I have always drawn for pleasure. But when I found myself feeling overwhelmed by life last year, I decided to make time to consciously explore some challenging emotions I was facing. A collection of short visual stories gradually emerged in my sketchbooks. These stories explored the anxiety and grief I had experienced… in what turned out to be quite a light and whimsical way.
Working in graphite and charcoal pencil, I loved freeing myself up to follow a narrative as it unfolded in the drawing. I started with no plan in mind so my sketches meandered through at least four different sketchbooks.
At first, I wasn’t really sure how to translate my drawings into a finished piece. Then I realised that the sketches, put together, could potentially work well as zines. For anyone who is new to the term, a zine is a low-cost method of self-publishing work. Often assembled using a photocopier, zines can be circulated widely.
When Blurb books invited me to collaborate them and produce my own book, it dawned on me that this would be a great chance to pull these zines together. I thought a collection of zines would work as the sketches felt like they had a common thread. I really resonated with the quote by Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
This quote helped to provide a concept that I feel carries through the work on many levels. How often have I not shared a drawing on social media etc because in my eyes it wasn’t perfect? So I took this as the opportunity to share drawings which are unpolished but lovingly drawn with a lot of intention and put them into a book that I could really enjoy.
Putting together such a personal piece of work feels a little vulnerable. But the process of cracking open those feelings in the drawings enabled me to experience more lightness and self-compassion.
Blurb is an independent creative book making and self-publishing platform. It is perfect for anyone wanting to create their own books, magazines and e-books. You can also sell your creations at Blurb Bookstore.
I spent a lot of time looking at the Blurb website to work out what would be the best format for my book. They have a lot of choices. But as much as I really wanted to make one of their gorgeous full-colour photo books, I knew it wouldn’t work for my zine collection. So I eventually chose their 5 x 7-inch trade book, the size closest to my original drawings. I chose their standard colour paper and an image wrap hardcover… because dust jackets often get torn or lost in our house with two young children!
As my drawings were scattered across several sketchbooks, the double page spreads had join marks. I didn’t want those to go into the final piece so I spent a lot of time scanning, printing, tracing, rescanning, and touching everything up in photoshop. It was actually quite a satisfying process. I also really enjoyed making the book cover. It was a fun challenge to work with the text and images to make something that represents the work as a whole inside, and also something that would be enticing and clear.
I initially very enthusiastically downloaded the blurb Indesign plugin to put my book together. I then realised my skills were more than a little rusty! Thankfully Blurb has the most incredible program called Bookwright which helped me to put this book together. It was a complete dream to use.
Bookwright was incredibly simple, quick, and a pleasure to use. A drag and drop interface allows you to move uploaded images onto the page and position them in place. It was also very easy to add and remove pages. That was particularly helpful because I kept adding more pages where the narrative felt unresolved! The application was very fast to load. I worked on my book over several evenings, opening and closing the programme each day without issue. I didn’t encounter a single problem when uploading all my images, even with 76 pages. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Although Blurb is based in the US, my order came through quickly. It only took about a week for my book to arrive here in the UK. When I opened up the package I was blown away by the result. The collection looks and feels very professional. There is something so satisfying and rewarding about seeing this project in a finished book. I’m very tempted to indulge myself in a portfolio book. I might also use Blurb’s more luxurious large options next time. But for this piece, their trade book was perfect.
Have you self-published a book before? What was your experience?
This post was sponsored by Blurb, but all opinions are my own.