Friday, April 1, 2011

sketchbook project comes to town

 At last, the traveling road show known as the Sketchbook Project is in town for a speed date with Portland. Since the venue is right down the street from MECA, it made for a relevant field trip for my illustration class.

Since parting with my sketchbook back in January, I've been wondering how the whole thing works.
10,000 sketchbooks? How does that happen? We lined up for a Brooklyn Art Library card, then you choose from a huge category of themes, your card is scanned, and a friendly person finds 2 sketchbooks for you to look at.

 And there are a ton of sketchbooks.

My students were to look, and also sketch in their own sketchbooks. Hannah, below, was happy to be reunited with her sketchbook.

Not all artists have the practice of keeping a sketchbook. That is, having one on hand at all times for sketching ideas or visions on the fly. My habit has been to work in a large sketchbook, not very portable, that is also a receptacle of clippings, references, tickets, patterns, whatever sparks me.

Doing the Sketchbook Project with the small Moleskin they supply turned into a revelation. It took awhile to break the ice with the first page, but after that, I just drew, and had it in my bag everywhere I went.

Here is Linda, development director for SPACE, looking at my sketchbook.

It turned out I have a lot of drawings of people drawing. Here is my daughter, sketching in the book she shared with Eda.

Once I sent off my sketchbook to the Art House, I knew I'd better get another sketchbook quick, or the impulse would wither. I had it on hand while my students were at SPACE; I drew Stephen as he drew.

The class moved on up the street where "European Drawings at the Portland Museum of Art" just went on exhibit. This show is part of a state wide collaboration of exhibitions dedicated to the medium of drawing. There are 24 shows all during 2011 as part of The Maine Drawing Project: Where to Draw the Line.

It was a great contrast to go from looking at the raw musings of anyone with a pencil all around the globe (there are sketchbooks from over 100 countries in the Sketchbook Project) to the rare showing of drawings, most over 100 years old, from the likes of Ingres and Daumier.

Again, besides looking, students are expected to sketch something. It's quite a challenge, in fact, given that we had about an hour to look, roam, and draw.

Here is Kyle's drawing.

I chose to draw from a George Grosz piece. Funny how drawing something makes you notice the line. He has an amazing ability to imply form, and what he leaves out is as important as the lines he makes.

The PMA exhibit includes this quote from Renoir: "I never let a day go by without sketching something, even if it's only an apple on the page of a notebook. You lose the knack so quickly."

So true!

Later, I reconvened at SPACE with my family, also eager to see the sketchbooks. I owe my participation to Mary Anne, vivacious cohort and mother of another sketcher, Eda.

Here's M.A. checking out her own title, "If You Lived Here," in which she did amazing still lifes around her colorful house.

She also talked my neighbor, Nancy, into doing the project. Here is a spread from hers, with lovely collages inspired by log cabin quilts.

And then Mary Anne got a sketchbook for our daughters, who wanted in on the fun. Eda and Daisy, known as Some Kids at King,  swapped their book, "It's Raining Cats and Dogs" back and forth at school.

Daisy did her last page while at Eda's house back in January, with the thought of catching a ferry back home on her mind.

We came across a slew of cool sketchbooks. This one was a favorite, in which the entire book was cut out and etched with text, by Georgina Cook.

I knew a former student had done a book. Here is Jessica Shea's:

I also found a fun book drawn by Mike Sgier, full of characters for a potential graphic novel. And another book by Seth Fitts about scavengers was a big hit with our crowd. The coolest thing was finding sketchbooks from another world. We all loved this one, by Zoltan Kalaszi, from the category "In 5 Minutes" and it instantly took us to the streets of Istanbul.

It's a truly marvelous thing, to be connected across so much space and time, by the immediacy of drawing, an act that allows us to make sense of our world and dreams.

The Sketchbook Project is only in Portland for another 2 days. Get thee to SPACE!

Even better, get yourself a sketchbook. There are more projects to join.


Art House Co-op said...

Wonderful post - thanks so much for sharing! It was great to meet you at SPACE... hopefully next time in Brooklyn!

Kathleen Benton said...

Such a wonderful post! As a participant in The Sketchbook Project, I am getting a great kick out of all the reviews and comments about the project and tour. This one is the best yet, I think, for capturing the project and its spirit, plus the variety of entries and artists. Thank you!

Deb said...

Thanks Jamie, for inspiring me, an aspiring writer/(illustrator?!) to get out that purse-sized journal to keep with me, at all times, for those lightning strike moments of spontaneous creativity!
Deb (twokindredspirits.blogspot)