Monday, January 3, 2011

Special guest sketchbook profile: Virginia Spiegel

From time to time this year on the Sketchbook Challenge blog we'll be doing profiles and interviews with some special guests.  Our first guest this year is Virginia Spiegel.

Virginia A. Spiegel's artwork is exhibited and held in private and permanent collections in the U.S. and internationally. She also juries mixed-media and fiber exhibitions. Her artwork and writing about art, creativity, and her adventures in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are featured in books and magazines. Her new book is Wild at the Edges: Inspiration from a Creative Life read more...

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
I keep many and very diverse sketchbooks.  The most important one is my studio journal/sketchbook that I always have at hand in my studio and use as a daybook, reference source, idea collector, trial area for materials, and calendar.  I also make collage sketchbooks which are kept sporadically, but compulsively when in motion.

I also take at least five photographs a day on a semi-regular schedule (along the lines of my Garbage Day Project) and consider those photos a sketchbook of sorts also.  Ditto on my nature journal which is all writing. And, of course, each year I complete two Boundary Waters sketchbook/journals.

Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once?
My studio sketchbook/journal is always going; my collage sketchbooks come and go depending on my mood and how my artwork is progressing.  When I am deep in a series then I tend not to have the time/need to keep a collage sketchbook.  I do have my photography series and nature journal going on almost a daily basis. The Boundary Waters journals are done in the wilderness twice a year.  All of these are huge sources of inspiration.

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet,spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?
I keep my studio sketchbook/journal in inexpensive 12x9² Strathmore sketch pads with premium recycled paper. After much experimentation I found that these books don¹t intimidate me and so I use them with abandon. I use Uniball pens (fine) almost exclusively, but do use the books to try out stamps, stencils, etc. The books also become full of photographs, clippings, etc. - some mounted, some not.  I find going back through these books (I use up about one per year) to be useful in seeing how my art has progressed, which themes reoccur, etc.

I keep my collage sketchbooks in small and beautiful Fabriano softcover blank books with pages in multiple colors. Not a practical choice as the books soon become over-stuffed.  But I love the paper, love the compactness of the book (so non-threatening), and love the overflowing result.  I throw "stuff" in a collage bin as I come across interesting bits, trim any paper items during spare moments, and then have marathon Xyron sessions so when I am in the mood for collage I have lots of material ready to go. Along with paper, I use paint, photographs, ink, and pencil. I have completed over 700 collages this way.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?
Buy a plain, inexpensive sketchbook and a beautiful sketchbook.  Work in both and see which is more you.

Anything else you'd like to add?
A sketchbook is of no use if you do it for anyone except yourself.  A good sketchbook is one that really isn't work at all and I consider my various sketchbooks to be just part of my daily life. Find out for yourself your purpose in keeping a sketchbook by trying different books/methods/materials and keep it exactly the way YOU want.  It took me awhile to learn that writing and photography are as, or more, inspirational for me than drawing, collage, etc.  

Visit Virginia's website here to see more of her work

Learn more about the sketchbook challenge here


  1. Thank you for this reminder: "A sketchbook is of no use if you do it for anyone except yourself."


  2. Really?? You Xyron your collage items?? I never thought of that? Not that I own a Xyron, but now I have an excuse, eh?

  3. McMGrad89, Virginia asked me to post this reply to you:

    "Yes to Xyron, if I am collaging in a book. If I am doing the collages as free-standing works of art, I use stitching and/or gel medium."

  4. Wonderful thoughts and advice. My thanks to you, Virginia.

  5. What a wonderful info filled interview!! Yet another wonderful bonus of this group!! The quote commented on at the top- about the sketchbook not being useful if it is not done for oneself, really speaks to me !!! Than k you very much for that sparkling gold nugget of truth Virginia!!!


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