What’s in a sketchbook? Probably everything. A sketchbook is sometimes more important than the final work, not only because it holds a sequential account of the artist’s ideas but also because it is a personal record – a journal of the artist’s progress and development.
There are those artists who use their sketchbooks as the final piece of work, beautifully organised, leaving aside the free inspirational flow of ideas but executing it in a controlled way to be used as a piece of artwork in a future exhibition. Although a beautifully drawn book is always appealing – a controlled book cannot be a sketchbook; such a book is perhaps better left in the vicinities of illustration. In fact some of the best ideas come out as pure accidents.
A sketchbook is a discipline. Much like a writer keeps a diary or a notebook of ideas, the sketchbook is about keeping the flow of ideas consistent. Not restricting or constricting it with unnecessary organisation and order. The sketchbook in its full context should be a narrative not a novel; it should highlight the total freedom of thoughts rather than make an end claim. In fact part of the beauty of it is that it does not make claims to any final piece of work, it is rather always work in progress.
The sketchbook is an opportunity to juxtapose imagery between different pages, similar to the visual style of the artist John Baldessari where the interplay of imagery creates another layer of meaning; images, in which things can relate and interact with one another.
Students are often prolific in filling up sketchbooks, often because they are filled with ideas that need release, whereas mature artists tend to be more careful about their construction. Without contradicting the earlier statement, what’s the better or more useful approach is hard to say as much of the sketches that students produce tend to be considered later as cathartic expressions, useless for any further interpretation, or perhaps it’s better to say this is a phase that an artist goes through and later in a much calmer frame of mind, a truer flow is found.