The Art House in Williamsburg, NY has a unique ongoing creative project called the Sketchbook Project where artists create sketchbooks that are housed in their Art Library. Thus far they have over 35,000 sketchbooks from over 135 countries for visitors to checkout & view. It began in 2006 and claims to have the largest permanent collection of sketchbooks in the world. It’s a great opportunity for artists to share their art with the public. The books all have a theme, which are randomly assigned to the artists that participate. Visitors check out and view the books on site, but can look at as many as they want.
The books are also available through a traveling library where the Art House packs up a large selection of sketchbooks and travels to cities around the US in pop-up libraries. It functions as part gallery and part library. You can go to their site to see where the next event is or to participate in the next sketchbook event. It doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or professional and the creator can “draw, write, collage, cut, print or photograph.”
You can get instructions on how to add a sketchbook to the collection by going to www.sketchbookproject.com. You can sign up for the current project until Jan. 17, 2017 and the deadline to send in the completed book is Feb. 14, 2017. The cost of the sketchbook and to participate is $25. Some of the current themes are, “A story worth telling,” “Guidebook to the past,” “Essentials,” “Half and half,” or “Clasp my hand.” To see a video of the project click here. The Art House also offers other art challenges such as a “Portrait Swap” or a “Print Exchange”.
I participated in the Sketchbook Project several years ago and was assigned the theme “Friends of Friends of Friends.” Many of the topics are humorous and a bit obscure, but that allows for many interpretations. It was fun to create the sketchbook, but I underestimated the time it would take to fill the 80 pages. As a watercolor artist I realized the pages would warp even if I only did one side. I could have glued in watercolor paper, but it would have made the book very thick and I wanted to avoid that. Although, once I saw the book collection at an event I learned many artists did exactly that. They added fabric and collage, fold out pages, cut up pages, removed pages, etc. Just about anything goes as long as the book can fit on the shelf.
So I decided it would be easier to use colored pencil, but that actually took longer than painting. I had to give thought on how to interpret the theme and fill all those pages. I decided to loosely link myself as a ‘friend’ to all my pets I’ve had and then link them to their ‘friends’ and then to the world at large. So it went from a very personal view to a more global view. In the end I began to have a hard time finding 80 (or 40) ways to tie it all together. I used the balance of the pages to make cut out paper dolls holding hands that encircled the earth. It was the best answer for the fast approaching deadline. The result was a fun collection of my pets and a view of my relationship to the world via friendship links. The project was a good stretch of my creativity, problem solving and imagination! Below are a few of the pages:
That was over 5 years ago now, but the reason this project comes to mind was because I was notified that someone checked out my book. I had actually forgotten about the project and now as I recall the theme it brings a smile to my heart which replaces my tears of grief. You see, one of the first ‘friends’ drawn in my sketchbook was my beloved dog “Suzie Q” to whom I recently had to say good bye. She was a rescue from the shelter, a mix of Chow and Great Pyrenees. I got her when she was about 8 months old and she lived a good long life of 16 1/2 years. She was a beautiful fluffy golden white color, very sweet, but shy. Sadly there is never enough time with a beloved pet. I miss her terribly and have so many fond memories of her. She was with me through some tough times and brought a lot of joy to my life. She often looked like she was smiling with her mouth open and her spotted tongue hanging out. Below is the image I used of her in the sketchbook. I was able to get her to pose with the book before I sent it off to Art House. I love that photo of her sitting with her portrait. As I think of all the fond memories and feel the hole in my heart I am grateful that she is memorialized in my Sketchbook with my many other ‘friends’ before her…and on this Thanksgiving eve I am thankful she was in my life.