Sketchbooks

Burn field, 45x30 cm., ink wash, 1976

Burn field, 45x30 cm., ink wash, 1976

Recently I have been sorting out my notebooks. The earliest of these date to childhood when my mother gave us empty notebooks – actually the agendas given at Christmas by Insurance companies and banks – to draw in and, every now and then, an enormous book of expired wall paper samples donated to her by a local home decorator’s shop.

Arno Fall, 45x35cm., pastel, 1990

Arno Fall, 45x35cm., pastel, 1990

These latter volumes were at least 50 cm. wide and you had the choice of the cream colored back side of each page where only a serial number disturbed the space or the pattered front side. Here, you could use larger crayons, pastels or tempera while we usually used pencils or pens in the smaller books.

Tommaso, 13x20 cm, ink, 2005

Tommaso, 13x20 cm, ink, 1995

The only order to our work was chronological, a date on the page at the lower right hand corner. Everything else about the drawings was anarchic. There was no real subject or clear theme. Or, if there were, it had to do with the mysterious relationship that objects and places have to you before functional values become part of the equation, the way you renew your existence.

Yates Violin, 13x20 cm., ink, 1982

Yates Violin, 13x20 cm., ink, 1982

There was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain

part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

(Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass)

White Street, 45x32cm., pastel, 2002

White Street, 45x32cm., pastel, 2002

An artist’s sketchbook has a more immediate connection to his life than is true of work prepared for exhibition.  In its purest state its contents are like children’s drawings, tied to existential factors that have little to do with style, and even less with intention or communication directed to the outside world.

Monica, 24x16cm., ink, 1996

Monica, 24x16cm., ink, 1996

There is a kind of paradox here because the value of drawings like this lies in their very lack of material worth or importance. Even a discussion of quality is irrelevant here. A sketchbook may be – ought to be – chaotic in theme and style because whatever else it may seem to be about, the main subject is the going forth every day of its author.

Dolci di Erice, 25x16cm., water color, 1996

Dolci di Erice, 25x16cm., water color, 1996

Tags: , ,