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.

#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).