Giving Sketchbooks New Life with Artist Abigail Halpin

Abigail Halpin is an artist, illustrator, pattern-maker, and textile designer who captured her daily thoughts and ideas in a series of lovely sketchbooks. Recently, she compiled some of her favorite spreads into a beautiful book, Sketches and Sundries, which she then converted to a Layflat Photo Book. She talked with us about how old work begets new ideas, the importance of print, and how it pays to make work that brings you joy.

Take a look at what she learned while she was making her book:

What was it like to turn your sketchbooks into a different kind of album?

Turning my sketchbooks into a collection was a wonderful experience! I loved being able to take so many drawings and gather them in one place. Sketches and Sundries gave me easy access to all of these sketchbooks I’d kept, which in turn, has inspired me to rework old ideas and find jumping off points for new work. In making the book, I chose sketchbook spreads that resonated emotionally, drawings that would influence future work, and colors that inspired me. I pulled from several different format sketchbooks (square, pocket-sized, spiral-bound), so I varied the layouts to accommodate these different sized sources.

Layflat Photo Book

You do a lot of work with children’s books. What role do you think print books will have in the future?

In my heart of hearts, I believe there will always be a place for print, both now and in the future. While I appreciate the convenience of ebooks, there’s really nothing like curling up with a real book, turning the pages, and feeling the paper. When I’m illustrating books, I try to keep this physical component in mind. I’ll think about how an illustration will look and feel printed—for instance, the way an image reproduces on matte paper or with a spot varnish.

Where does a book like yours fit in the creative process?

Digitizing my sketchbook was a terrific way for me to look back and think about past work and make plans for future projects. For me, a sketchbook is like a visual diary, and I think that’s true for most artists. Being able to create a book with all of those thoughts and drawings readily available is so helpful—to gain a sense of where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you’re going.

Abigail Halpin Sketch

What was it like to receive your Blurb book?

When my Blurb order arrived, I couldn’t open it quickly enough. I was so excited to see the end result! Looking at pixels on a screen is great, but being able to hold a real, printed collection of what I’d made was such a rewarding experience. What I liked a lot about Blurb, compared to other photo books, was the ability to customize and shape the project to fit my creative vision. As someone with a background in graphic design, I wanted to be able to shape the complete look of the book, and Blurb’s plug-in for Adobe InDesign allowed me to do that. I loved that total creative control, knowing that the book would feel 100% me.

How does Layflat Paper work with your kind of content?

Where I have many images that cover a two page spread, Layflat Paper is a perfect fit, allowing the images to really shine. It’s so nice to know that the content won’t be swallowed up by the gutter!

Abigail Halpin Sketch

What was it like to make your book?

Making the book was a wonderfully smooth process, mostly because of Blurb’s terrific plug-in for Adobe InDesign. I almost didn’t go down this route because I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to prep the book for print. I worried that I might miss something in setup, like inputting an incorrect measurement. That’s where the Blurb plug-in for InDesign was perfect for me, because it took away any concerns about technicalities, while still allowing me full design control. It was such a smooth process to convert to Layflat! The plug-in for InDesign took all of the guesswork out of the design process and the layout converted well from the one format to the next.

Sketches & Sundries

If you could go back and talk to your 5-years-ago-self about your creative business, what would say?

I’d tell myself to make more art that gives joy and resonates personally, and that professional success will come from that mindset. As creatives, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of producing work that you know will easily earn a paycheck. For myself, it’s easy to get stagnant with that mindset. When I’ve made the kind of work that satisfies some deep creative need within myself, clients have responded and work has eventually followed.

When you were a small child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve wanted to be an illustrator since I was little, thanks to all the wonderful picture books my parents read to me. The idea of bringing to life words and ideas with pictures excites me as much now as when I was five.

Abigail Halpin Sketch

What are the best parts of your job? What are some challenges?

The best part of my job is when I hear from children and parents who read the books I illustrate. Nothing beats that feeling, knowing what you’ve made has found a home! And I love having the opportunity to do work that feels personally rewarding and creatively satisfying. In terms of challenges, I miss having a steady paycheck every two weeks and not having coworkers around to bounce ideas off of. But I feel like any of the road bumps I’ve faced as a freelancer are worth it, to be doing this kind of work.

What’s one project you’re dying to do?

I’d love to spend a couple months in Ireland with my sketchbook, gathering ideas for books to illustrate and fabric to design. I was there for a week this past winter and fell completely in love with the land and people. Any kind of a creative project that would take me back to Ireland would be a dream, for sure!

You can find a copy of Sketches and Sundries in the Blurb Bookstore.

Now over to you. Start your own self-publishing project today.



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