The Sketchbook Project: 2011The 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

art suppliesThere 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.

Other posts about the Sketchbook Project

Sketchbook Project: Creating a base

Solving problems when short on time

Greeting challenge with creativity

Sketchbook Project: Putting it together

Recommended Posts

30 Comments

  1. I want to hear more about this and I want to see your sketchbook! I saw this project on another artist’s website and thought it looked very cool, so I’m excited that you participated.

    Your post is making me think about some Joseph Campbell I read last night, where he discusses the Star of David and says that the upward pointing triangle is symbolic of the movement principle–aspiration, if you will–and the downward-pointing triangle can be experienced as either inertia or a door opening. The point being that everything in your life that seems obstructive can be transformed into recognizing that it is the means for your transformation. That really resonated for me as a concept, although I need to think through what it means in terms of the obstacles I see in front of me and how I can turn them into openings.

    Thanks for sharing this experience–it’s funny how it’s tying in with some of the things I’m going through right now. Or maybe not. You know how we are. . .

  2. I want to hear more about this and I want to see your sketchbook! I saw this project on another artist’s website and thought it looked very cool, so I’m excited that you participated.

    Your post is making me think about some Joseph Campbell I read last night, where he discusses the Star of David and says that the upward pointing triangle is symbolic of the movement principle–aspiration, if you will–and the downward-pointing triangle can be experienced as either inertia or a door opening. The point being that everything in your life that seems obstructive can be transformed into recognizing that it is the means for your transformation. That really resonated for me as a concept, although I need to think through what it means in terms of the obstacles I see in front of me and how I can turn them into openings.

    Thanks for sharing this experience–it’s funny how it’s tying in with some of the things I’m going through right now. Or maybe not. You know how we are. . .

    • I’m feeling grateful I can see how I have a choice in my response almost in real time these days. All just creative opportunities.

  3. I’d love to see how it all turned out… If not before, I’ll look for your book in person when the show comes to DC in April.

    I love this: “There were a lot of things that might be considered errors that I needed to embrace and integrate.” This was my experience, too, from mis-numbering the pages and having to cross-out (I decided to do this boldly and hopefully with panache) to, like you, really struggling with the fragile paper and trying to come up with ways of making the book stronger.

  4. I’d love to see how it all turned out… If not before, I’ll look for your book in person when the show comes to DC in April.

    I love this: “There were a lot of things that might be considered errors that I needed to embrace and integrate.” This was my experience, too, from mis-numbering the pages and having to cross-out (I decided to do this boldly and hopefully with panache) to, like you, really struggling with the fragile paper and trying to come up with ways of making the book stronger.

    • I’ve got a series of posts planned with lots of pictures, although if you see it live you’ll be able to see the metallics and things that don’t scan.

  5. I agree that sometimes letting go can produce interesting results. So, yeah, not your modus operandi BUT a good tool in the arsenal.

  6. I agree that sometimes letting go can produce interesting results. So, yeah, not your modus operandi BUT a good tool in the arsenal.

    • Being mindful so I can discern when which choice is appropriate seems to be the biggest challenge in it all.

  7. I love how you were able to take your last minute experience and learn from it, Christine! It sounds like this project forced you to try all kinds of new things while letting go of perfectionism.

    Sounds like a great recipe to me!

    Looking forward to seeing the pics!

  8. I love how you were able to take your last minute experience and learn from it, Christine! It sounds like this project forced you to try all kinds of new things while letting go of perfectionism.

    Sounds like a great recipe to me!

    Looking forward to seeing the pics!

    • Yea, it was interesting. I found myself thinking a lot about having to work under pressure in art school and how crazy it made me, and I was determined to have it not be that way. Also about the critical tradition in art school, and how much ambivalence I have about it. I’m thinking it would be a interesting post for you. Now I just need to carve out the time to write it.

  9. Excellent! Like you, I signed up for this project. Like you, I procrastinated. I added art the first week I had my book. Then promptly kept pushing it aside as I became involved in a very serious, all time consuming, day job. As the days got closer, I started working on my book again. Then Christmas hit… and I found myself sick in bed and totally off my game. My book is going via USPS priority mail this weekend. I, too, have the theme Secret Codes… unlike you, it is the theme I chose as it suits my art perfectly! This has been fun and a journey.

  10. Excellent! Like you, I signed up for this project. Like you, I procrastinated. I added art the first week I had my book. Then promptly kept pushing it aside as I became involved in a very serious, all time consuming, day job. As the days got closer, I started working on my book again. Then Christmas hit… and I found myself sick in bed and totally off my game. My book is going via USPS priority mail this weekend. I, too, have the theme Secret Codes… unlike you, it is the theme I chose as it suits my art perfectly! This has been fun and a journey.

    • Really looking forward to seeing more of the books. Especially the ones who worked on secret codes. The theme grew on me, and I had a number of people point out that a large part of my work was helping people unlock the secret codes in visuals.


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