This may seem like a new topic for my posts, but I wanted to share something philosophical without cluttering up my Art page HERE.

From my Alaska sketchbook

For me, a sketchbook seems to serve three purposes.

First, it’s a place where I can put to paper visual ideas and try out drawing things I’ve never attempted before, perhaps paint people and places I’ve always wanted to paint, in the safety of a small space. In this sense it’s a true sketchbook because there is no fear of judgment and I’m using it solely for myself, my own development or reminiscences.

The second purpose of a sketchbook is as a visual journal. This can be a journal of daily life, or to document artistically a special place I am visiting. This type of journal would be a mix of plein air and drawings/paintings from my own photographs. This is not to be confused with a personal journal. I have plenty of journals filled with poetry and prose, diary style and literary style. I just can’t see myself wasting pages of good quality watercolor sketchbook paper with words which I’ll inevitably be embarrassed to read later. So, a sketchbook journal for me is mainly visual, words used only for explanation.      

My third use of a sketchbook is as an artistic expression, a themed book. Unlike a series of individual paintings, a themed sketchbook has such advantages as being on a smaller scale, more economical in terms of time and expense, and a built-in connectivity between the images, allowing for an implied story. In this themed sketchbook, I allow myself to use imagery from anywhere- my experience of the subject, from historical or commercial references, and from my imagination.  

There are other types of sketchbooking, but they don’t work for me. These are because of philosophical differences.

For example, there is the purist idea of urban sketching which insists on plein air only. I can’t commit to that 100%, but I do enjoy urban sketching plein air in some situations. Timewise, I’d end up doing ten sketches a year by that standard. In order to produce, I just have to draw and paint from my photographs and other references as well.

Then, there is the school of sketchers who have an indiscriminate need to sketch all the time, everywhere, everyone, and everything. I personally can’t do that A) because I’m not comfortable with the attention it might attract, and B) because I only want to invest my time in sketching a subject that might hold significantly more than casual interest to another viewer. But that’s just me.

As mentioned earlier, sketchbooking as a personal diary is also not my thing.  I could go on, but I’ll end by saying there isn’t anything wrong with these various philosophies, they are ways of sketching which work for some people and produce beautiful art. To compare sketchbooking styles is really not possible because it’s like comparing street photography to landscape photography or wedding photography. All have the potential to result in beautiful work.

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