My sketchbook is always with me. It is my memory, my datebook, my therapist. I use it to plan future projects, record interesting things I see and hear and read, take notes at workshops and classes. It holds my doodles during meetings, finished drawings that I am not sure enough about to commit them to “real” paper, and helps me understand things more completely through drawing. It is a safe place to put anything that is making noise in my head, though and is self-care through tough times.
I spent the month of April 2017 in Virginia, and was attracted to the wild grape that wrapped and clung to trees along roadways and through the woods. Their invasive, chaotic, and complex structures made their way into my work and have engaged me since. Originally, I recorded their baroque movement through the surrounding space, eventually focusing on the knot of the vine, which will be formatted into a grid structure in a current project. In my preparatory sketches I enjoyed exploring the endless compositional variations with different materials. Many of my favorite studies were done with water-soluble graphite on paper.
My studio upstairs is draped with spiderwebs and clotted with storage boxes. What happened? Lost my inspiration? Doubt my creativity? Run out of material? No, I’ve gone digital. My Ipads are filled with pencil drawings, watercolors, and scribbled ideas. Almost any image that pops up in my imagination can be instantly sketched in pixels, any size, any color, any media. Can’t remember what a giraffe looks like? Hundreds of photos are available for research. Mistakes are erased completely by double taps. I carry my studio with me and it weights about a pound. The Ipad is also a camera and can record scenes to be later translated.
Of course there are negatives. The drag of an Ebony pencil on paper, the scent of turps, brushing a three foot slash of vermilion on canvas…all can be reproduced digitally, but it is like drinking a glass of water thinking it is coffee—-some experiences are lost. An original work of art can be sold with the understanding that no other tangible copy exists. However digital images are now art products for sale (which still have to be framed to be hung in some galleries).
Thousands of tutorials are available online. Other artists are colleagues for reachable conversations, typed or Skyped. And like tangible studios, digital sketchbooks can become just as cluttered as a studio. The clutter is unused apps, half-baked ideas and thousands of images.
All I need is an Ipad, Apple Pencil and available WiFi and electricity. Paper and pencil are kept for blackouts.
I have used sketchbooks in many different ways over the years, often just as writing journals to think about new sculptural ideas, but also as a way to look back at existing work. In late 2017 I needed more space in my studio and my head to find a place for new sculpture, so I parted with lots of pieces. As each piece went out the door I drew it in my sketchbook. In the beginning these were pretty highly rendered drawings, but in January 2018 I decided to loosen up my hand and brain and draw only right-handed (as I am a lefty). These are four of the right-handed drawings that I did at the time, some representing existing pieces, and others new ideas. Wonderfully, this created new room for new sculptures. Some of the new work will be in a show I have curated at the Portland Public Library in March 2019–ON BOOKS: Sculpture that References Literature.