I love Sketchbook Skool!

truckandmodelIt keeps me drawing, and even when I’m not drawing, I’m looking at everything as a potential subject to draw.  Getting back into this visual way of thinking, this way of slowing yourself down, concentrating, looking carefully (really observing), experimenting, finding the joy in simplicity.  I needed this!  Sketchbook Skool is an online six week course.  Semester one “Beginnings” is almost finished and I’ve already signed up for the Semester two “Seeing.”  It is affordable, inspiring, has great instructors (semester one included Danny Gregory, Roz Stendahl, and Tommy Kane).  All the teachers are well known in the sketchbook/journaling world, and they all have different approaches to share.  Comments shared by fellow students keep you going and testing new tools and methods.

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Affordable Art

A colleague of mine recently directed me toward 20×200, a website for browsing and purchasing limited editions of drawings and photographs by diverse artists at very affordable prices.  I instantly began purchasing.  20×200 matches emerging artists with collectors of modest means.  The works come in various edition numbers and dimensions, and the price will vary accordingly. 

It is a proven fact that buying art makes you happy.  Using your dollars to help support and encourage people whose talent  – what a great way to contribute to the arts!  If you agree, visit http://www.20×200.com/our-story/ and find items for yourself or to give as gifts to friends and family members.   What a brilliant idea!  Kudos to the brainpower behind it all – Jen Bekman.

Artists, Illustrators, & Category Collapse

The general revaluing of drawing as an art form in and of itself, and changes to art tools and training (including advances in software) may be at the heart of a shift that, while recent in art historical terms, has been ongoing for decades now.  Distinctions between graphic designers, illustrators, and artists have been eroding for a long time, and the barriers between commercial and fine art training are less significant than they once were.  Illustrators have gallery shows; illustrators and artists publish artist books, illustrated journals, and sketchbooks.   

This is well worth investigating.  Generally I’m more of a fan of the hand-drawn than the computer-assisted, and my list of notables reflects this.  Artists to check out if you haven’t already: Mark Ryden, Scott Musgrove, Todd Schorr, Marc Bell, Joe Coleman, and Henrik Drescher.  Many of the women artists pursuing similar endeavours are, as is the case with some of the male artists, involved with the so-called “Pop Surrealist” or “Edgy-Cute” movement.  They include Camille Rose Garcia, Isabel Samaras, Marion Peck, Lisa Petrucci, and Kalynn Campbell, but there are hundreds of other men and women who would no doubt identify with this type of collapse between categories and genres.

Graphic novels and non-fiction works have also exploded as a category of production.  The classic is still MAUS by Art Spiegelman.  Other great examples are Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Charles Burns’ Black Hole.  I highly recommend them, along with Miriam Katin’s We Are on Our Own, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.  Lynda Barry’s What it is (an illustrated how-to book), is in a category all its own.

Publishers and publications that support this kind of work include Drawn & Quarterly, Chronicle Books, Pantheon Books, Blab!, and Last Gasp. 

If I didn’t have to work for a living, I well might devote my life to exploring stimulating drawings and mixed-media works and the people who create them (whether they self-identify as illustrators, artists, or something else entirely).  I find so many inspiring visuals when I randomly search on-line.  A provocative place to begin is the link to Henrik Drescher’s website (on the right).

Art Journals

Lately I’ve been investigating artists’ journals and sketchbooks, and have read numerous publications about them.  It is an expanding area of interest.  In the book The Journal Junkies Workshop by Eric M. Scott and David R. Modler, I learned about Dan Eldon.  He was a photojournalist that was murdered in Somalia in 1993.  He was 22 years old.  His visual journals, documenting his travels, have been incredibly influential for other art journal keepers.  The first collection of Eldon’s journals was published under the title The Journey is the Destination by Chronicle Books in 1997.  

Never stop documenting your life.  You’re the only one who can.

I somethimes wonder what is going to happen to my big Rubbermaid container full of the dozens of journals that I’ve been keeping since the mid-eighties.  Does it matter?  The process is what I enjoy.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually bothered to go back and read bits of them.  They are more visually stimulating than anything else.  Sure, there is the occasional nugget of wisdom, but the real value of keeping them is the attention, the mindfulness, the privacy, the creative outlet, the reflection on one’s own life.  That is incredibly significant.  Thinking about what is happening keeps me still, quiets me down, places me in the moment.  It also allows me a safe place from which to examine the past, which I can do now that time and distance have intervened. 

To know is to own.