Keeping a Sketchbook

Yesterday a friend asked if I'd be recording when I’m making my artwork. I took her suggestion and decided to capture a few thoughts as I open up my sketchbook for the day. I talk a little about getting inspired by Frida Kahlo’s sketchbooks, and the benefits of getting my brushes dirty.

Today I’ve decided that I’m going to be recording while I’m doing my daily sketchbook practice and see what comes up. 

So, I am here in my home studio AKA, my living room and I’m set-up at my desk. I have a big desk, kind of smack in the middle, well, up against the wall, kind of in the middle of the room. 

I will admit, I think it’s better I’m voice recording today than video recording because my desk is a mess. But, I have my paint around me, which is good. And I have my sketchbook open and a nice clean palette. And so, I am just going to pick out a few of my paints.

Lately, I have been working with a really green palette. But kind of dark greens a bit because the summer is ending. I love summertime. Although I love Autumn. But I do prefer longer days like a lot of people. 

My sketchbook practice has been okay. I’ve kept sketchbooks on and off throughout my teenage and adult years. And generally, keeping a sketchbook is something that’s recommended for anyone who wants to improve their drawing skills. Although, I have been using it more for painting. 

I’ve seen lots of really beautiful sketchbooks online. A sketchbook that I’ve always kept in my head is one of the sketchbooks of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter. I went to Mexico City almost two years ago, a little less than two years ago, and I visited her studio and her home and it was amazing. Absolutely amazing and very inspiring. She kept a series of sketchbooks. Some of them, at least one of them was turned into a book that was published. I think I was in high school when it was published, maybe at university.

I remember seeing it because it was so beautiful and the pages were painted and drawn, and there was a bleed in between the pages. And when the book was published they just copied, they scanned in the sketchbook pages and just published it so you could see the bleed between the pages and it was really beautiful. I remember looking at that and just thinking it was such a beautiful record of the process. 

In some ways, that’s why I am trying to keep this sketchbook. It’s about experimentation, trying different things, not getting too stuck. What I find is, sometimes I start the sketchbook without the intention of painting on canvas, but once I have paint on my palette and my brushes are dirty, I just want to keep going. Which is a nice feeling.

It’s like a warmup. You know, it’s almost like if you’re going to be running a long distance you do a few little warm-up exercises on the track before you start. Its like an easy way in. Sometimes I just stay in the sketchbook and that’s really nice. But it’s nice sometimes to move to the canvas and feel a little freer. Because sometimes I’ll see the canvases that I have in my studio and I’ll be a little, like … there will be a heaviness about getting started.

Even though I love painting, I’ll look at them, and think, oh, well. kind of, that’s a commitment. I need to commit the time. When I start with the sketchbook, it’s just so easy, then once you’re doing it, it’s no big deal. 

When I do paint, I tend to have multiple canvases going at once. I think this is not uncommon. I have to say, I am not really sure. But right now I have over 12 canvasses that are unfinished. So I made a choice to not open or go and purchase any new canvases until I have at least finished a few of the ones that have started. Although it’s nice to have a few things going at once, I do start to worry just about not finishing things, not committing to finishing. To show people, to get feedback, to continue to progress, and all that. I had taken a little time off from painting.

It had been a few years since I had painted, so I know there has been a bit of a curve for me to get back into it. I look at some of the older paintings I did, and I think oh, I really knew how to paint. And now, it’s taking me a bit, but I do feel like I’m getting my groove back, and that’s a really nice feeling.