Tree Study

This tree study was sketched from my studio window with my Stillman and Birn 5.5x8.5" Alpha book. I used Caran d'Ache Supracolor II Soft pencils in Umber and White. I felt I needed to be able to go just a hair darker, so I added a Wolff's Carbon 6B pencil toward the end. These are all water soluble. I wanted to keep the water option open, but I decided I liked it the way it was, and only worked dry.

There is gold acylic paint added to the Sepia background color. You can see a bit of that shimmer where the light glare is in the photo. A little touch of that glow on the pages is a beautiful thing, but it's hard to capture in a photograph.

The little bit of white on the top left is a lifted-up sheet of glassine that I glued to the page to protect the pencil work, to keep it from smudging onto the facing page when the book is closed or somebody's leafing through the it. I realized that if I do more work in pencil, charcoal, or pastel (and I intend to), I'll need to have some small glassine sheets on hand to put over the work as I do it; otherwise some of those pieces would be ruined before I even got home from my sketching location. I can also use a sheet under my hand as I sketch with smudgy media, to prevent my hand from smearing the page. I went on an anti-smudge campaign!

Yep, I made an envelope as part of the book to store sheets of glassine. I keep a glue stick in my messenger bag with my sketching supplies, so gluing it in on location whenever necessary will now be very easy. To make this pocket, here's what I did:
  1. I knew this would take up extra space in the book, so to avoid bulging, I went to the very last signature in the book, and carefully removed the center page spread, tearing down the middle and removing both sides.
  2. I selected the two pages I planned to use to make each side of the pocket, and cut a semi-circle out of the top of the first page, to make it easier to remove the glassine. (To do that, I drew the arc, then put a cutting mat underneath the sheet, and cut it out with an xacto knive.)
  3. Using one of the pieces of paper that I removed from the book, I made a one-inch wide "tape" the height of the page, and folded it lengthwise with a bone folder. I did the same for the width of the page. Holding those two so that they overlapped on the lower right corner at a right angle, I placed them on a cutting board and made a 45 degree cut through all four layers. That way, when glued into the book, there would be no overlapping, and they would lie flat.
  4. I used a glue stick to coat the paper "tape" and the outside page edges, and glued it all together.
  5. I cut a 16x20" sheet of glassine into eight, 5x8" pieces, which fit exactly into the little envelope holder.
Voila! It's worked perfectly. The only thing I'll add is that when you glue glassine onto the pages, it's better to glue it from the side than from the top. The page curls at the top and bottom, so it's easier to lift the glassine from the side than it is from the bottom.


  1. You are a wealth of information, Jamie, thanks. We appreciate all your research and the fact that you share your tips. You're very generous.

  2. Nice work. But another option is a fixative, spray, to preserve the pencil. You don't like fixative?

  3. Mary, you are so welcome! Hope to see you soon...Maybe we can go sketch somewhere warm!

  4. Nikira, I don't carry a can of fixative with me when I go out on location, so that's one of the issues! I would certainly trust fixative to spray a drawing before framing or for storage, but I think a book that gets handled a lot, leafed through many times, and traveled with from place to place, needs more protection than fixative alone can provide. I might spray it too for additional protection.

  5. So, if you use acrylic over the pages first, it doesn't affect your dry media, like charcoal or graphite? You can still draw?

    It just seems weird, that's why I ask.

  6. Saki, the acrylic is heavily diluted with water, except on the borders. Drawing hasn't been a problem over the top of it. However, if you want a toothier surface, you can apply a coat of diluted Golden Matte Medium over the top, and that will give plenty of tooth for dry drawing media.

  7. Thank you for that. :)

    I'm going to try this out in my canson XL multimedia first. My stillmans are precious and I want to make sure I like the feel of drawing on the scrylic first.