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My sketchbooks aren’t pretty, but they’re beautiful tools.

We’re inundated at present with artful artist’s sketchbooks, delightful scrapbooks, altered books, and gorgeous travel journals.  If you walk into Barnes and Noble, you will get the clear message that a glorious, Victorian-style notebook or sketchbook filled with fabulous line drawings, contemplative journal entries, and poetry is mandatory to living the good life. Many covers have faux collages, travel labels, and works of art by artists on the covers.   Original or commercially designed, these art and commercial books have these thing in common:  they are all pretty, and all meant for the public eye.

My sketchbooks are meant for my eyes alone.  They have paint marks, ink smears and coffee spills . I write in them, write poetry in them, write word maps in them, paste things in them, type out documents and paste them in as well (for increased legibility). Sometimes I even sketch in them.

Studio Sketchbooks Suzanne Edminster

I have big sketchbooks, so I can paste normal documents in them.  I buy plain notebooks and gesso the covers so I can paint and collage on them.  I have two to three notebooks going at any given point, so there’s always one where I want it. I rip out pages at will to use for other things.

Real artmaking often isn’t pretty.  I keep notes and ideas as they occur and I don’t worry about them looking good.  I keep inventory lists in them, and, since I don’t date my paintings, I try to keep painting dates in them. I encourage other artists to mobilize the power of the word in the creation of paintings, and I teach notebook techniques in my Art with Intention classes. 

I seem to use my sketchbooks in a way that many don’t.  I’ve included a lot of pages here that might spark your own ideas on how to use notebooks.  If I am going to keep a travel journal or watercolor sketchbook,  I keep that separately.  You can see pages from my travel journals, and travel photography, at http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com/category/travel-sketching/ or http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com/category/travel-photography/.  But I do these with the public in mind.  You should keep a sketchbook just for yourself.

Enjoy my scrawled pages!