A sketchbook is a visual notebook or diary. It is a personal response to the world and can assume many different guises, varying from being a portable scrapbook in which to collect interesting pieces of fabric or pictorial references, to a book of observational drawings and ideas. All may, one day, provide that essential spark of inspiration. A sketchbook provides you with the opportunity to practise design, drawing and illustration skills at any time and in any place. You can develop figure studies by sketching the people you see at a local park, or on a train, or even by sitting on a bench in the high street and drawing the shoppers. Sketching scenery, such as interesting architecture, also helps lo create ideas for illustration backgrounds.
Most artists keep sketchbooks in which they experiment with ideas and collect insightful imagery. Picasso is said to have produced 178 sketchbooks in his lifetime. Me often used his sketchbooks to explore themes and make compositional studies until he found the subject and concept for a larger painting on canvas. Like Picasso, you will have numerous sketchbooks throughout your education and career. Some you will use for researching specific themes while others become constant companions for recording ideas that will provide future inspiration.
Producing useful working sketchbooks is an essential part of an art student's development. Academic design and illustration briefs often request a sketchbook containing appropriate research to be submitted for assessment, Ideally the sketchbook presents an explorative journey around a chosen subject area.
A working sketchbook should be impulsive, experimental and in constant use, becoming an accumulation of ideas and research from which to draw inspiration for design and illustration. Sadly, this advice is frequently ignored and sketchbooks are produced whose clean pages are decorated with neat cuttings, ordered sketches and unused material from presentation boards. Generally this method of working results in tedious sketchbooks of carefully planned pages, often with Post-it notes acting as a reminder to fill blank pages. By organizing a sketchbook into a precious album in which the artist arranges experimental work at the end of a project, creative spontaneity is often lost, The sketchbook then becomes a useless tool rather than a rich resource for imaginative artwork.
The "Hot Metal" sketchbook research (facing page) gave the designer plenty of scope to create a collection of womenswear. The design roughs show how the colours explored in the research, and the woven, metallic fabric experiments, were interpreted in the garments. Much of the research imagery of rusting metals and soldered cars is also reflected in the garment shapes.
Inspiration from the research also carries through into the fashion illustration. Instead of the obvious white paper, sheet aluminium was used as a background for the artwork. The figures were sketched in permanent marker and paint, with the clothing added separately. Heated copper was used to create a bodice and skirt while other outfits arc made up ofappliqued leather and denim. Topstitching and garment details were drawn using silver pen. All of these techniques, first explored in the research, demonstrate the value of researching and exploring a theme in your sketchbook.
Find a theme to explore and research it, using your sketchbook for experimental work and to collect inspirational material. This sketchbook page is like a mini mood board (see p. 68), showing how the theme of bad weather was Investigated through a series of magazine cut-outs and references to original artwork.
Experiment with various media in your sketchbook. Here, lightning has been reproduced onto a newspaper background with coloured inks and metallic glitter pens.
The best way to begin creating a useful sketchbook is to gather research materk from a variety of sources. This can include any or all of the following:
• observational drawing
• painted visual studies
• colour studies
• photographs relevant imagery, for example from magazine cut-outs fabric swatches found objects
Internet research exhibition information artist/designer references postcards historical references (text or visual) personal recollections
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Sketchbooks arc available in a variety of sizes. Some are small enough to fit into your pocket for convenient location drawing, while the bigger ones can be used for larger-scale artwork. The paper used in most sketchbooks is a good-quality white cartridge paper, but you can also choose brown or black paper, or paper for a specific medium such as watercolour or pastels.
Buy a durable sketchbook with a hard back and strong binding. Investing in sketchbooks that will last a lifetime is worth it—in years to come your visual studies might inspire you to produce new work. Keeping sketchbooks also gives you the pleasure of looking back through them to see how your skills have progressed.
These pages (facing page and below) show how an artist has investigated the theme of weather, in particular rain and thunderstorms. This research has not yet been used for any form of finished art, but the potential for future work is evident, and the artist can refer to the sketchbook at any time for inspiration. Ask yourself what artwork you might produce using the diverse and experimental work from the sketchbook pages as your starting point.
Preparing your sketchbook paqes so that you can work on them at a later date reduces the fear factor of the blank white page. Keep in mind the themes you are exploring for example, this page has been prepared using a watercolour wash to produce a rain effect.
Practise drawing from magazines with a range of media to improve your skills. Here, pastels and silver ink are used to illustrate a woman in wet-weather clothes splashing in a puddle.
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