Sketchbook as Surface Design

07/25/14

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{I made this spread while sitting at my friend Ron’s pool on a hot July day earlier this summer.}

I am admittedly not a traditional sketchbook user. I don’t sit and sketch the people or places I see — at least very often (though I think that is a valuable exercise for sure — and one I should probably do more of). Instead, I use my sketchbooks as a way to play around with composition, color, and design elements in my work. The great thing about sketchbooks is that they are, by nature, personal work — they are for the user, not a consumer. Sure, I sketch concepts for clients all the time, but those don’t end up in my sketchbook. The majority of people don’t even show what is in their personal sketchbooks. So your sketchbook can really be a fantastic playground for anything you want it to be — traditional sketches or abstract exploration. There are no rules.

On October 10, I’ll be giving a talk sponsored by WeMake Portland for the closing of Design Week. The talk, part of sketchXchange, will focus on — you guess it — my sketchbooks! I’ll be focusing on “sketchbook as surface design,” since 8 times out of 10 I end up filling the entire surface of a spread in my sketchbook with something — a collage, an intricate line drawing, or some random lettering like the one pictured above. I’ll talk about my process, my motivations and what is going through my brain when I am creating my sketchbook spreads. Tickets go on sale soon, and I’ll keep you posted!

While I was on vacation in Portland a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time with my sketchbook. That’s the thing about “sketching for fun & exploration” when you are a working artist. Unless you have time to build it into your daily work schedule, this kind of fun, free form sketching only happens when you are not working. And since I work most of the time, I don’t have much time to sketch — except on weekends, late evenings and, you guessed it: vacation.

Here are some of the spreads I finished while I was there.

photo 1

This one above I made with micron pens and Koi brush pens (also by the Japanese pen company Sakura). I use these pens almost exclusively.

photo 3

This spread above I created entirely from one Ladies Home Journal Magazine from 1969, scissors and a glue stick. I did it all while sitting on the guest room floor at my parents’ house watching bad cable TV shows.

photo 2

As you know, I love drawing buildings! This time I colored them in. I drew this spread while I was visiting Astoria, Oregon.

And this one took forever! I finished it last night:

photo 4

Do you keep a sketchbook or a book of daily or weekly paintings & drawings? Email me with a short description how you approach your own sketchbook and 2-3 images and I may include it in my talk for Portland Design Week!

PS: I post fairly regular photos of my sketchbooks on Instagram, so if you don’t already, you can follow me there.

Have a great weekend, friends!

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