Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sketchbook Profile: Jane Davies

Jane Davies is a collage artist, designer, writer, and teacher living in Vermont.  She is the author of several books including Collage Journeys.

From potter, pottery painter/craftsperson, to collage artist, designer, and teacher, Jane Davies is about using color with passion and panache. Her use of strong, bold color combinations is what sets her apart from other artists.

Davies, who studied ceramics at Bennington College in  Vermont and the School for American Crafts in Rochester, New York, before opening her own studio in 1991, made her living selling her ceramics at craft shows and through galleries. She gradually transitioned into designing tableware, quilting fabric, paper goods, stationary, and other products for a myriad of prestigious manufacturers.

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
My sketchbook habits have evolved over time.  I used to bring one to craft shows when I was a potter to draw, write, brainstorm new designs, just to have something to do during the slow times.  I've kept sketchbooks for my design work (I license artwork to manufacturers, which has been a very separate activity from making art, writing books, and teaching), in which I keep reference images, color chips, and, of course, sketches.  Since I am recently focused on art and teaching I am actually drawing and painting in my sketchbooks, just for fun!  Imagine.  My work is at a bit of a turning point now, and I'm using the sketchbook to experiment with subject matter and composition, and I don't know what else.  We'll see what 2011 brings.  This sketchbook challenge will be a real journey for me!

Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once?
I have kept a written journal for about twelve years, and that sometimes includes sketches.  Does that count?  I'd say I have a few sketchbooks going right now - one small one to keep in the house for morning doodling, and the one in the studio.  I am keeping my design sketchbook separate from my art one at this point, so maybe that makes four books altogether.

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 like something about 6"x9" or thereabouts.  Besides collage, I teach workshops in book binding, so I accumulate a lot of blank books about that size.  The papers vary form cheap drawing paper to fine light weight printmaking paper. I prefer the nicer paper, but the cheap drawing paper is fine once I start collaging and getting layers of paint down.  The book I plan to use for this challenge is a 7 1/2" x 10" book, the text block of which I made maybe ten years ago.  The pages are a luscious Rives printmaking paper, slightly off-white.  YUM!  My default materials are acrylic paint, matte medium, and collage.  I look forward to hearing about all the other artists' materials for sketchbooks so I can try new ones.  For my written-and-sometimes-drawing journal, I HAVE to use my favorite pen - an old, nicely weighty, fountain pen for which I buy cartridges by the dozens and dozens in all sorts of colors.  I also use fine point permanent markers for drawing in my sketchbook.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but  doesn't know how to begin?
I'm not sure I'm the one to give advice on this topic.  Just get a book that appeals to you - it should be comfortable to work in, the paper should be inviting, and it should never be precious.  It's a SKETCH book, and though it may end up being a beautiful work of art in itself, it is primarily a playground for giving your ideas some breathing room.

Anything else you'd like to add?
I'd be curious to know others' thoughts on the following issue:  My written journal is entirely private - a place to vent, brainstorm, etc.  Ideally my sketchbook is the same, though I do show off pages once in a while.  I wonder how self-conscious I will be working in a sketchbook whose pages could be posted online.  For me the sketchbook is not the final work of art by a long shot; it is the idea incubator.  I know I can pick and choose which pages to show, but still, doing a sketchbook this publicly will be a new experience for me.

Visit Jane's website here to see more of her work.

Get all the details on the Sketchbook Challenge here.


  1. It's nice in a way to find professional artists can be shy about some of their work but believe me, you'll only be concerned on your first posting and after that you'll feel like we are all best friends sharing what we love most, art.

  2. Jane, I hope you will entirely unselfconscious posting your sketchbook work online because I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggles with a degree of perfectionism when it comes to keeping sketchbooks and journals. I'm horrible about tearing out pages I don't like and thereby ruining the integrity of the books. It's a habit I want to break and I hope that by seeing other less than perfect pages it will help me, too.

  3. Jane, I am very excited that you are taking part in this challenge. I loved your Collage Journeys book. I wrote to you a while back about teaching in Canada so you may recognize my name. I look forward to seeing your sketchbook. I have a brand new sketchbook for 2011 and I am ready to go! I do a yearly sketchbook and use it to record my artistic journey throughout the year. All the best, Donna

  4. Hello,

    Can you please tell me where I can find a large Art Journal like the one you are showing your work in. I cannot find a large one that I can use for watercolor. I know they have to be out there somewhere:-) But with heavy weight pages. thanks, cindy


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