Choosing a Book by its Cover


The journal as it was originally

Digging through my piles of partially-started journals, I found one I really liked. Why didn’t I continue using it? I liked the paper inside–heavy enough for sketches and light washes, provided they don’t require a lot of scrubbing. The top paper layer did dissolve, but I generally don’t soak my journal pages.

Why had I abandoned this journal? After staring at it for a minute, I realized the cover was too busy, the paint stencil over the newspaper-print butterflies didn’t suit the delicate swirls on the cover.

Most of my journal covers are dark brown or black. If I make the journal myself, I use a dark color–it shows less wear. Even when I loose-leaf journal, the covers or carriers are usually dark.

The big circle is much greener, but color correction can only do so much.

The big circle is much greener, but color correction can only do so much.

Yep, I was that shallow–judging a book by its cover. And not using it because I didn’t like the cover. Milliseconds later, I grabbed paper and collaged the cover, leaving the pretty purple color and swirls in space and covering the butterflies with geometric shapes.

Some color richness is missing here, too, but you get the idea.

Some color richness is missing here, too, but you get the idea.

Since then, I’ve been using it regularly. Who knew that such a small thing could make such a big difference? As an artist, I should have. But I was embarrassed at 4972f961f1e56b004aaa0323977ed746my own “shallowness.” Until I thought about it. We buy by preference–color, texture, shading.  I wouldn’t buy the shoes on the left, for example, although someone did. And wore them with great flair.

My experiment of book-cover altering bring up another idea: the things we use have to fit our hands, our hearts, and our pleasures. Or we won’t use them. It’s not always about practical and usefulness. Sometimes it’s about sheer pleasure.

-Quinn McDonald judges a book by its cover. She tries not to do the same for people.



16 thoughts on “Choosing a Book by its Cover

  1. I quoted the last paragraph in this post on Facebook and I put a link to your blog. Wise words and I thank you.

  2. I admit I like the back cover better, where the circle overlaps the blue rectangle, rather than the front, where the rectangle is on top; but the bottom line is that it pleases you and you will now use the journal.

    I bought a clock years ago at an arts and crafts shop in Asheville. It was made from a large bicycle gear, with a clock face printed on a swirled blue/green laminated paper. When I got it home, I realized that I was responding to the color, but really didn’t care for the industrial look of the clock. While I am not a knitter, I keep interesting yarns and ribbons in my craft closet. I found a thick and thin yarn in dark blues and greens, and a multicolored ribbon in pink, purple, green, and orange. I wrapped the yarn, and then the ribbon, around the gear teeth in a pleasing pattern. The yarn and ribbon softened the industrial look without denying its existence, and I got my Color Junkie fix, making it my own.

    • That’s what it is about–adding the colors that pleased you. I like mixing circles and squares, so this was a way for the cover to please me. The color is pretty different in real life, but that’s another thing entirely.

  3. I judge laptop computers by the keyboard. (My personal laptop is very old. Sort of.)

    “My socks always match because I go by thickness” – Steven Wright

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