A simple concertina book can be a great way to record your next holiday, road trip or nature journaling adventure.

I’ve also found that simple concertina books can unlock inspiration in kids and adults when a flat blank journal page may be too daunting or dull. Perhaps it’s the tactile nature of these books, the way that people tend to open and close them, and look at them from all angles, that stimulates different neural pathways in the brain.

A simple concertina book is essentially just a strip of robust paper (high GSM watercolour paper or mixed media paper works well) that is folded to form multiple small pages. But it feels like a little book, that unfolds alluringly, to tell a story….

The following concertina books were created during a road trip from Queensland to South Australia in November 2022.

I find the restriction of the small page size also strangely liberating. In that I’m forced to make very simple ‘thumbnail’-type sketches of large scenes. Small drawings like these are also fairly quick to complete, which means I can then move onto the next scene, object or observation. In this way, a story is created.

Our first stop was Gum Flat, in northern New South Wales, where we stayed at a delightful AirBNB with lots of wildlife. Here’s my ‘Gum Flat’ book, side one (above) and side two (below).

The next book was created in Victor Harbor, South Australia, following a walk along the lovely Encounter Bay one morning.

These concertina books were made with strips of 300 gsm watercolour paper (see below), but any robust paper that is thick enough to stand up by itself when folded could be used. Select a type of paper that would work well with your favourite drawing / painting materials. I used ink pens, an aquabrush and Derwent Inktense paint blocks to create these books. The size and number of pages is up to you. Experiment with portrait and landscape pages, and maybe even a mixture of both.

I made my first concertina book (below) at a workshop at Binna Burra led by Michelle Walker last year (thanks Michelle!). This one captured some plants and critters seen around the Pottery Shed that day.

A concertina book can be a useful way to take ‘snapshots’ of shapes, forms and visual ideas that can then be used to inspire larger artworks. The pencil sketches above are quick impressions of shapes and tone and only took about 20 minutes to complete. This exercise could also be used as a mindfulness practice.

The three-dimensional nature of the book can also lead to different ideas about capturing nature’s complexity and form. But I’ll leave that for another blog post.

Happy nature journaling!