Behind the scenes: the making of a book/zine

Making Driving Around was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on in forever! I learnt so much in the process that I thought I’d share some behind the scenes stuff in case it’s helpful to anyone else who may be on a journey to make/self-publish a small book/zine.

The backstory

It was mid-November when I realized that the drawings I’d made on various local travels throughout 2020 told the story, at least in part, of our pandemic year. I knew I wanted to put those drawings together with some of the words I’d written along the way (mostly in journal entries; sometimes in Instagram posts), and make… something. I had a feeling that that something would help me make some sense of what 2020 was all about, at least partially, at least for me.

Why a book?

I considered some sort of online thing (a blog post? a series of posts? an illustrated essay?…), but none of the online ideas I came up with felt quite right. I sort of wanted it to be a physical thing, something I could hold in my hands, something I could put into someone else’s hands, something that would come together more slowly and deliberately, something that could be consumed more slowly and deliberately, too (yes that last one is probably possible online, but less and less so lately?). It didn’t take me long to realize that that something should probably be a book/zine. I’ve made zines before but nothing quite like this one, so I knew I needed to take some time with layout and such. And probably find a commercial printer.

The doubt

Ever do that thing where you spend forever researching how to do something as a stalling tactic? As in, I couldn’t possibly just do this thing, I need to get a PhD in HOW to do it first. My brain was a painful jumble of page layouts and trim areas and CMYK and InDesign and bleed and and and… I don’t know how many YouTube videos I’d watched when I realized just how much I was stalling and how my skills and tools were probably perfectly adequate to get this thing done (i.e. I am learning that adequate is often enough!)

The mechanics

Once I’d made that mental leap, it all came together pretty quickly:

  • I used my very basic, consumer-grade, HP printer/scanner to scan the original art from my sketchbooks (600dpi)
  • I cleaned up the scans in Affinity Photo (I said goodbye to Photoshop last year and I’ve never been happier)
  • I used my iPad, Pencil, and Procreate to create each page/side and to hand-letter the text (all tools I already had and have used extensively for other projects) and exported each side as a high-quality PDF

Finally, I chose a printer based solely on a bit of googling. I knew I wanted to work with someone as local as possible, someone that was eco-conscious and sustainability-minded. I settled on Mixam because they met all those criteria and their process and workflow looked amazingly simple. And it totally was. I phoned their support line a couple of times and they were super helpful in giving me advice on how best to layout my content in Procreate, and when it came time to send them my files, their interface was intuitive and seamless. FYI, this is totally #notanad, I’m just a new fan. I’d use them again in a heartbeat.

The end

Actually, just the beginning! As I mentioned above, making this little book was SO MUCH FUN that I seriously can’t wait to do it again. Ideas are brewing! In the meantime, if you’d like to order a copy of Driving Around, head to my shop to grab one! And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about any of this process stuff.

2020, a year in books

2020! A year when I had more time than ever to read and an attention span that was shorter than ever before (see: pandemic and all that attendant anxiety). 36 books in a year is not nothing but it’s a lot fewer than I’ve managed in previous years. Still, there were some good ones. Here’s what I recommend (listed in the order in which I read them):

  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion (love her forever)
  • Circe, Madeline Miller (third reread; not the last)
  • Walking Distance, Lizzy Stewart (just delightful)
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo (really excellent)
  • Devotion, Patti Smith (love her forever, too)
  • The Dutch House, Ann Patchett (far and away the best book I read in 2020)

2018, a year in books

From everything I’ve read lately, I’ve learned that you’re either one of those people who sets goals or resolutions when a new year rolls in, or you aren’t. I am the former (whereas I used to be the latter). Lately I’ve been setting intentions rather than resolutions — they serve me well and allow me to interpret them differently as the year progresses and as my progress warrants. I realised this morning that one area where I haven’t set an intention in a number of years is reading. I read consistently so it’s probably a simple case of I know I’m going to read books this year and that’s enough.

That said, I do track what I read on Goodreads and, inevitably, I re-up on their annual reading challenge, committing to 52 books for the year. Still, I don’t consider that an actual intention because I don’t pay any attention to how close I’m getting to hitting my target. And maybe it’s just me but their interface doesn’t seem to do a lot to encourage you towards meeting your goal as the year progresses? Regardless, as I said, I always assume that I will read books this year, just like I know I’m going to, I don’t know, take showers, so there seems as little point in paying attention to how much I’m reading as there is in paying attention to how many showers I’ve taken. So I don’t. Which is why I found myself particularly surprised when I looked at my 2018 shelf on Goodreads on December 30th only to realise that, hey, 52 is exactly the number of books I read in 2018. Cool.

There’s quite a bit of research-related stuff on the list (I was on research leave for the first 5 months of 2018) and aaallll sorts of books about drawing and painting (pretty much all of which I would recommend, particularly Felix Scheinberger’s stuff). So in terms of fiction and general non-fiction, here’s what I’d recommend from my reading year (listed in the order in which I read them):

  • Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists, by Julia Rothman
  • The Mother of All Questions, by Rebecca Solnit
  • The Customer is Always Wrong, by Mimi Pond
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
  • The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
  • Educated, by Tara Westover
  • Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, by Kelly Corrigan
  • You & a Bike & a Road, by Eleanor Davis
  • Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline
  • All the Sad Songs, by Summer Pierre
  • The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
  • Heart Berries: A Memoir, by Terese Marie Mailhot
  • Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  • The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce
  • The Break, by Katherena Vermette
  • The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, by David Sax
  • Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Noble
  • Calypso, by David Sedaris

Read well, friends.

#the100dayproject, 2018 edition

I’ve always maintained that one of the main reasons why I keep a notebook/journal/occasional blog is because it helps me keep track of the things I’ve done. I participated in The 100 Day Project again this year and was pleased to be able to dig through this blog’s archives to find that I first participated back in 2014. No way I would have remembered that.

I started this edition of The 100 Day Project thinking I’d just commit to working in my sketchbook everyday (#100daysofetchesketchbook). As wide open as that was, I realised a few days in that I needed to make it even broader. At the time I was in full-on exploration mode, reading a tonne of books on technique and form, flitting between skillshare and craftsy (now bluprint), and contemplating various workshops at our local art school. So #100daysofetchesketchbook became #100daysofarteducation. It felt right.

At the time I was also trying to get motivated to get my submission in for the last round of The Sketchbook Project (tldr: they send you a sketchbook, you have to fill it by the deadline, and send it back to have it included in their Sketchbook Library). I’d decided on “texture” as my theme, mostly as a way to explore what that means and how it can be represented in a traditionally two-dimensional plane (the pages of a sketchbook).

And then something else happened on my little creative journey. I rediscovered a couple of urban sketchers I used to follow a few years ago and thereafter fell fully and completely down the urban sketching rabbit hole, devouring all the books I could find on the topic, following all the urban sketchers I could find on Instagram, and committing myself to sketching out in the world everyday.

It was super fun and, maybe most importantly, it held my interest through the entire 100 days and never once felt like a chore (as daily challenges can sometimes feel, at least for me). I also learned a lot:

  • Quantity leads to quality (I had many terrible sketches and a few I liked)
  • Watercolour is often a pain in the ass but almost always magical
  • Sketching on location takes a bit of courage at first then becomes so easy to do that you don’t even think about it
  • Most of the stuff you think you need in your sketch kit you don’t really need at all (my minimal kit consists of my sketchbook, a small watercolour box, one water brush, a pen with permanent ink, and an elastic band to hold my pages open/closed as needed).


Adventures in repeat patterns

It’s been, oh, maybe four years since I first started thinking about trying my hand at making a repeat pattern? Yeah, that sounds about right.


The other night I pulled out my molotow markers and drew this, a bunch of marks and shapes, standard stuff you would find me drawing when I have a pen in hand and no real plan.


The next night I took to the ipad for similar, mindless drawing, which is when I realised, hey, maybe these random shapes could be multiplied infinitely into a repeat pattern. If only I knew how to make one! Good thing I’d been saving tutorial after tutorial for this very moment, the moment I would finally put my mind to figuring out the mechanics of repeat patterns.


Spoiler alert: there’s not much to it. I made this pattern in about 6 minutes and I made all these different colour versions (because why not?!) in another 5.


It feels a bit like I’ve fallen down a repeat pattern rabbit hole. And I couldn’t be happier down here!