It looked like a jumble sale…..
…but in fact was a pile of generously donated precious sketchbooks from all sorts of people, that formed part of a ‘sketchbook handling’ exhibition at the Sketchbook Conference in Cambridge on Saturday.
Organised by Access Art this tremendously animated conference was full of artists and educators, extolling the virtues of keeping a sketchbook. Led by an inspirational introduction by Eileen Adams (of Campaign for Drawing fame) there were workshops on visual thinking, sketchbook making and a range of approaches to the use of sketchbooks, with architectural students, school children and art students. One sketchbook was all words, all research, but the artist had clearly delighted in filling the sketchbook with text, in a painterly way. What was most exciting was being able to look through a huge number of sketchbooks, pointing out interesting use to others, photographing them and getting ideas for ways of working with sketchbooks. I have never seen such a variety of approaches towards sketchbook making. The purpose varied: some were research journals, others purely a place to experiment freely, others clearly designed to be ‘on show’.
During the conference we were asked to add post it notes to a wall to describe how we used sketchbooks. The following are a few snatches of what went up on the wall: visual scraps, doodles, random ideas, brain back up, experiment with materials, a place where head, heart and hand meet, found objects, postcards, photos, magpie, memory bank, reflection, tap into my subconscious, extending and adapting found images…. and, and, and… I took a few photos and videos on my iPhone while I was there that I hope give a flavour of the sketchbooks on show. I particularly liked the sketchbook in the video link below Its an excellent example of someone following through an idea and experimenting with a range of approaches. It shows both discipline and invention. The quality of the video isn’t great since it was shot on an iPhone, but its good enough to get an impression. Click here to see the short video: Flipping through a sketchbook
One of the most remarkable was a sketchbook labelled ‘My father’s’. I couldn’t find his name on it but the drawings are a fascinating document of life in the 1930’s, and also of drawing in a meticulous and accurate style. In the image here it looks as though he used ‘Quink’ ink.
Another interesting sketchbook was one in which the artist had garnered an existing book and stuck work over the top of the pages, painted over them and at times incorporated the text into the work.
One of the most beautiful sections of the sketchbook exhibition was the table of Book art. This particular art form has grown in popularity in a big way in the past few years. Artists carve into books to make art objects, or cut into pages to create sculptural forms. The multitude of ways of creating art objects using books as a starting point was on show…
My favourite image from all the sketchbooks I saw was one that conjured up an era for me. Back to ‘my father’s sketchbook’. This final image represents not just an era long gone by but a style of sketching that you see very rarely these days. Call me old fashioned, but the technical ability and compositional value in the image of the cars in a garage is a delight.