Last Friday I received an email from the Art House Co-op with a friendly reminder that my submission for the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition was due to be sent in 3 days. In the back of my mind, I knew the deadline was approaching, but it hadn’t really sunk in that April was almost over.
With a full weekend already planned, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to start working on my sketchbook until Sunday afternoon. I hadn’t started it at all before this, other than the myriad of ideas that had swum through my head over the past few months. Now I had just about 24 hours to figure out what I would do, fill up the sketchbook, scan the pages, and still make it to the post office before 5pm on Monday.
I had to be strategic. All thoughts of taking photos, printing them out, pasting them to one page, and somehow creatively responding to them with a drawing or painting on the facing page flew right out the window.
Somewhere amidst the cobwebs in my mind, and little idea resurfaced. I remembered an old watercolor instruction book that I had discovered among some of my Grandma’s old art supplies. The instructions were a little outdated, so it was earmarked for the recycle bin. Although all the examples were printed in black and white, and therefore maybe not so helpful with waterCOLOR, I did enjoy the texture and values of the different images, and set the book aside for use in future collages.
Only one thing: somewhere along the line I decided that I suck at collage. Part of me never really expected to use the images in the book, but thought they might come in handy for art swaps at the very least.
In my time of need, I revisited the initial inspiration to use the book for collage, along with internal comments such as, “yeah, but you don’t do collage” followed by other thoughts of “well, why not?”
As Sunday afternoon approached, I settled into the idea more and more. Maybe I could do collage after all. Maybe I thought I sucked at collage because I was trying to collage the way other people collaged. Maybe I needed to find my own way of doing it. Maybe just start cutting and tearing up paper and see what happens.
So that’s what I did.
I’ll admit to feelings of frustration and almost giving up because I wasn’t totally sure of what I was doing. I also admit to the fact that part of what kept me going was knowing that if I didn’t finish this, I wouldn’t be in the Sketchbook Project Ltd. book that I’ve already paid for, and that would really bum me out.
In order to help me meet my goal and overcome uncertainty and frustration when it came up, I set one important rule for myself: don’t over think it!
That became my motto. Whenever I started to fiddle for too long, I would remember my motto and I’d either have to make a decision right away, or move on to something else. This was the best rule I’ve ever come up with! It was both freeing and challenging. I’m used to taking my time, thinking about things for days before making a decision. I didn’t have that option with this project, and in the end it was so much fun to simply have an idea and go with it. If in the short term, the idea didn’t pan out, I had the option to move on to something else, but I had to keep going. It was truly a revelation!
My first two pages came together with very little thought or deliberation. I was drawn to a few scraps of paper that were “leftovers” from more purposeful tearing and cutting, and the composition practically assembled itself.
Don’t you love when that happens?
Not all of the arrangements came together quite so smoothly. I fiddled with the layout of the shapes on pages 17-18 the longest out of all the pages. I kept to my rule of not messing around with any one idea too long before moving on, but I kept coming back to it, knowing I wanted to use the triangles in some way.
In the end I drew inspiration from previous drawings I had created for another set of sketchbooks. It was fun to work out a similar composition with the restriction of using pre-existing shapes.
To choose one single spread that I like the most in this book might not be possible, but I do have a favorite in terms of how it came to be. Pages 11-12 are the epitome of my “not over thinking it” process.
I found two scraps of paper (the ones you see on the bottom left of each arrangement) that were very similar in shape, even having the same bit of extra paper the folded over to the front. When I discovered them, I knew they had to go in the book, so I looked to see if there were any more like them. There weren’t. Just those two. In the spirit of not over thinking, I said to myself, “ok, you just have the two pieces. now figure it out.” So I did. Step by step I made decisions to get the composition to where you see it. It was a new way of working for me, and it was so cool to see where the process took me. Every time I look at this image, I get a strong feeling of familiarity. I’m not sure why or where it comes from. Maybe it has to do with going with the flow and doing what needed to be done in the moment, and therefore creating something that was “just right”?
As I continued to work, a theme seemed to develop for my sketchbook on its own. Many of the compositions are a comparison of different shapes and textures that I arranged in a manner that emphasizes their similarities. Perhaps another title for this sketchbook could be “Similarities in Difference”. Pages 15-16 are a good example of the discovered theme.
Despite the fact that each individual shape is unique, they fit together in small groups and then as a whole pattern in a harmonious way. Their similarities are notable, as are their differences!
For most of the pages in the book, I arranged the compositions of pieces of paper, deciding on the final arrangement before gluing them in place. With pages 21-22, I quickly realized that wouldn’t be possible.
The individual pieces of paper were too small, and overlapped too much to work out the design beforehand. With a general idea in mind of what I hoped to accomplish, I worked by tearing the pieces and gluing them right to the page. I wasn’t concerned with a perfect composition for this spread. I knew these pages would not be about achieving a perfect composition but about the creative process. Happily, I was completely satisfied with the end result. I love the overall texture of the larger shape, and the pencil details I added to the smaller shape have given me ideas for future work!
I would love to show all the images here, but this post is already about a mile long. I’d love for you to check out the rest of the pages on flickr where I spent a little time writing descriptive insights about the process of making each set of pages.
Did you participate in the the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition? What was your theme? Did you finish and send your book off in time?
I hope you enjoy this new style I discovered as much as I enjoyed making it! It was a 24 hour whirlwind, but probably one of my best days ever!