Sunday, 31 January 2016


book pages - yet to be titled artist book

book pages

sketchbook pages

book pages

sketchbooks - I've promised to write a little on my recent sketchbooks and here's a selection of recent pages....... Alongside my embroidery, sketchbooks are at the centre of what I do as a visual artist. I work on several books at a time. Alongside the sketchbooks I have notebooks for writing - these at times get taken over with drawings, lists and scribble. The sketchbooks I've been creating recently are handmade books with not too many pages in - so that the may contain a few weeks work and are a good record of a certain phase of thought.

Most recently I've been working on scraps or sheets of paper and then adding these, scrapbook style, to the books. I may layer papers, crop paintings or drawings to focus on what I like and cut what might not have worked. My work space is very small indeed, but I don't like to just chuck used papers into the recycling, so I will hold on to things, put them in a folder and then see if I can use in my sketchbooks. After a certain amount of hoarding I then have to have a ruthless purge of things. Quite often as I work on a quick series of ideas on paper I can fall in love with a certain tiny area of work, or colour combination, or something - a something I don't really know how to describe, but a quality that I like. However 'scrappy' or otherwise that little idea might seem it becomes the most important piece of paper on my desk - and so I may work around it for a while, until perhaps the spell is broken or it fits into my sketchbooks with some other work to add contrast.

I often work in bouts of making stuff on paper, whether drawing or printing off paint from one surface to another. I'll return to paper that has got just a few simple smudges and add another layer of paint or draw over. It's important not to try to remember how to do something. If I have any aim it is to make work that can never be reproduced exactly. So as much as knowing how a simple technique happens, I also don't want to know what I am doing in the moment. (The same automatic approach helps me with my stitch work too.) If I don't want to reproduce what I make in my sketchbooks then I accept they are in themselves works of art, albeit humble ones - and they are not starting points for something else. They are the work.

Inspiration for what goes into my sketchbooks - this comes from everything I do each day. A pattern, a worn piece of paintwork in the street, a face in a crowd, a painting by a favourite artist, a colour in a shop window, a feeling, a line of a poem - all of these things and more may spark something happening on paper. Whether it relates directly is not so important. It is important to me that what ever marks I make feel like they are my own. If I feel I am straying away from a feeling, I will stop and return to an idea on another day.

So at the moment I have several books 'on the go' - of various page sizes. They are my own work for myself but I also make books for other people, from time to time. Perhaps I am most at home when working on a page and certainly I prefer it to a grand-scale canvas. I am happiest when working on a simple folded page - or a simple piece of linen fabric.


Mags OCA said...

Always fascinated by sketchbooks, and very much appreciate this post, Cathy.

Lynn Holland said...

My dream would be to have a library of everyone's sketchbooks. Bliss :-)

Stefanie Seltner said...

this is such an interesting post, thank you very much!
x Stefanie