What Should My Sketchbook Contain?
Several of my OCA students have asked me what should be in their sketchbook and so this blog post is a summary of my personal views on student sketchbooks. Please feel free to leave feedback and turn this into a live debate!
A COLLECTION OF IDEAS
Why create a sketchbook? Traditionally the term ‘sketchbook’ referred to a portable drawing pad used to capture visual information, compositions and colours; The contemporary art school definition is often broader than that. It is a collection of ideas which ultimately form a ‘library of possibilities’. This library exists primarily for the artist to be able to refer back to concepts and information when creating new work. The book is not a precious work of art in itself and so can be treated in a very free, playful, individual, expressive and spontaneous manner.
A VIEW INTO YOUR CREATIVE MIND
Your sketchbook is a record of inspiration and experiments. It is like a view into your creative mind which shows what you are looking at and how you are responding to it. This includes colour, texture, proportion, techniques, others artists and designers, drawings, painted sketches, material samples, internet downloads, book and magazine cuttings……anything which is inspiring you and moving you forward. You should be adding to, and referring to, this book throughout a project.
ASPIRATIONAL RATHER THAN REFLECTIVE
It is different a learning log because it is not focussed on what you have done; It is about what you could do based on what you have seen and recorded. It is aspirational rather than reflective. For OCA students there will be cross overs with your log and that’s fine – however, the sketchbook is a more lively, physical rendition of this and does not necessarily include writing.
IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE A BOOK
Remember also it does not need to be a book bought in a shop or produced in a particular format. I prefer to gather loose sheets of information and then compile them but everyone finds their own method. I also like to work back into earlier pages as I discover new information. Think about the quality of the paper and consider adding your own. Drawings can be compromised by stark, white cartridge paper. Consider the background colour and texture of your drawings and paintings as a fundamental element of the artwork. Equally if a drawing does not fit onto a page don’t let the borders limit you – just extend the page. If you don’t like a drawing just keep working over it until you have moulded it into something interesting – removing and covering marks is as important as adding them.
I believe the key to a good sketchbook is cross referencing – looking for common themes – lot’s of different elements on a page which relate and form new possibilities. Show how you have looked at an artist or designer and then reinterpreted their style or technique in your own way. Throughout history creative people have developed their own work by looking at, and responding to, the work of others.
Oh, and if the book you end up with is not flat – if it is bulging and exploding with work – don’t worry, the chances are you have worked hard and created a dynamic collection of ideas…..Don’t submit empty pages!
I have intentionally not included images of other peoples books because making a sketchbook should be a very individual process which I am reluctant to influence with examples. The image here shows some of my sketchbook pages being used for inspiration on my studio wall.