Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sketchbooks

So when does a sketchbook become no longer a "sketch" book?

Mom and I participated in "The Sketchbook Project" which has artists from all over the world making sketchbooks that will then be exhibited on-line and in a few "live" venues. We were sent a Moleskine sketchbook to work in, but we didn't exactly sketch in it. 

We actually took the book apart and collaged and what not with our own papers. Our theme was "Inside/Outside" so we sort of did that by creating windows. My pages had actual openings to the pages behind the openings. This one has a window of hand-made paper and behind it is a photo of driftwood printed on rice paper.
 This one is another photo printed on rice paper behind the gothic style window cut outs.
Does this still make it a sketchbook? It seems like so many polished looking art filled books are still called sketchbooks. To me this gets away from the original purpose of a sketchbook. It almost makes the idea of a sketchbook intimidating. The idea that you have to have all finished, polished pieces of artwork in a sketchbook doesn't leave a lot of room for experimentation. I feel like I've forgotten how to use a sketchbook to "sketch" like I used to do in high school and college. Even if I go to sketch in the sketchbook, I've gotten blocked by the feeling that somehow the sketch has to be a perfect drawing. I can't just practice my drawing in it and let the horrible out of proportion drawings happen. 

Well, no more. I'm going to try to get back to using my sketchbook to practice drawing in and to keep notes in. I've started to do copy-cat drawings again. Something artists have done pretty much forever...copy another artist's work for practice. I'm also going to try to make myself draw anything and everything instead of trying to find the perfect subject.

So where did this irritation with polished sketchbooks come from? Partially it was that when Mom and I started the Sketchbook Project we were excited to try something new, but then it became almost a chore. If people were going to see this book, we'd want to make it cool so it became an "art book" to my mind and not a "sketchbook." I think we actually felt pressured to make something good not just mess about to see what happened and have some fun creating art together. For me a sketchbook should be a safe place to mess about in. It's not something you necessarily want to share with the world because it would be like showing someone the first draft of a paper you wrote that has all your editing marks all over it.

The other thing that triggered this ramble was seeing some of the artwork for the new Sketchbook Challenge which is a blog that will present a sketchbook challenge topic each month. While I always enjoy being challenged, a lot of the art presented for the first challenge did not strike me as work I would have in a sketchbook. My impression was that many of the sketchbook projects featured are completely finished works of art, not trial and error drawings, messy collages, and notes. Maybe it's just my lack of practice that I can't make everything look fabulous and well planned out the first time I draw it. At any rate, I've decided that if I do any of these new sketchbook challenges, I'm going to focus on experimenting and practicing my drawing instead of creating a finished piece of artwork.

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