The Artist’s Sketchbook

From the earliest days of my art journey I had always kept a Journal and/or a Sketchbook.

What is a Sketchbook and why would a person want to use one?
A sketchbook is a little bit of everything to the artist.
It can be a book of blank pages, or a binder that you can put blank pages or any other things that will fit over the rings inside the covers of the book. It can be large or it can be very small. It can be an expensive bound book with leather covers. It can be a small tablet or one on a spiral so that the pages can lay flat giving you two surfaces to work on at a time. My favorite sketchbooks were small or medium sized spiral binding books because I always like to work on two surfaces at a time. I liked to work in a series or set and this gave me the opportunity to think beyond a single page.
What can the Sketchbook do for you?
It is a place to dream or to write about dreams. It is a place to experiment. Since it is not usually considered a a finished “product” you feel free to let go, use materials you know nothing about, or make marks and shapes and colors that are new to you. It is a place where, as you begin to work on the pages. They come alive and take you on a new journey.
Begin by thinking about how you will work in your sketch book.
First select one that seems right for you. It can be any type of book at all in which you can work on ideas.
All you need is a little bit of time and something to make some marks with: Pencil, pen, marker, chalk, crayons, nail polish, shoe polish, bingo markers, pieces of paper and glue, well, anything at all. If you can put it on the page, you can use it in your sketchbook.
With the loss of eyesight, things like this had to change for me.
What do you do when you can no longer see the page or anything written on it and when you cannot write on a page and see what you wrote? That was my situation three years ago. I had to find a new way to do a sketch book. It had to be one that could work for me.
Here is how I solved my problem.
I now have a somewhat different approach to my work I created a sketch book for each of the mediums I work in: fibers, encrusted bead work, and pottery.
Here is how I adapted the Sketchbook:
1.) For my pottery: one three ring binder with transparent pages.
This book it I am working out ideas and keeping track of my glazes and ideas for other projects in clay. Since I can use a Closed Circuit TV to “see” things, virtually, I can put the pages under the camera and the computer will let me know what is there. This is a wonderful adaptive piece of equipment that works for me. I still have some peripheral vision, so I can use this machine. If I was totally blind, then I would have to do the pages in Braille and read them that way. Fortunately, I can use the CCTV which is very quick and easy for me to do.
I even put pottery magazines in my binder so that I can find them easily, scan them, or view with the CCTV.
The Transparent pages hold my notes written with very large black markers. I can see only contrasts, so if the marker is very large and the paper is white, I can see the large letters on it.
I can also put pieces of leaves or bark or other small things in the pages to use for references for glazes and colors for a project. Since all my current pottery is made from information I get in Nature, this allows me to make notes. The leaf itself is a note there in my binder.
2.) Fiber Arts: a folder of ideas for fibers works well for me. It is just a very simple folder that you might buy for a student to use for a class in school. It has pockets and you can put some transparent pages in it, too. I can put labels for yarns, pieces of yarns, etc. this folder is my sketchbook. I sort through my ideas at the beginning of the year and select some ideas to work with that year.
3) Encrusted bead worked amulets and magical pieces – For this medium I do not need a binder or folder. Instead, I need a container that will hold my stones and other objects for future use in a piece of art. The container I use is especially made for holding such items. There is a lid on the container and it fits tight so that if the container is dropped or shifted upside down, nothing will spill out. Inside, the bottom half of it is divided into separate boxes. Each little section holds a special object. When I open the lid, there is a wide array of stones and objects, waiting to be used in my next project.
When I am creating my encrusted bead worked pieces, I begin with a rock, stone or gemstone or object. That “thing” is the beginning of the idea that will develop as I begin to work with it. The object is actually my sketchbook and journal. I take information from that stone to guide me to what it will be eventually. I never know when I begin where the piece is going to go – I sort of pick out a palette of glass Japanese beads that I might use in the work, all based on the initial stone. Then, one very tiny bead at a time, I begin the tedious and long hours of working on this piece. It may take several months or even a year or two before the piece is completed. The piece itself becomes a journal of my creative and life journey during that time.

Regardless of your own creative journey, you need to have a sketchbook. Why not begin to think about it now. Take a little trip to the art supply store to see what is there that might work for you own needs. You may even visit a stationary store or special school supplies section at a variety store. You will find something that will be perfect for your needs. It does not have to be expensive or fancy. You can begin with whatever you have. Let me know how it works for you!

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