La mare au diable

On the May 27, 2019 I started drawing in La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand I’d picked up a couple of days previously for 50 cents in the charity shop. The book may have been ugly but it was at least a hardcover, and I liked the texture, colour, size and weight of the pages. However, there were a lot of them.

As with my previous recycled sketchbook I had one rule; no rules other than to work intuitively and with whatever was interesting or inspiring to me in the moment. That could be anything – a colour, a particular mark or technique, art I’d seen, leftovers from another project…

And so, exactly one year to the day I started it, here is the finished book. I completed the last page 2 days ago. Here are my favourite spreads in chronological order:

what i loved best was the flexibility

The easiness, lack of pressure and the spontaneity and fun. But there were a lot of problems too. So many pages meant that pretty soon the left hand side buckled under the weight of gesso. I also made some grey gesso halfway through. That was horrible and I soon made a new batch of off-white which looked much better.

It was good to experiment with things like collage, monoprint, homemade inks and paints, pierre noire, charcoal and conté. I tried ink line drawings, faces, abstract mark-making. It was fun when snippets of text showed throught the gesso and I could use that as a springboard for ideas if they appealed to me.

added benefits

Having a regular, low pressure project like this always available to me was great for my motivation. Even on days I wasn’t feeling it, a routine of 5 minutes in the book was always manageable and often just seeing what would come up once I’d started would lead to more pages, or getting stuck in to other work.

It was a propagator for ideas both good and bad. Of course, the beauty of it is that an ugly page can be turned over and a fresh start made, and it could lead anywhere.

Now I’m on the hunt for my next old book project, I definitely think this habit is worth hanging on to.