Watercolour crabs on a page of music

Sketchbook project 2016

What it’s about

The Sketchbook Project is an initiative started up by the Brooklyn Art Library in New York.

It’s a crowd-funded project so you pay money to be sent a slim A5 book, which is decorated in any way your heart desires, before posting it back by a specific date.

You can elect to have it scanned so anyone can view it online (more $$) and all books are stored in the permanent collection at the library.

The process

Select a topic from the list provided and off you go. Draw, write, illustrate, make a massive bloody mess – it’s entirely up to you. The only criteria is it must be returned by the due date.

Denise chose the topic “Right Here, Right Now” and elected to illustrate creatures that were still amongst us right here and now. To give it a bit of quirk, she added a piece of footwear to each illustration.

Two pages from the book featuring a skin carrying a sneaker, and a cassowary holding a boot in its beak
The cassowary was bigger than the book, so I had to fold it. Sadly the scanner didn’t fold it down when scanning the other pages and the whole book rather lost its effect

It was quickly discovered that watercolour wasn’t appropriate for the book, so various watercolour papers were used instead. When the artwork was complete, each page was glued into the book. However this didn’t work so well because it’s a cheap flimsy book and pages soon came loose.

Positives and negatives

The main issue was the staples failing to keep the pages together. When it came time for scanning, the book was falling apart and the staff member scanning didn’t take time to keep it together.

However the sketchbook is certainly a wonderful way to get you moving, if momentum is something that irks you. Having a finish date meant there was no shirking and a happy time was had dreaming up situations, finding a creature and appropriate footwear, then incorporating it into the drawing.

Double page spread of a purple swamp hen (pukeko) nibbling

Lessons learned

  1. Don’t make the artwork bigger than the book. It doesn’t scan properly and makes the book look odd.
  2. Don’t use anything watery in the book as the pages buckle and the colour shows through on the other side.
  3. Try pen, pencil, coloured pencils, even charcoal pencils (although these will smudge something fierce when you go onto the next page).
  4. Look at what others have done for inspiration – there’s some wonderful examples out there.

Here’s the sketchbook in its entirety. It looks messy due to the less-than-stellar scanning process, but you’ll get the drift – https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/18101