This second and final part of Lynne Butt’s series on Sketchbooks demonstrates how integral it is to make notes as a progression of ideas, whatever your medium:
“My spiral book, size 21cmx29.7cm, is more a record folder than a sketchbook containing drawings and photos of work in progress, as I prefer to work up my pieces in my mind, and use pen and paper only to add ideas of improvement.
The zigzag shape is a sharp change of direction from the straight line, long or short in time; the acute angles defined by these changes vary in intensity creating abstract geometric patterns. I chose the zigzag subject for it represents the accidents in the timeline of the year 2020, created by the repeated lockdowns.”
“If asked, ‘Do you keep a sketchbook?’, then I would have to say no. I do however have many ways in which I hold and record my thoughts, ideas and makings. “
“The most important is probably the internal ‘sketchbook’ I carry around in my head. Accessible at any time to no one but myself, it is the place where I ruminate, discuss and imagine. I spend a lot of time thinking.”
“Many thoughts do not ever become reality, others are explored further to become real objects. It is then that I inhabit a book; generally, with a black cover, spine ribbon and elastic band to keep it secure. On the spine I stick a small label in Dymo tape, using the manual machine inherited from my Father. Often the books are labelled on a specific subject, but more recently I have included a general book labelled EMPTY HEAD BOOK, a place for anything I need to download from my head, that doesn’t yet have a place to be. The books contain a great deal of writing, the more I write the more I see the value of it. There are diagrams too, this is my drawing, capturing something I am thinking or making. And whilst making I record details, things that I need to remember, revisit and revise.”
“As most of my work is 3D, it becomes part of a ‘sketchbox’. I like labels. Often I annotate samples with luggage labels, with comments about materials, techniques and personal notes too. I keep most samples, there is always something to be learnt from everything I make, even if I am not satisfied with it. The failures become seeds for new ideas, areas of development or further exploration.”
“I love sketchbooks and keeping them is fundamental to my practice. I always have several on the go in different sizes and formats or dedicated to particular themes and I enjoy making my own to suit particular requirements.
One little book, that is dedicated to very quick sketches capturing the behaviour and character of my garden birds, is on my work table ready for action at all times.
I also use sketchbooks as project journals, working through ideas, recording processes, and noting down things that I might want to pursue at a future point. I often find that going back through one of these books helps to get me out of times when I feel stuck or undecided about which direction to take.”
“Finding the perfect sketchbook is quite a challenge, which is why I always have a few on the go at one time and I probably have far too many. I always have a very small sketchbook in my bag when I go out for sketching and note taking and larger ones for home.
“The quality of the paper is important, smooth paper for drawing and coloured pencil work, heavier paper for gouache, watercolour and mixed media, my preference for bright colours sees me searching out books with white paper although it is not so important for ink drawings.
“I use sketchbooks for technique experiments, trying out new art materials, colour samples and just doodling with ink, pencil or paint.”
“I was going to say I didn’t use sketchbooks much until recently. But I realise that I have always used ‘ideas’ books. Probably not very carefully thought out and often just a collection of images that I had collected on the ‘topic’. Perhaps even just shoved into a basket rather than collected into an actual book. Some of these developed as what could be called ‘scrapbooks’ ….. how do you define the difference between sketchbook and scrapbook??
“I also had a few books of ‘techniques’, trying out things like gesso, image transfer, laminated paper. Not that in my mind they were ‘proper’ sketchbooks .. whatever that means!
“I was always someone I labelled as ‘can’t draw’ so the idea of sketchbooks seemed to be beyond me. But, with encouragement from fellow artists, both in Phoenix and other groups I have become more confident about making attempts at drawing and also realising that I could use washes of colour or patterns or stamps or stencils etc to ‘make marks’ and that not everything needed to look perfect or be realistic. Someone once told me that you should never have a ring bound sketchbook as it is too easy to tear out pages and that to develop ideas and confidence you should never pull out the page even if you think it is a disaster!
“So in the last few years I have become an avid fan of the sketchbook. Sometimes still topic based others a great mix of ideas to try, odd watercolours, little sketches, bit of collage etc etc.
“What I really enjoy is sketch booking my travels. At this very moment the idea of travel seems a bit of a dim and distant memory so it is good to have my sketchbooks to leaf through as a reminder. I have been lucky enough to travel to many countries and in 2019 even had an extended stay in Italy for 3 months …. that has resulted in 7 sketchbooks …. so far!! These involve drawing ‘on site’ plus lots of photographs to help me sketch later.”
“Writing this has prompted me to hunt out my old sketchbooks and I was surprised that I have at least fifty. My books contain records of subjects I found of interest at the time. As well as sketches, they include a mix of project notes, cuttings, design and colour way ideas, and fabric and stitch samples. Holiday sketches and those of children and grandchildren bring back memories of people and places.
“In 2020 during the first lockdown due to Covid 19, I decided to devote a very personal sketchbook to the wild flowers seen on our early morning walks in the local countryside. This theme was chosen in relation to halting global warming and preservation of bio-diversity. Much pleasure was obtained from studying the flowers and plants along our route. The structures needed close observation, the shapes of petals and leaves often very subtle. This became a book where I instinctively explored different techniques, mainly going back to drawing which I found to be a mindful experience. My book turned into an ‘album’ of more careful drawings and the development of unexpected styles.
“Keep an open mind and see where it leads you…………”
It seems there are many alternatives for sketchbooks –
Internal sketchbook i.e. Head
EMPTY HEAD BOOK (my favourite)
Sketch and ideas box