Modus Operandi: Paintbooks

modus operandi - every tuesday

Welcome to a new series where I share techniques and discoveries I use in my various projects and artworks. Everything from how I organize my various collage materials and ephemera to the steps I use to create layered backgrounds to the tools I think are necessary to get it all done.

The way someone does something; a manner of working.
From the Latin, meaning “method of operation.”

This week—paintbooks! I paint predominantly with acrylic paints, which have many great features, including the fact that they dry fairly quickly. This, combined with the fact I use fairly cheap paints, means I don’t have a lot of time to use up the paints I dish out onto my palette or incentive to get them back into the bottle or alternate storage.

However, that blot of paint is just calling me to do something with it. So, I started keeping scrap paper in a small binder on my desk. Whenever I needed to wipe off my paintbrush or had extra paint on my palette, I put it in this “paintbook”—sometimes in little dots, other times in large swipes. It didn’t matter, because it was just garbage combined with garbage, right?

Sample page from my

In the course of usage, pages within the book would stick together; tearing them apart creates new textures and additional layers. When I needed to paint a whole object, I would lay it on top of the paintbook pages or, if it was larger, across an open magazine, creating interesting frame effects. Stamps with a residue of ink on them would get pressed onto the pages, too.

Brushstroke detail from my Layered pages detail from my
Sample page from my Sample page from my Sample page from my Sample page from my

Over time, the pages in the book develop unexpected color combinations and textures, which not only served as inspiration, but I also started using them as pieces in my artwork or as backgrounds. Most recently, I used leftovers from my paintbook to decorate the covers for two altered composition books:

The Artist's Way Journal (detail) Morning Pages Journal (detail)

If you use acrylic paints or even watercolors, consider creating your own paintbook and seeing what develops from what you previously considered trash. A paintbook does not need to be fancy–in fact, there’s no reason for it to be. Cut recycled pages from your junk mail or office printed paper to a size that works for you and staple them together. Or keep an old magazine nearby and just flip it open to any page as needed. The whole point is for the process to be both easy and a bit chaotic.

  • Want to see more images of my paintbook? Check out my Flickr photostream.
  • Do you use this technique yourself or something similar? Leave a comment below!
  • Have an idea for a future modus operandi feature? Want to know how I achieved a certain effect or what I used to make a project? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at miscellanea (dot) arts (at) gmail (dot) com!

Special note of thanks this week to Tsoniki Crazy Bull of Crafter Cast! After I expressed some disappointment at being unable to use the name “Technique Tuesdays” for this feature (it’s the name of a line of stamps), she quite wisely pointed out “maybe something awesome will come of it!” Instead of settling for the obvious, I thought a little longer and harder about what my brand was and what represented me and my craft a bit better. As likely is evidenced by a name like “miscellanea arts,” I have an affection for words less-oft used and even a little esoteric sounding—hence modus operandi. It’s not just for cop shows anymore! ;)

Thanks for reading!

Published in modus operandi, quotes on Tuesday, June 17, 2008
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  1. Wednesday, June 18, 2008, at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I like this new feature!

  2. Thursday, July 17, 2008, at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Great idea! I often have little spotches of acrylic paint. Sometimes if they are big enough I will paint a background further ahead in my journal. I don’t much like that option though.

    I have used strips or squares of my granddaughter’s paintings in my journal. I can see using paintbook pages the same way. I’m going to start one next time I go up to my atelier.

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