifically for her because it was too “special.”

    Your experience outlined here encourages me to just use all the art materials I have accumulated in search of the perfect medium.

    So, if you’ll excuse me I’ll just toddle off to my little studio and have some fun! Thanks for being here!

  2. Reply


    I am guilty of doing this: keeping all of my “good” art supplies for that “someday”, that never seems to come.

    I will take your great advice and get to using them tout de suite!


  3. Reply

    Susanna, I’m sorry your mom didn’t use that slipcase either, but she knew you made it for her and in some way perhaps this was her way of enjoying it, to save it. To know it was there and wonderful.

    But yes you have to use up those supplies. No more new supplies until you’ve used up all of something!

    Have fun.

  4. Reply

    Evie, I’m glad you’re going to start using the good stuff you’ve been saving. I believe using the good stuff helps us improve our work faster, so that’s a good thing too. And when we have too much stuff around it can weigh on you and keep you from making quick choices to just start creating. So I hope you start treating every day as that “someday” you were waiting for.

  5. Reply

    Thanks Mary. I hope you can get out and sketch today. It will be a virtual hang out!

    • Nancy C.
    • May 9, 2016

    I am a stash hoarder from way back– it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve been able to bring myself to really use it. Sometimes. I still have a few hoarded stashes, but reading your essay has inspired me anew!

    I will go forth, go dig out more stuff, and use it with the conviction of a convert.

    • Kathy
    • May 9, 2016

    What a perfectly timed, ridiculously helpful post!
    Thanks Roz!

  6. Reply

    this applies to so many things – saving perfume/scented candles/pens etc for best. Why, more often than not they are ruined or we die first!

    I have a Leuchturrm 1917 that I use every single day (I’m a writer rather than artist) and yes, it is a £12 note book that today I have used for writing out some music theory that I need to learn, literally writing out line after line of the same thing until it goes into my brain.

    Today-s to-do list is in there, so is some scratchings around a poem. oh and that woman’s phone number.

    But I am honouring my thoughts by using my notebook in this way – I write using good pens and excellent ink, but I am giving weight to my work by not grabbing a scrap of paper or back of an envelope.

    I learnt this from you BTW – use it all every day. It becomes a more valuable tool that way. And yes I get through one a month, but I think it’s worth it, and I often write drinking my posh coffee, out of my favourite mug that a friend got from Holland, while a scented candle burns.

    Life’s too short to save things for best.

    • Miss T
    • May 10, 2016


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