May 10, 2002
10:17 AM   Subscribe

Visual Thinking: Sketchbooks from the Archives of American Art: Hundreds of sketchbooks in the Archives of American Art form a vast repository of ideas, perceptions, inspirational imagery, and graphic experiments. As personal records they afford an intimate glimpse of an artist's visual thinking and reveal aspects of their creative process.
posted by ColdChef (14 comments total)
Unfortunately, you only get a page or two from about two dozen sketchbooks. I'm feeling pretty humbled right now.
posted by ColdChef at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2002

[This is good, ColdChef]

I love sketchbooks and the whole drawing-on-napkins thing. They're so expensive to buy the Internet has to be the best alternative. Van Gogh's are fascinating - they can be seen in Amsterdam in the museum named after him; along with his collection of Japanese prints - but I sort of feel that the further back in time you go, the better the sketchbooks.

Artists used to make a lot of sketches, drawings and studies before committing to a painting. So a study by Leonardo or a Michelangelo cartoon; a Gainsborough sketch sort of seem finished to our modern eyes. Why is that? I've always wondered.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:28 AM on May 10, 2002

Miguel: I'm willing to bet that you're an office-products afficionado, much like myself. My search for the perfect pen and notebook combination probably rivals many philosophers' search for God. I have notebooks with sketches of notebooks I want. I am a freak. I accept that.

Having said that, I can't tell you how badly I want some pocket diaries like these. Do you have any secret sources for notebooks?
posted by ColdChef at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2002

ColdChef and any other stationery psychos: IMO, the best sketchbooks are, in order, those which use Fabriano, Canson or linen-based paper. They haven't changed for a hundred years. Here's an American source. For writing - specially novels and screenplays - nothing beats Smythson's thick leather-bound expensive bastards. So expensive you have to write or become homeless. They pre-edit wonderfully, considering the price per square inch. And they're gorgeously smooth and draw the ink from your pen.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:09 AM on May 10, 2002

i like trapper keepers :) and peechees!
posted by kliuless at 11:22 AM on May 10, 2002

You have notebooks with sketches of notebooks? I love that. Thoroughly love it. Scan the pics? I want to see the sketches of notebooks. I'm an office supply freak also - I just told my husband last night that I want to work in an office supply store. The bookstore near me has aisles of beautiful leatherbound notebooks and sketchpads of parchment and stiff little notebooks with watercolor tinted paper - heaven.

This is my favorite book from your post. I love the attention to detail on the man's suit and the see-thru skirt and the perspectives.

Also see Torn Notebook - a relevant sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, and, most meta of all, actual pages torn from his notebook, which contain sketches of his sculpture Torn Notebook. Whee!
posted by iconomy at 11:39 AM on May 10, 2002

Oops - by Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen.
posted by iconomy at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2002

Kudos to ColdChef...a very inspirational link.

I don't know about you guys, but when I need to sketch, I prefer to do it in a generic, spiralbound notebook. Miguel's predilection for fancy Cansons would just lead to instant creative block for me since I would feel I owed it to the acid-free page to scribe on it some very precious thought. For example, I own one very nice sketchbook which is almost full. However, it is actually a repository/collage of my sketches on Post-it notes, cocktail napkins, coasters, envelopes...almost anything BUT the intended substrate of that confounded Crane's journal.
posted by mosspink at 12:16 PM on May 10, 2002

Thanks for the linx, Ike. Great stuff.

Miguel, YOU are going to send me to the poorhouse. Amazing, amazing paper products. Wow. I really want the little book that says, simply, "Snogs."

Not nearly as wonderful as Smythson's but notable in it's own way is Collage Catalog of San Francisco. I NEED one of these.
posted by ColdChef at 12:20 PM on May 10, 2002

Thanks for the links.

I love good notepads and great pens. I spent hours ogling at great sketch books in a San Francisco art supply store last week.

Bruce Chatwin, one of my favourite writers, had a notebook fetish too. His fascination with moleskin notebooks from a particular French publisher was joked about among his friends.

Rabindranath Tagore, one of the most well known poets in my country left behind some great stetchbooks. Also, the way he crossed out words in his manuscripts made them look really interesting and artistic - there is an example here. As a child, I was quite fascinated by them and remember trying to copy the style.
posted by justlooking at 12:56 PM on May 10, 2002

I find the best sketchbooks are the ones you build yourself. So far, I've built two and re-covered one. It's time-consuming, but you get to choose exactly the kind of paper you want, how much of it, and the size.

My favorite sketchbook size is 9"x12" -- just a little bit bigger than standard and a much better ratio IMO. Utrecht used to make a cloth-bound 9x12 but stopped, and since then I've only been able to find spiral-bound in that size.

I've always thought it would be great to collect sketchbooks -- they give so much better a picture of an artist than an individual work. Glad I can now do so vicariously, since I'd be hard-pressed to come up with the cash to collect them.
posted by me3dia at 2:17 PM on May 10, 2002

Ahhh sketchbooks. I'm at an art school, and there's nothing more fun than seeing what all my friends are up to when they're bored in english class, or sitting outside. They provide so much more of an intimate view of the people I know. I personally use a small (3x5) fabriano sketchbook and a .13 rotring rapidograph, the best pen ever.
posted by atom128 at 3:13 PM on May 10, 2002

I love the black, canson ones, (miguels link to DickBlick). I cut them up to suit what my mood is for the size. With a coating of gesso, I have painted a few of the covers too. It was a tip from Barron Storey, taught me my Illustration 5 or was it 6 class.
posted by bittennails at 3:15 PM on May 10, 2002

"My name is ben and i've been a sketchbook addict for ten years"

"hiii ben"

there is nothing more exciting and almost voyeuristic than leafing through someone else's sketchbook.

Even going back over my own is a revelation, often finding ideas, thoughts and animation ideas i can't actually remember having.

If it weren't for sketchbooks i think would have completely lost the ability to write. i've already lost touch with my own handwriting - i now can only write in capitals.
posted by mrben at 12:30 AM on May 11, 2002

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