Sketchbooks

When you see a photo of an artist's studio space, there's usually a beautiful, tattered stack of waterlogged sketchbooks on the shelf. I always assume they're filled with every genius idea the artist ever thought up, with page after page of wonder and creative brilliance-which makes me very jealous. My own sketchbook use has been sporadic, with several years skipped entirely. This is partly due to my preference for sketching assignments on loose paper, so I can keep making changes without getting attached (bound paper seems so precious). It's also because it hasn't been part of my practice or process. It's a habit I need.

I do have a couple of important sketchbooks I would save if my house were on fire (after Larry and Penny, of course). One is from my travels in Indonesia. Even though it was more than twenty years ago, when I look at one of the portraits I drew while backpacking across Bali, Jakarta and Sumatra, I'm transported to that very moment. It was a special time and a great experience, and the sketchbook is a treasure to me.

Besides being a favorite keepsake or memento,  the practice of keeping a sketchbook is a way to keep your ideas alive and experiment with different mediums. In my never ending evolution as an artist, I hope my sketchbooks will help me to stay with an idea long enough to see where it can take me or allow me to see interesting themes emerge in my work. This is new territory so I'll keep you posted. After all, this is a blog.  

Here's a story about the excellent Scott Bakal and his sketchbooks.

The 2015 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbooks, continues with Scott Bakal, who lives and works in the Boston area, and makes sketchbooks an important part of his discovery process. The first sketchbooks, really sketch pads, I had were way back in elementary and junior high school. I still have many of them thanks to my Mom. The earliest drawings I've found were from second grade. Those sketchpads contained things that I thought were cool like band logos and hot rods and interpretations of Dungeons & Dragons characters. Years later, when I was a student at SVA, I was told frequently to keep a sketchbook. I didn't know what that really meant at the time other than a place to work on illustration jobs.

The 2015 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbooks, continues with Scott Bakal, who lives and works in the Boston area, and makes sketchbooks an important part of his discovery process.

The first sketchbooks, really sketch pads, I had were way back in elementary and junior high school. I still have many of them thanks to my Mom. The earliest drawings I've found were from second grade. Those sketchpads contained things that I thought were cool like band logos and hot rods and interpretations of Dungeons & Dragons characters.

Years later, when I was a student at SVA, I was told frequently to keep a sketchbook. I didn't know what that really meant at the time other than a place to work on illustration jobs.

  Only later, I started using sketchbooks as an experimental tool and a way to try out new media and different ways of working. My work sketchbooks are 11x14 spiral books that I do all of my rough pencil sketches in. I still use them today but strictly for work related drawing. Now I keep both types of sketchbooks and have many going at the same time. I've seen many nice sketchbooks by super cool friends but I think Barron Storey and Rob Dunlavey and some others use sketchbooks in a way that I can relate to.

 

Only later, I started using sketchbooks as an experimental tool and a way to try out new media and different ways of working. My work sketchbooks are 11x14 spiral books that I do all of my rough pencil sketches in. I still use them today but strictly for work related drawing. Now I keep both types of sketchbooks and have many going at the same time.

I've seen many nice sketchbooks by super cool friends but I think Barron Storey and Rob Dunlavey and some others use sketchbooks in a way that I can relate to.

I was in bands for quite a few years and I think a sketchbook is like the equivalent of putting a cassette into a tape deck, pressing “record” and just letting the tape run while rehearsing, catching all of the mistakes, the restarts, chatter, successes and failures. That's what I want to see in a sketchbook and I think that's what they're meant for. For traveling I use a few different sketchbooks. The standard 5x8 ones or the small Japanese accordion folded ones are great to walk around with. I have a single-subject sketchbook about this deep under-cover agent but after about 30 pages, I got bored with it. I started that sketchbook to experiment with using different dry media together with some inks and also tell a kick-ass story. I might go back to it. No. I probably won't.

I was in bands for quite a few years and I think a sketchbook is like the equivalent of putting a cassette into a tape deck, pressing “record” and just letting the tape run while rehearsing, catching all of the mistakes, the restarts, chatter, successes and failures. That's what I want to see in a sketchbook and I think that's what they're meant for.

For traveling I use a few different sketchbooks. The standard 5x8 ones or the small Japanese accordion folded ones are great to walk around with.

I have a single-subject sketchbook about this deep under-cover agent but after about 30 pages, I got bored with it. I started that sketchbook to experiment with using different dry media together with some inks and also tell a kick-ass story. I might go back to it. No. I probably won't.

My sketchbooks energize my work because I try out new things to bring into my final work. If I didn't do that, I would get bored with my work. One of the issues I have being an illustrator is the fight between being a business person and being an artist. Clients (mostly editors) like to know what they're going to get and use illustrators who don't stray too much from their “style.” I unfortunately have a problem with self-sabotage. I want to keep changing my work and trying different things, which tends to make things a bit visually inconsistent. If I had to do the same thing for 20+ years, I'd just give up and leave illustration so the sketchbook is my release. But sketchbook drawing also helps me change my final work little by little.

My sketchbooks energize my work because I try out new things to bring into my final work. If I didn't do that, I would get bored with my work. One of the issues I have being an illustrator is the fight between being a business person and being an artist. Clients (mostly editors) like to know what they're going to get and use illustrators who don't stray too much from their “style.” I unfortunately have a problem with self-sabotage. I want to keep changing my work and trying different things, which tends to make things a bit visually inconsistent. If I had to do the same thing for 20+ years, I'd just give up and leave illustration so the sketchbook is my release. But sketchbook drawing also helps me change my final work little by little.

At the beginning of every semester, I bring in piles of my sketchbooks and talk with my students about them and offer ideas about how to use them. As I said, I was told regularly to keep a sketchbook but none of those teachers ever brought in one for us to look at and see how to actually use one. It's great to see many of my students continue to use them obsessively.

At the beginning of every semester, I bring in piles of my sketchbooks and talk with my students about them and offer ideas about how to use them. As I said, I was told regularly to keep a sketchbook but none of those teachers ever brought in one for us to look at and see how to actually use one. It's great to see many of my students continue to use them obsessively.

Scott Bakal is an internationally published award-winning illustrator whose work is included in the permanent collections of the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Society of Illustrators and the United States Air Force Museum. Scott is an Associate Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, received the Artist/Educator of the Year award by 3x3 Magazine and lectures to students and associations around the country.   Links: Studio Blog Facebook Instagram Twitter Vimeo

Scott Bakal is an internationally published award-winning illustrator whose work is included in the permanent collections of the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Society of Illustrators and the United States Air Force Museum. Scott is an Associate Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, received the Artist/Educator of the Year award by 3x3 Magazine and lectures to students and associations around the country.

 

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