Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sketchy Attitudes Towards Sketchbooks

Various pages from my sketchbooks over the last three years. 
A little while back a friend of mine had their sketchbook laying open and I asked them if I could look at it. They seemed a little apprehensive and I was instantly sorry I asked.  When I sensed their hesitation, a wave of emotions came over me brought on by my own memories of having someone look at my sketchbooks. Allowing someone to look at your sketchbook is, in a way, like baring your soul. A sketchbook is a funny thing.
Some people keep diaries and journals that contain their inner most thoughts.  Journals and sketchbooks can both be considered our "huckleberry friends".  Some people never get one of those special friends, the kind who would never judge or blab what you talk about in confidence, so thank goodness for the one place you can do whatever you want and say whatever you want, the blank pages of a notebook/sketchbook.
Unfortunately I remember a time when having a sketchbook was considered a very bad thing. There was an attitude towards them, they're only for amateurs. A real artist doesn't need a sketchbook to practice in... That's a load of bologna, and I know that now, but sort of bought into it at one point and quit working in them because I wanted to be taken seriously, damn it!  
Where did this convoluted attitude towards sketchbooks come from? Why do some people feel that sketchbooks are beneath them? It's mind boggling what some people will think makes you a professional vs an amateur. It'd be nice if those people would never remove their little black wool beret so we can easily pick them out of a crowd. A sketchbook is a very valuable tool. Wouldn't you want to use the best tools you have available to you?
Working in a sketchbook can probably be compared to being an athlete or a gourmet chef. A gourmet chef would never try out a brand new recipe on a restaurant full of people. They would first try it out on a small group and see how they respond to it. The professional athlete must practice and workout in order to make it to the big game. We don't see them practice but we see the results of their hard work on the field. During this practice they work out possible situations and how to handle them. They consider variables, like what the other players may or may not do.  The sketchbook can be handy for planning your game strategy or mapping out your battle plans.
There are far more people out there who appreciate what a sketchbook can do.  Here's a link to some photos of artists' sketchbooks. Inside the Sketchbooks of Famous Artists and here's a link to a site where you can download a PDF (I HATE PDF's, but you might find this helpful) that gives some inspiration about why you should start using a sketchbook.
Here's another from an artist, can't figure out their name but here's the link
I especially liked this, "A sketchbook is a discipline. Much like a writer keeps a diary or a notebook of ideas, the sketchbook is about keeping the flow of ideas consistent. Not restricting or constricting it with unnecessary organisation and order. The sketchbook in its full context should be a narrative not a novel; it should highlight the total freedom of thoughts rather than make an end claim. In fact part of the beauty of it is that it does not make claims to any final piece of work, it is rather always work in progress."
Here's another,five reasons why you should keep a sketchbook from the Urbansketchers blog.
There are a gillion other sites/blogs out there praising the sketchbook, but at some point you need to stop reading about them and just start sketching in them.


  1. Your collage of sketchbook pages actually works as a single image - in fact I've seen large paintings in that vein that didn't work as well. Enjoyed the famous artists sketchbook link. Would love to know where they have Constable's sketchbooks...and if they'd let you peruse them. Also got a kick out of Ellsworth Kelly labeling the color of his stripes (lest there be ANY question!)

    1. I was also excited about the page from Constable's sketchbook. There are more pages available, I'll e-mail you a link because I don't think links work in the comments. For those who can cut and paste the link there it is. I also got a kick out of Kelly's sketchbook. I looked at it and said, REALLY!?