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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.
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