In a couple of weeks we are leaving on a trip and I have spent most of the weekend preparing the sketchbook I want to take with me as we travel from Budapest to Prague. I am committed to try and to use it daily! A place to gather ideas for paintings from the trip, a place to collage ticket stubs, collections of maps, receipts or other kinds of papers that I become curious about. A journal, a keepsake, a work in progress.
An artist friend, Sandy Muzzy prepares her sketchbook pages before she leaves on a trip. I thought it was a great idea so I have been painting, collaging, and adding some elements to each page to document each day. Some of my pages have collaged papers I have created (yea! I have found a great use for these) and some I have suggested textures, shapes, designs in watercolor. Horizons, silhouettes of cites, suggestions of the season and the Danube river are all represented in the margins or edges of the pages.
I thought about the question, “Why keep a sketchbook?” and the answers for me are numerous.
- Practice. Drawing is a skill and it needs to be constantly practiced. I do not do as much drawing as I should. To draw for the sake of drawing is often overlooked in my life. Practicing in a small journal is intimate and doesn’t overwhelm me with empty white space.
- Record Ideas. Leonardo da Vinci made only a few paintings but we all know him because of the ideas he recorded in his sketchbooks.
- Experimentation. Sketchbooks give me permission to try out and practice new media or tools, compositions, and to just play. Sketchbooks should be the one place without rules.
- View Progress. Sketchbooks allow me to see artistic development over time whether it is over months or years. I can also observe the evolution of an idea from the first gesture to the finished concept.
- Therapy. This is cheaper than a psychiatrist. When I am in “the zone” working in my sketchbook is like a mediation. I can be impatient with waiting. I can sketch and it keeps me off my cell phone with texting and checking email.
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts has a visual journal collective that meets once a month. They also have a Facebook page “MCBA Visual Journal Collective” that has a lot of information about upcoming meetings and links to other sketchbook groups.
I also enjoy doing a search using the phrase “artist’s sketchbook” The links that pop-up in this search often bring me to sketchbook work of many well-known artists. It is interesting to explore the diversity of sketchbook content, materials, composition, techniques.
I close with this quote from Neil Waldman (Out of the Shadows: An Artist’s Journey) “Sketchbooks and journals are the street lamps that illuminate the artist’s journey.”
So back to my sketchbook.