One thing I really love about sketchbooks is that they’re all about exploring. What’s on the pages doesn’t need to look or feel a certain way. The sketches can be of anything. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but requires a human being making some marks on some pages, open to exploring and discovering. It’s completely open in terms of the content and the act of creating. I really enjoy seeing all kinds of different artists’ sketchbooks, and how different artists might go about creating with various tools and materials. Some of my own sketchbooks are quite different from some of my others, but still have a certain sensibility to them that looks and feels like they came from me, and that’s a wonderful thing to have the chance to recognize. Sketching is a way of seeing ourselves, experiencing craft and creativity in different ways, and opening our eyes and minds to the world and how we interact with it and each other, even in new ways too as we explore and discover the new and different, pushing past the familiar in order to find out what we are capable of.
This can be applied to many other things too, of course, and in the general sense, it’s the doing that makes it notable and my reason for sharing here now. The experience itself, the being there, attentive and present, immersed in the process of making and creating. The time that was spent in small moments here and there until one day it’s filled up. There’s something there on all the pages that were at one point previously blank, now filled with story and imagery, personal reflections in those moments. And once one is filled, a new sketchbook is started, marking a new chapter in the continuation of life experience, and the cycle just keeps going.
And there’s something so wonderful about holding a sketchbook in our hands, the binding fraying or expanding from use and the various materials, the pages sometimes warped and wrinkled, the feel of the paper, the smell of the materials, the worn cover, the leaves and other found objects collected between its pages, the intangible memories recorded in imagery, the stories, the synchronicities, balances and imbalances of life and technique colliding in images made by the soul who created them. There is an energy a sketchbook holds from being in the hands of a human who’s spent many moments with it and created something within it that came from their mind and hand and out onto those pages.
We can leaf through, turn the pages, follow the marks and rhythms of thoughts and emotions and the flow of going beyond into a vast and infinite space within. There’s also the topography of the wrinkled pages and how the light catches the texture on the surface, the drawing from the previous page showing through when a light might peek through the paper just right. This is the magic of being a human who is making and experiencing art, being present in the moment. It’s the experience itself and absolutely everything that went into it, each moment a combination of many different experiences all wrapped up in a sketch, expanding into a collection of many of those moments. It can be shared with others or kept to ourselves. The point is to have that conversation with the art, to feel the sensations that are involved with that experience. Nothing else can or will ever take the place of the human experience that’s involved in the making of art. Each painting, each work, each sketchbook is a treasure chest full of life and the irreplaceable existence of the act of it being made and the human who created it.
I’ve made this quick video (below) of something that I find is interesting, and I hope you’ll give it a moment – It’s fun to look through the pages of my ink sketchbooks when the light comes through the pages, making the sketch appear on the page to form a new expanded version of the sketch on the following page (shown here in the video by lifting the left page up slightly, allowing the light to come in from that side). In a way, it’s a continuous and flowing view, experiencing the book as it is a story with many translucent layers, moving and shapeshifting and evolving. Experiencing it in person would be the best way to see it, but this video shows a glimpse of what I’m describing. Hope you enjoy it.