A Digital Scrap-Book

Kitchen as laboratory. Cooking up rabbit skin for sizing paper.
Kitchen as laboratory. Cooking up rabbit skin crystals for sizing paper.

Sorting out all my pictures has got me thinking about my sketchbooks pages, and sketchbooks in general.  In the past, I have used  sketchbooks as a convenient way for experimenting with ideas in an unfettered, non-judgmental way, only selectively showing what I felt ready to make public.

Now more than two years down the line and beginning to get into my stride, I decided to cast a quizzical eye over my blog.   The illustrated notes roam across my areas of interest, and in themselves form a kind of sensory meander across a personal landscape.

(Sand) prints of prints. One of my ‘areas of interest’.

It differs from a paper sketchbook mainly in that it allows you, anyone, to join in my personal road-map and offers a glimpse into some of the thought processes and techniques I use.   I still have to make judgements about what to show but it has a much broader range.   Much to my surprise, I have enjoyed sharing what is normally a very private activity.

kitchen table operations
kitchen table operations

Digital books are a great addition to our reading experience but I don’t own an e-reader as I know I would miss the feel of the physical object in my hands.   I love paper sketchbooks for the same reason.  There is something really satisfying about working with a variety of materials in a book you have adopted for the purpose.   It could be anything: an old ledger, redundant bible (God knows there’s enough of them), leather-bound books, hand-made books, post-it notes.  I’ve used breakfast order slips left-over from our B&B days, and even contemplated using my father’s old appointment diaries but not sure this would feel like sacrilege or a loving tribute to his memory?  (Perhaps a bit of both.  More suited as part of a family history project, maybe).

Looks can be deceiving. Even though this looks like it has been ‘digitalised’, it is in fact a painting.

My favourite sketchbooks are the ring-bound, square-shaped  books with hard covers because they expand a little between pages if you want to add stuff, as I do all the time, and you can fold the cover right over underneath so it doesn’t get in the way, handy if you are working outside.

The logo for this blog is a detail taken from this sketchbook page.  (I have changed the theme since this was posted!)

My virtual sketchbook, on the other hand, is more like a photographic journal.   In it, I document the textures, habits and patterns of my life as a way of reconnecting with and making sense of the world I inhabit.  It also allows me to pick up on recurring themes and make observations about my progress.  It has become the medium in which I have taken my work further into the digital realm.

IMG_8116 overlay 1 with curves cropped detail
A ‘post-it note’ drawing which has been layered with a digital print on acetate.

I use my sketchbook pages, therefore, as a repository of visual ideas that acts not only as a mental laboratory but also as a useful memory bank that I can return to, as and when required.   It allows me to make synaptic leaps in time, place and space and make connections and re-evaluations between curiosity and coincidental happenings.

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Grid butterfly of photomicrographs of thin sections of rock.

Some of the ideas are very sketchy and embryonic, others more fully formed, multi-layered, or collaged with imagery from previous posts.  Collectively, the blog forms a kind of annotated comic book of disparate objects that are tangentially linked, and that when printed out, weirdly goes backwards to the present.

Virtual or actual, I think both have their place in my practice.   I have come to view the virtual journal as an exciting extension of the physical sketchbook.  The thought of creating a limited-edition artist’s book (or e-book?) is a distinct possibility for the future.  Maybe.

Oh no. It’s not still raining!  (Recent sketchbook pen drawing.)