the art of the sketchbook

Art Inspiration: The Art of the Sketchbook


From the get-go, we called it “Sketchbook Skool”. Not “Sketch Skool”. Not “Watercolor Skool”. Not “Creative Skool” nor “Life Changing Ideas Skool”.

We gave it a name that would celebrate the art form. Advancing an idea the artists on our fakulty agreed was essential but overlooked. That sketchbooks weren’t just rough drafts for ‘real’ works of art, but ends in themselves that could tell stories, contain beauty, and express truths.

There are a zillion ways to fill a sketchbook. You can fill it with ideas that come to you in the night. You can fill it with observations about the world around you, recorded in words and pictures. You can pack it with souvenirs from your travels or recipes from your grandmother. You can use it as a lab to push ideas around a page, to document your process, to take creative risks without huge cost. Your sketchbook can become an illuminated manuscript, full of calligraphy and columns of words wrapping around spot illustrations and captions in italics, recording poetry you wrote or found in a yellowing magazine.

I have filled a sketchbook with black ink drawings of men in white shirts. Another with watercolors of criminals. Another with memories of my late wife. Roz filled a shelf of sketchbooks with the last years of her dog, Dot. Ronnie filled a stack of sketchbooks with reportage on Ground Zero after 9/11. Prash has filled 300 with dreams and friends and watercolors of the Indian countryside. Tommy fills pages with his reasons for being Vegan, his trips to Korea, sunbathers on the Jersey Shore.

Sketchbooks can’t be hung on gallery walls. They don’t match the decor of hedge fund managers. They are just supporting documents to museum curators. But we think they’re priceless. These are private masterpieces, lap-sized repositories of our feelings, our ideas, our experiences, our lives.

Maybe the world doesn’t get the Art of the Sketchbook. But at Sketchbook Skool, we celebrate it every day, in a zillion ways. We value its humanity, its vulnerability, its craft, its variety, marveling as we turn every page at the lovely human hearts that reside between the covers.

—Danny Gregory, co-founder of Sketchbook Skool

2 mins

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