The sketchbook pages are from sketchbooks that I have been using since shortly after graduate school for preparing compositions, or to access subjects for painting that I did not have directly in front of me. That initial intent became more broad as drawing expanded into notetaking: copying poems, musical lyrics, capsule reviews, artist statements—anything that I may have thought would be appropriately worth noting. There is nothing in these books that would be considered finished works.

Moore 1 Telaviv Sketchbook copy

John Moore, Tel Aviv, sketchbook, ink on paper, 6.5 x 10 in.

Moore 2 Paris Sketchbook copy

John Moore, Paris, sketchbook, watercolor on paper, 5.25 x 8.5 in.

Moore 3 Queens copy

John Moore, Queens, watercolor on paper, double spread, 19 x 12 in.

Moore 4 Lightbulb copy

John Moore, Light Bulb, watercolor on paper, 8 x 10 in.

Moore 5 Ferndale copy

John Moore, Ferndale, watercolor on paper, 8.25 x 5.75 in.

Moore 6 Boston copy

John Moore, Boston Sketchbook, ink on paper, 9.25 x 12 in.

I always have a sketchbook handy and never travel without packing a sketchbook and a drawing pen. The Miró page consists mainly of notes taken in front of the painting The Farm in the National Gallery in Washington. Nothing will slow down the looking more, and turning it into seeing, than describing with words the subjects, forms, colors, and accurate dimensions of original work. The Tel Aviv page was made for an evening painting. I was standing on a side street with a sketchbook in my hand and a Lumix camera sitting on a post nearby. For slightly over an hour and a half, as dusk dawned, I wrote about the light changing, and every fifteen minutes took a photograph of exactly the same site. The photographs and the drawing were indispensable aids in making the painting. The drawing tells the impressions and specifics that matter most; the photographs are memorizing what I saw. The gas station page in California was a watercolor done while looking from a motel window. The Boston roof drawing page was made from the top of a parking garage. The empty house watercolor double page was one of the few works I had made inspired by a poem and based on a magazine photograph. The Henry James piece is a beautifully written paragraph about the sublime value of works of art. I thought of it after the earlier watercolor was done following a trip to Spain. Some of the pages are just done for fun—the light bulb, for example, of simply fanciful meditations. Lots of sketchbook pages simply have details—a fence post for example, the top of a column, the foot of a statue, and some unintelligible notes.

Moore 7 Miro copy

John Moore, Miró DC, sketchbook, ink on paper, 9.25 x 12 in.

Moore 8 Theater Sketchbook copy

John Moore, Theatre, ink on paper, 8.25 x 10.5 in.

Moore 9 Bridge Sketchbook copy

John Moore, Bridge, watercolor on paper, double spread, 16.5 x 10.5 in.

Moore 10 Sundial copy

John Moore, Sundial, watercolor and Wite-Out, 8 x 10 in.

Moore 12 James Page copy

John Moore, James, watercolor and ink on paper, double spread, 9 x 6.5 in.

In an interview with Balthus by David Bowie that appeared a few years ago in Modern Painters, Balthus (who drew beautifully) observes that now he makes Polaroids his sketchbook. While I have recently discovered how easy it is to photograph a subject with my phone, download it into my computer, and print it out as an aid or a reference, no subject for me comes alive in quite the same way as it does when my sketchbook is opened and, thinking with my hand, pen is put to paper. I have many books of various sizes, undated, some hard cover, some spiral-bound, almost all with blank pages, and I sometimes come across something I wrote or copied earlier that had been filed away in my conscious mind, but, as Joan Didion wrote, still simmers there, perhaps waiting for an appropriate release. With these tattered books on a studio shelf I am never too far away from that simmer.


Image at top: John Moore, Gone Away, watercolor on paper, double spread, 11.5 x 8 in.