I have used sketchbooks my whole life. I learned binding my own with a very generous and gifted teacher at a school club in my early teens. Being able to make them just how I wanted them to be made my sketchbook practice flourish even more. I would sketch whatever I had in front of me - mostly buildings and rather graphic still lives. I found organic shapes challenging whether they formed part of the flora, fauna or my human environment. Keeping a sketchbook has definitely helped with that and nowadays I explore all kind of subjects on these intimate pages. There they can live and grow till they are ready to become paintings or lead a forever secret life few will be aware of.
The sketchbook as a tool to improve my drawing skills
Back then I didn´t know anybody else who used a sketchbook for drawing regularly. But decades later after moving to Spain and with the internet in full swing I accidentally stumbled over the Urban Sketchers website, applied for participating in the 2nd International Urban Sketching Symposium a few months later in Lisbon and fell in love with a whole community of likeminded people. That made obvious that if sketcher met in other parts of the world to enjoy on-location sketching together it must be possible in my adopted home town as well. Since then I have promoted on-location sketching in Galicia, held numerous workshops and lectures on Urban Sketching, have participated in a couple more symposiums and most of the friendships I found here in Spain are with fellow sketchers. Ten years later we have a very active group with hundreds of dedicated sketchers all over Galicia and there are tens of thousands all over the world. The main purpose is to hone our drawing skills, to learn from each other and spend a good time together. Although it is by no means obligatory most of the sketchers do not keep their sketchbooks private as the aspect of sharing knowledge and impressions from different parts of the world "one drawing at a time" is central to this movement. Should you be interested in joining a meeting have a look at the Urban Sketchers website to find a chapter near to where you live.
The sketchbook as a tool to explore ideas
Since I became a full time artist I discovered that there is another type of sketchbook, a much more intimate one. One that is less curated, more experimental and accidental I might add. Creatives of all kind use them to explore ideas, to capture fleeting impressions for later use, to come up with new colour palettes or sketch out projects.
I feel that for me these have an even stronger pull as they are free of the pressure to produce a "nice page". They are personal, more playful and a wonderful tool to loosen up before a painting session. I find myself sticking used palette paper in form of collages into my sketchbook to record current colour palettes for new projects or to develop them further. Years ago I was very particular with my paper and art supply, now I discover usefulness in the most mundane materials and they make for excellent mark making tools. I have an inkling that before long both types of sketchbooks might merge for me into a medium to record the complexity we all experience in our lives - and much more in these strange times!
Funny enough, after taking the cover photo for this page I noticed that with the turning of the year I head switched day and month on my little date stamp but somehow stayed in 2020. Well, at the beginning of March at least it still feels very much the same. The little gouache landscapes in the sketchbook above forms part of #the100dayproject I have been doing and sharing over on Instagram earlier this year. In a second project called #100daysofborrowedcolour I´m currently exploring the palettes of artists, both contemporary and from the past, I admire for their use of colour. If you are interested in the whole sketchbook you find weekly flip throughs in my feed and the single pages in this highlight.