The Brooklyn Art Library created the 2011 Sketchbook Project . Over 28,000 artists received Moleskine sketchbooks which were to be filled based on a theme. I requested ‘raining cats and dogs.’ I got ‘secret codes.’ So instead of getting to work when I received it, I sulked and didn’t do anything with it.
Fast forward, it’s three weeks before the Jan 15, 2011 deadline and my book is blank. I still had lots of work to do for my company as well as all the usual holiday gatherings. I needed to figure out how to do something quick and dirty.
Finding something to spark my interest
I used holiday gatherings as an opportunity to gather ideas for how I could approach this idea. I borrowed some books on secret codes. I was still all over the place. I needed an overarching idea so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore and just get started.
I decided to play with this question;
What is the most important message to send out into the world?
And then it was clear. It’s all in the book in secret code. I’m ambivalent about telling you here, since it kind of wrecks the secret part. Maybe later in the series or leave me a comment and I’ll tell you on email.Or you could figure out the codes……
Letting go of anything remotely resembling perfection
There weren’t a lot of rules about what to do from the organization, but I had a lot of rules in my head about what I thought was acceptable or not. However, due to my procrastination in starting, I didn’t have time to follow them. Instead, I decided to go for a worn messy sketchy look, which is not my usual style.
The sketchbook pages were really thin, so none of my usual very wet watercolor techniques would work, the paper simply would not stand up to them. I decided to use it as an opportunity to branch out and actually use the pile of other art materials on my shelf. And to embrace experimentation and exploration of a range of ideas.
Layers, layers, and more layers
I don’t often do art work under pressure. It’s more often a relaxing treat. I found myself remembering the skills I used to produce tons of work in short order when I was in art school. It was actually very freeing. There was no time for agonizing, I just needed to keep moving.
There were a lot of things that might be considered errors that I needed to embrace and integrate. I worked with a lot of media, and they would dissolve each other at times. As I built up layer on layer, I started to see how it related to the theme of secret codes. The theme started growing on me. I began to make friends with it and play with more aspects of it.
Learning from procrastination
I don’t think procrastination will suddenly become my modus operandi, but I did learn a lot from the experience. I had to let go of the execution details, and embrace the core idea. When I work in my regular ways, I can get into a rut and just produce without reaching deeper into my creativity. I had to use my visual problem solving skills in unusual ways.
What do you do when you don’t leave as much time as you wished you had? Do you embrace the reality of what you have and work with in it, or fight it all the way? I think this project showed me it is possible to go with the flow and not fight with myself on top of the time limit. After all, it’s a creative project, it can be fun.
Pictures of the sketchbook coming soon.