Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Sketchbooks

I have been thinking a lot about sketchbooks/notebooks lately. Partly because Kim and I are going to participate in The Sketchbook Project and partly because I have just got my hands on a few fabulous books about the sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers (listed at the bottom of this post).

Since I was a kid I have always kept a notebook or journal in some form. Or, it's probably more true to say that I have always had several books on the go at the one time, which has made for very fragmented record-keeping and means I can almost never find an idea or note much later. I have usually kept books for different things, for example, at the moment I have a sketchbook for drawing, a journal recording P's milestones and general writing, a small notebook I carry around in my bag for when ideas strike and my everyday diary which I use for to-do lists and appointments, etc. Oh, and if something doesn't fit into any of the above categories I will often write it on an old envelope or scrap of paper. No wonder I can never find anything!

So I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday when I was reading about artist Cathy Johnson's approach to her sketchbook in the very inspiring An Illustrated Life. She also had a fragmented approach where she kept a book for different things: 'I kept one for nature study and observation, one for planning future paintings, one for commercial assignments, one for doodling...added to my written journal and a tablet for shopping lists, minutes of meetings and so forth...' Then she changed how she thought about her sketchbooks: 'Now, everything is together in one place, in one book. Much easier to find that way...and life feels more whole.'

At first I was confronted by the idea of keeping my drawings in the same book as my shopping lists and my notes about P's cute new things she does. But then I felt a wave of excitement that I could do that. It was almost as if reading about someone else's streamlined approach gave me permission to do it. I had inadvertently created all these bizarre rules that have actually been hindering me in several ways: for one, ideas get lost and secondly, if I don't have the requisite book at hand, sometimes I won't record the idea/sketch/note. Or it'll go on the back of a receipt and inevitably get lost at the bottom of my bag.

So I had a bit of a vision of what my 'journal' or 'notebook' or 'sketchbook' could be. It could actually function as everything, all at the one time. And be a much truer record of my thoughts, observations, drawings and ideas. So last night I made a resolution to turn my writing journal into my 'everything' notebook in order to fill it by the end of the year. Ideally I would like to have a book with nicer paper for drawing, which I will get once I finish this one, but before I do I just want to have the satisfaction of completing a book, start to finish.

P had a swimming lesson this morning and Kim went in with her, which meant I could sit there and sketch the scene. It was really quite an enjoyable way to watch the lesson as it actually made me look very carefully at everything that was happening. There were lots of separate lessons going on in the pool but I chose just to draw P's small group. Looking forward to doing more spontaneous, quick sketches and hoping to also see improvement of my skills over time.

These are the inspiring books I'm devouring at the moment: Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico, An Illustrated Life: drawing inspiration from the private sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers by Danny Gregory and Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art by Jennifer New.