The value of a sketchbook

A little while back I mentioned a gorgeous little B&B in Talbot, country Victoria, called Enacasa. The post really had very little to do with the B&B and was about artwork we saw there. In writing about the artwork I really needed to mention the artist, who’s name I couldn’t for the life of me remember. My husband and I did web searches, racked our brains, looked back at photos and still could not remember the name of the B&B or the artist involved.

But, I did remember that I had been documenting ideas and drawings in a sketchbook at the time, so I went rummaging around in my studio, to find the book. It has become my habit to begin and use a new journal each year. It was relatively easy to find and it was such a victory to flick through the book and find all the details needed.

Needless to say, I learned one aspect of the value of a sketchbook. I guess photo scrapbooks are a type of sketchbook. Something that records information and memories for recalling at a further date. Now, I know this is not a new idea but I was very pleased that I had a record of this information. And I love the scrapbooks I have made of our family.

In thinking about the value of the sketchbook, as  usual, my thoughts turn to school. VCE Studio Arts requires a thorough use of a sketchbook – or a visual diary as it is known in relation to this subject. Everything is required to go in the visual diary. It is a record of skill and idea development by the student. And such a valuable resource. If used well the sketchbook becomes a record in which students can learn about themselves, a record of processes that can be used for creating artwork at a later date, and a place where students can try out ideas without being too bothered as to whether they are super smashing brilliant or not.

It is an interesting process, trying to encourage students to use their visual diaries more. it’s even more interesting trying to get them to annotate their visual record. But once they get on a roll I think they see the value in it. The times where I have made myself write about what I’ve drawn have been quite cathartic. Clears the head. Gets ideas clarified. Having things recorded whether written or visual means you don’t have to be anxious that the great idea you had will be forgotten.

Whilst mulling over this post I decided to collect together my own visual diaries. I have a stack of them from over the years. The great thing about keeping them is seeing my own progress and journey. Seeing that I am consistent and that I have been true to myself whilst developing and growing. It’s also encouraging to see what I’ve done and allow this to give me confidence in my abilities. I’m quite keen, too, to use some of my ideas to develop further. I will also be able to use some of the processes I’ve recorded, in my teaching. Here’s a drawing from some years back. I love it and think I’ll definitely revisit this idea. I’ve added a new page to the blog with other photos of various sketchbook pages. It’s fun to look back.

A drawing based on Rahab. Possibilities for university textiles folio, 1991.

And that’s just some of the value of a sketchbook. I’m sure you have other things to add – what do you think is the value of the sketchbook?

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2 thoughts on “The value of a sketchbook

  1. Sketchbooks yes but notebooks and cutting books too. Kind of a personal visual diary as you say. Great also for thinking about themes and possible ways of working when you have a day of ‘artists block’!

    1. Yes, you are so right. Writing this post prompted more thoughts about the value sketchbooks in so many different ways. I was thinking of a follow up post about those. Thanks for the prompts.

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