On Sketchbooks

I remember one afternoon during the Blended installation I stepped out to buy some art supplies, and realized, while biking to Utrecht, that I had left my sketchbook lying on the warehouse floor. Just asking to be perused or stolen, if any other artists were inclined to pick it up. I panicked momentarily. What was it about those notebooks that compel us to capture every tiny snippet thought that goes through our heads? Of course, my sketchbook was waiting for me untouched when I returned, which should not have been a surprise. As anyone who has ever blogged or saw a friend's eyes glaze over in the middle of an anecdote knows, the contents of your head are never quite so interesting to other people as they are to you. Sketchbooks tend to be fetishized in the art community, seen as containing the raw honesty that can sometimes be absent from finished pieces, and I will never turn down a chance to poke through other artists' sketchbooks (if they let me). 


But it is often forgotten that they also contain a load of crap you would never dream of inflicting on the world. They're a holding ground for scribbles, unfinished to-do lists, boring thoughts, bad ideas--or worse, no ideas--and drawings that belie the fact you have a degree in illustration.

And they take on lives and personalities of their own. My current sketchbook, a moleskin with too-thin paper (I'm very picky) feels like an entity I've been fighting with the last several months. Sometimes it's been a fun ride--other times it's been a physical manifestation of every single limitation I have as an artist. (To a normal person, this probably sounds like a highly melodramatic way of characterizing what is essentially a collection of blank paper, but hopefully at least a few other artists out there are nodding their heads.)

Still, there are occasionally a few examples of sketches that might not be good per se, but still strike me as important. For those curious I've interspersed a few acceptable examples of my current sketchbook here, and I post raw stuff on my tumblr site on a semi-regular basis. Right now most of them are based on a little story I'm working on called, "The Bachelor Cat" which I finally figured out how to end this weekend.

Sketchbook Update

I am constantly impressed by artists whose sketchbooks don't look at though their brain barfed all over their Moleskine pages. I just got a new one--keeping track of coasters and bits of Stonehedge paper was becoming too much of a hassle--and so far it's been addicting, but also very...messy. I know that's the point and all, but still I'm surprised at how often these drawings will to lead to more visual problems than they solve. Anyway, a few samples below. For inspiration I've been looking at the utterly fantastic sketchbooks of Juana Medina and Wendy MacNaughton and the folks at the Sketchnote Army to see if I can learn a thing or two.

To-do List, with apologies to Ellen Raskin

Inspiring things, non-inspiring things

I found this postcard (pictured) in a drawer over the weekend, when I was cleaning my room. SpielzeugmuseumI'd purchased it in Prague five years ago (since postcards were about the only souvenirs I could afford at the time). Great find! I'm happy to report I've been working on a new drawing stealing the imagery inspired by its imagery. I also spent about half an hour flipping through the book below, which contains various examples of  illustrators' sketchbooks, and their accompanying thoughts on why they like to use them (answer--all of the normal reasons). I normally enjoy both sketchbooks and illustrators, but this time...I don't know, just wasn't feeling it. Maybe the poor little volume seemed like it was trying too hard:

An illustrated life, by Danny Gregory