"Sketch-booking" is a vital part of the artist's life. Like many of my peers I sketch and doodle voraciously and almost never go anywhere without my book. Part journal, part diary, part scrapbook, part sketchbook, I realized this month I started my 70th sketchbook in an unbroken continuous line since September 1988 (First semester of art school). All seventy of the hard bound, black covered 8.5x11 books are numbered and dated on their spines and archived. It is actually possible to randomly pick a date and find the volume, open to the page and see what I was working on any day for the past 22 years. I almost only work in pen so every thought and idea is permanently and indelibly archived, not because I think it so important, but I don't want to erase what I was thinking about. I want to save all the unvarnished mistakes.
I was running some numbers. 70 books is about 7000 sheets and 14,000 pages. It works out to a little over 3 books a year, and almost three sketches a day, 365 days a year for over 22 years. This does not include the innumerable preliminary studies, preparatory drawings, reference sketches and actual paintings I've painted which would easily double the output. These seventy sketchbooks are also merely my primary sketchbooks. Over the years I have taken up the habit of starting a new sketch book for any particular long term project that I might be working on, such as a book or concept project, so that those sketches are separate and organized from the others. (For example I filled four sketchbooks for Dracopedia) Also, in the past two years almost all my preliminary work has been done digitally, so my sketch-booking has dwindled substantially.
It has me thinking about why artists sketch. I'm sure the same kind of voluminous output is similar for authors and musicians. I find sketching to be the most rewarding and creative part of my work. 90% of the material is not fit for public consumption, but it is an interesting thread to watch the evolution and changes in an artists life as you look back through them. Doodles, notes, poems, lines from novels, sketches in airports, ticket stubs, phone numbers, art notes, pressed flowers and convention badges. Its very possible that the sketchbooks will tell more about an artist than any painting. Hard to believe that in another 20 years I will have filled 100 books. I've already instructed my wife that once I'm gone to build a pyre and never allow anyone to read them.
©2011 William O'Connor Studios