Editor’s note: The following post comes from Drawing magazine’s Material World column (Summer 2016) and features an article by Sherry Camhy on a timeless friend of the artist: the sketchbook.
In addition to this free article, STAEDTLER is offering you the chance to win a set of FREE art supplies, just for commenting on this blog post! Tell us your favorite subject to sketch in the comments below, and you’ll be automatically entered to win. Here’s what’s included in the prize:
- Set of 20 Mars Lumograph drawing pencils of assorted degrees for a wide range of gray tones with a metallic luster
- Set of 6 Mars Lumograph black drawing pencils of assorted degrees with a higher proportion of carbon for the smoothness of graphite with the deep tones of charcoal
- 2 art erasers: gum and kneadable
Come back soon for Part 2 of this article on sketchbooks from Drawing magazine and another chance to win more art swag!
Material World: Getting the Most out of Drawing Media
by Sherry Camhy, abridged from an earlier article
Today sketchbooks are everywhere—tucked in backpacks and carried under the arms of artists the world over. It’s easy to take for granted the existence of sketchbooks of all shapes, sizes and surfaces and hard to imagine a time when there were none at all. But throughout much of art history the possession of a sketchbook—or any kind of book, for that matter—was a rare privilege.
The evolution of the sketchbook can be considered as important a development for early artists as the invention of tubes for oil paint was for later ones. Both innovations liberated artists from the studio and freed them to work en plein air. Today artists, collectors and scholars have come to regard sketchbooks as works of art in their own right. Here we look at this sketching revolution and consider a few of the many ways sketchbooks can play a role in your art.
Sketchbooks Throughout History
Drawing existed long before paper did, and early drawings were made on surfaces such as slate or wood tablets that could be cleaned and reused. The earliest sketchbooks were handmade and consisted of a few sheets of prepared boxwood, papyrus, vellum or parchment. In some cases, assorted drawings created by a master would be collected and bound together as a “model book” to be preserved as a reference for the next generation of artists. Eventually drawing books made of rag paper began to be produced, but for many years they were expensive and used sparingly.
During the Renaissance artists began to use personal sketchbooks for various purposes. Leonardo filled volumes with scientific speculations, anatomical drawings, quick sketches and notes for paintings. His private journals were intended as just that—private. Leonardo often wrote in code or reverse lettering to keep his observations secret. Unfortunately, after his death many of his journals were disassembled and sold as separate sheets. The books that were kept intact are invaluable, allowing us to discern the chronology of Leonardo’s ideas.
Over the ensuing centuries sketchbooks gradually became ubiquitous, and they have been crucial to the careers of innumerable artists. To take just one example, Picasso’s sketchbooks seem to have suited his occasional practice of semi-automatically repeating draw- ings, evolving them in such small increments that they can almost be viewed in rapid succession like a child’s flipbook. Picasso may have used this strategy when faced with a creative block, looking to find new ideas by rehearsing and perfecting old ones. His sketchbooks also indicate that his ideas did not necessarily fall neatly into the distinct stylistic periods suggested by some critics but instead flowed in a more cyclical way between old and new.
Technology now makes viewing master artists’ sketchbooks easier than it has ever been. Just like magic, we can flip through the pages of a master sketchbook on a computer, enlarging small areas to see them in great detail. For example, the Cambridge University Library allows free online access to the tiny watercolor sketchbook in which Conrad Martens worked while accompanying Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle. And this summer several of Degas’ sketchbooks can be digitally browsed at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, as part of the exhibition “Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty.”
Come back to ArtistsNetwork soon for Part 2: Sketchbooks Today (and another chance to win new drawing supplies!) And, remember to comment below with your sketchbook confession for your chance to win this set of art supplies from Staedtler! Winner will be chosen February 13, 2017 (must be a US resident).