Lynne Butt brings to life her love of sketchbooks, along with her fellow Phoenix artists:
Sketchbooks…..An indispensable tool for artists
A finished piece of art grows from a sketchbook.
They are the place where the seeds of ideas are stored, where they germinate and grow.
Sketchbooks take many forms…..books, boxes, pin-boards, loose papers gathered together, iPads, cameras and….HEADS!
To have access to the inner workings of the artist, the process of making art, the germ of an idea, the very beginning of a work of art is a great privilege.
Phoenix members allow us a peak into these precious objects.
“For years I have kept sketchbooks with different objectives. Some bring back memories of places I have visited, containing sketches, photos, tickets, etc.; some record information and notes from exhibitions and courses I attended; others explore and develop designs or file research material.
“Regular sketching sessions, with friends at Kew Gardens gave me a topic for one of my Brooklyn Sketchbooks. Outings with Urban Sketchers took me to areas of London not visited for many years. A collaborative exercise with a friend produced a fascinating fold-out sketchbook. Whereas the Phoenix Sketchbook Project was an interesting challenge, each month’s topic set by a different member.
“In my textile sketchbooks I document the process of developing my work. Each provides a diary for a specific theme to explore ideas, note background research, enter samples of potential materials, stitches, colour and techniques. The collated information is useful reference for the future.”
“Along with the images I put hand written notes of how things had been done and lists of key-words that described the work or how I felt about it. I wrote about what worked and what didn’t and why for future reference. Materials such as threads and glue were put to the test and I added samples to the journal. Starting half way through the empty book with images of her work. The idea was to have plenty of room to more forward with ideas as they developed, and backwards to record the work that had led up to that point.
“I recorded the sychronicity of a visit to the Anthony Gormley exhibition where he had worked on a huge scale to create a grid which fitted in with the work I was doing to produce ‘moire’ or interference patterns in my work and how they changed when you move round them.”
Alison also uses apps such as Picassa and Picsart’ to produce collages.
Scrapbook cum journal for the upcoming Phoenix exhibition Seen/Unseen
“I used to create very scrappy disorganised sketchbooks as a hasty record of my thought processes and working. Now I try to be neater, so that the book becomes more of a work of art itself. I start with a ‘spider diagram’, then my research, and finally all the samples of ideas and techniques in drawing and stitched fabric.
“This process is ongoing – I don’t decorate the whole page with contrived attractive backgrounds, so the neat version can look too plain and lacking in artistry. The main purpose of researching a current theme could be lost in a highly decorated sketchbook.”
“I always make one for an exhibition, even if some of the entries are retrospective. Our visitors seem to love looking at them as much as the finished work”. Jo Coombes
“The closest to a conventional sketchbook is the type used on my travels. Always a size to tuck into a large pocket or small backpack, preferably with a ring binding so pages can be fully open for ease of use. On my travels, drawings are supplemented by found objects and souvenirs so they include leaves, pressed flowers, feathers, boarding passes and museum entry tickets, sometimes even attempts to record my reaction to sounds as well as sights”.
“In my textile work, the ‘sketchbook’ is both a box file into which I throw cuttings, samples and notes of ideas for later sifting AND the camera on my mobile telephone, which has now replaced printed photos from a pocket camera.”
“I have used sketchbooks throughout my textile practise. They serve various purposes. Sometimes I record the entire process; thoughts and experiments and at other times simply use them as reference. In this instance I collect images, articles, interesting website information and references to other textile artists. I tend to have a “sketchbook” at hand as an aide memoire/journal, noting ideas for future projects, new processes and techniques to try; suppliers, tips and tools.”
“Sketchbooks, story and mood boards are an integral part of my design process, without which my ideas would amount to nothing. However, my departure from a “conventional sketchbook” started when my time constraints limited the number of physical activities achievable for me within the deadlines I set myself. Furthermore, the scale of my constructions changed as I began to take part in exhibitions; I needed to fill more expansive space, 3D prototypes became more ambitious and were more or less “flattened” when placed in a book; so my sketchbooks became more “sketch- and ideas-boxes”!!
“Nowadays, I tend to record on my iPhone much of my thought processes, images (even those created on paper) and store them in a folder for either reference or later retrieval. Eventually they will be stored on an external hard drive.”
“Even though I don’t use a sketchbook in a conventional way, I have realised looking back over the years I have constantly kept a note/sketchbook.
I fill my books with ideas, information and things I need to do. At times these books can seem more like a diary, containing my inner most thoughts.
Poetry, song lyrics, I really didn’t quite understand how important they are to my practice. What to do with them after I am gone?”
“Like everyone else, for the many years while I was studying art and embroidery at educational institutions I was ‘forced’ to keep a sketchbook (or creative journal as it was sometimes called). We were encouraged to document our creative processes and journeys in these books which were then marked by our tutors and these marks contributed to our overall grades. The result was I spent an awful lot of time on these sketchbooks and I personally felt they had an adverse effect on my creative flow as I was always looking backward rather than forward; so when I finished all my studies I stopped keeping a sketchbook.
“Over time sketchbooks have crept back into my art practice but in a very different manner. Now they are just for me, no one else is going to look at them unless I allow it. So you are very privileged I am sharing some of them on this blog.
“The first type of sketchbook to creep back into my practice were the ones I keep for a specific sketching project, such as those I used when I embarked on a project of documenting my vintage cutlery collection. Originating from Sheffield, cutlery plays a significant part in my childhood memories so this documentation project was part of my creative research on objects and the emotional attachment we have to them. In this case the use of a sketchbook was important and I thought of it as an art object in itself.
“Secondly I always have a notebook on the go, in which I write down ideas I have as they occur, things I read in books, quick sketches and things I find. I don’t think of it as a ‘sketchbook’ its just somewhere to jot down my thoughts. I try to start a new notebook when I embark on a new project (to try to impose a discipline on my otherwise unruly mind) but it never really works as my thoughts are circular and overlapping. I am often working on a few ideas at the same time which all intertwine so to be honest the linear structure of a notebook isn’t really ideal but I have not found anything better. I do lots of writing in my notebook as that’s the way my mind works – I can’t remember what I have read unless I write it down! I also kept this notebook when I was researching emotive objects and you can see it is very messy and was done purely for my own use. I carried this book around with me all the time, at workshops, at museums and even on holiday.”
To be continued ……