Review by Tina Koyama
Looking around at Wet Paint’s online shop recently, I came across a unique book: One Color a Day: A Daily Art Practice and Visual Diary by Courtney Cerruti ($16.99). Unlike a traditional sketchbook, its focus is not on drawing but on color. “Within the book’s orderly gridded layout . . . you simply paint each square a single color and add a word or phrase that reflects your current mood, an observation, or an experience.”
The book begins with an introduction to its concept and a brief how-to about using watercolor. The most appealing part about the concept is that even if we have no time or energy for creativity in our busy schedules, certainly we can all find a few minutes per day to fill a 2-inch square with color. There’s no pressure to look for something to draw or to “create” something beautiful – just put a color down in a square once a day. Then write a word or phrase that the color evokes. Soon it becomes a pleasurable habit to look forward to instead of a “must be creative” task. When the book or even a page spread is full, it’s a visual delight that encourages continuing the habit.
Made up of mostly blank weekly page spread grids (52 to last one year), the book also includes a prompt or theme for inspiration every four weeks, such as “a week of one subject” or “a week of sensations.” With a focus on sensory experiences, a color-a-day practice “is an opportunity to focus on moments that really matter to you. This is the essence of mindfulness.”
The hardbound book includes a fabric ribbon page marker.
The author shows examples using her recommended medium, watercolor, but I immediately saw potential for all coloring media – including fountain pen inks! Surely we all need more ways to use all those bottles and vials of color! (And if you use a Q-tip instead of a paint brush, the maintenance is even lower than with watercolors.)
While the paper is much heavier than typical book stock, I had doubts about how well it might hold up to wet media. I pulled out my wettest stuff – watercolor, watercolor pencil, Iroshizuku Tsutsuji fountain pen ink and juicy brush pens – to throw onto a page. Following Cerruti’s encouragement, I applied colors first, then free-associated to jot the first words that popped into my head upon seeing the colors. Fun, easy and fast!
To my surprise, the paper held up very well with little buckling. The only medium that bled is the watercolor pencil. I applied it dry to a puddle of water, so I had to scrub a bit, which degraded the paper’s surface. Even with that abuse, the reverse side is still useable.
Overall, I love this book – its concept and approach – and I’m looking forward to using it. Well, except for one major beef: The binding! As you can see from some of my photos, it will not stay open without holding it down. The author recommends using a binder clip on one side, but as I worked on a page spread, the book was always in danger of slamming shut with wet color if I didn’t hold it down. I find it nothing less than ridiculous that a sketchbook would be bound in a way that will not allow it to stay open by itself!
I’m having déjà vu: A few years ago when I reviewed the Make Art Every Day planner, I ran into the same issue. With that one, Ana gave me the idea of rebinding the book at my neighborhood office services store with a spiral binding. What a brilliant hack! I may be taking the One Color a Day sketchbook to meet the FedEx Kinko guillotine soon.
In the meantime, though, I realized that the concept and prompts could be followed in many types of books that would not have a problem staying open. The first thought that came to mind was a Col-o-ring book: No grid necessary – just flip to a new card each day. Or draw grids on Col-o-ring Oversize pages. Or use a conventional sketchbook that stays open easily, like Stillman & Birn’s softcover or wirebound books. For that matter, use a conventional grid-format monthly calendar and fill each square with color!
Now that you’re inspired to use color, please indulge me in giving a shout-out to Wet Paint in St. Paul. Whenever I visit family in the Twin Cities, I always make a stop at this beautiful art supply store (of the type that is rapidly disappearing in many cities, including Seattle), which is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Let’s all buy our art supplies from indie shops like Wet Paint whenever we can. And if you happen to be a Blackwing pencil collector, you may want to know that Wet Paint has made a custom commemorative one that can only be had by buying the Blackwing two-step sharpener. Just sayin.’