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The Artist's Sketchbook

The artist’s sketchbook. After the initial idea is hatched, it is the starting point for many works of art, so it seemed an appropriate starting point for starting my new blog. The sketchbook can serve many purposes. It can be where one works out a value plan. It can be a place to experiment with a vague concept that needs to be put on paper to see if it has merit. It can be ‘practice’ drawing. Drawing figures is not my specialty, so if a figure is to be a part of my work, I practice in my sketchbook until I feel comfortable with the pose and proportions. Have I been asked to do a commission? Sketches can help me communicate to the customer how I envision what they are requesting to be sure we are on the same page.

As a teacher, my students would grumble when I insisted that they do preliminary sketches to create a plan prior to jumping into the final painting. And I clearly remember grumbling the same way all those years ago when I was instructed to do the same thing. I can only hope that if they continued to create art, they learned the value of the sketchbook as I have.

I can look back at my old sketchbooks and see my growth as an artist. They can also be a way of reliving moments of my past, like the plein air class I took in Lewes Delaware one summer. As our instructor Joe Sweeney spoke and demonstrated, I quietly sketched the view in front of me amidst my notes. Flipping to that page of my sketchbook, I can feel the warm summer air, I can still see Joe’s demo piece in my mind’s eye, and I can relive the anticipation I had to be heading out to the beach the next day to paint the sea and sand on location. That memory is stronger because of slowly recording it in my sketchbook as it happened.

Many times the public only sees the finished art without any idea of the many possibilities the artist may have considered, discarded or altered along the way. At one time I kept my sketchbooks to myself, not wanting the public to see my rejected attempts at an idea. I didn’t want anyone to see what I thought were ‘failed’ ideas. I feel differently now. None of the rejected ideas are ‘failures’, but part of the process to achieve the final result. I believe it is good for others to have a window to the creative process, to understand that art involves many steps along the way.

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