Having completed Part Three of the Pulling the Puddle Mini-course Series, I rummaged through old sketchbooks looking for a specific botanical illustration to use as one of the examples in Part Four - Pulling the Puddle in Small Shapes. I didn't find the sketch I was looking for but I did find my original sketches and the illustrated brainstorming I did as I invented my Color Scheme Game back in the early part of 2012!
I've been wanting to write a post about the uses and purposes of sketchbooks. This topic has become far more controversial than I ever imagined was possible.
I make no rules about sketchbooks, nor about any aspect of creating art. What I may call a rule is meant only as a guideline for learning purposes, a line to cross or not to cross. The value of a rule is that when I become aware of its purpose AND I fully understand the reason it exists, I consciously make a choice. I either follow it ... or I break it, depending on what I feel is best for the work I am creating. It is my experimentation in my sketchbooks that sets me free to test the limits of my abilities and my understanding of art concepts.
I have hundreds of sketchbooks; different sizes, different papers, different purposes. My sketchbooks are thinking pads, I use them to: work through ideas; jot down thoughts; experiment with tools; try techniques. I use them when I travel to hone my eye-hand coordination as I record the people and environment around me. I use them to explore the world outside of me as well as my inner world. They are the most precious of my creations because they are the journal of my life as I experience each and every day. They are precious because nothing about the sketches, drawings and paintings within the covers is precious. There is no hesitation about trying something scary. I don't worry about whether it will ruin the design of the page. If I decide later that what I tried really didn't work ... well then, I've learned an important lesson, one that I wouldn't have learned if I hadn't tried it.
Due to a recent conversation, a question keeps popping up in my thoughts, "If sketchbooks are no longer the think-pad for artists, where is it that artists work out their ideas and test out new tools?" Perhaps on scraps of paper that pile up in boxes or are thrown out? I am delighted to find all my notes and crazy detours I took while developing The Color Scheme Game with its Value Game option and its Composition Game option documented along with the middle stages of the Trumpet Parts Series and the beginning sketches playing The Color Scheme Game.
Yes, the paper is thin and wrinkled horribly when I used watercolor on it. Does it matter? No. I created these sketches to learn more about design, drawing, color and color schemes. These were not commissioned works of art. These were not meant for an exhibition or to be matted, framed and hung in a gallery. These are a documentation of my thought process and my exploration into greater mastery of my art and a greater understanding of what I like, what I don't like and why I do what I do.
That being said, I did begin to use better quality paper as I moved forward with my color scheme experiments. Why? Because I tried different papers and discovered the joy of working on the Rives BFK printmaking paper when playing my game. I love the feel of the brush on the paper. I continue to use it because I love the results and enjoy the experience of drawing and painting in those sketchbooks so much. I care more about the process than the end result. I care about learning and mastering old and new skills.
I'm curious ... How and why do you use sketchbooks?
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Chris Carter - Artist
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