Sunday 3 August 2008

Sketchbooks and the Compost Principle

For the past few weeks I've been working on some of the exercises as part of an online 'Studio Journals' course. Several people had questioned whether I needed this course having kept a variety of sketchbooks over the year. I've actually gained a great deal : an interactive forum for sharing experiences;practical tips; interesting new exercises and approaches (although some like using clipart didn't appeal as I prefer using my own images). It's also made me think about my whole preferred design process, how I use sketchbooks and areas where there is room for improvement! One of the suggested principles of the course was that you keep one Studio Journal to gather everything together using the ' compost method' so that ideas from one project can cross to another projects. Rather tongue in cheek,( and not really in the spirit it was intended) I can also use this 'compost principle' to justify my use of multiple sketchbooks following the practice of composting in this household!
Ian is in charge of the 'Great Compost Experiment' which consists of :2 large 200L black compost bins( one full and left to rot down, one 'active' being added to); 1 dustbin of sieved compost; 2 small green containers for veggie peelings etc ( one indoors, 1 outdoors); 1 bag of paper shreddings; 2 sacks of clippings /green waste from garden. So pushing this analagy, my equivalent of the containers for kitchen waste, garden clippings and paper shreddings (the 'gathering ' stage) are my current selection of sketchbooks pictured above. These are: 2 x A5 (1 portrait, 1 landscape format); 1x A6; 1 x A4 cartridge paper excercise book; 1 x A5 watercolour paper sketchbook. My most frequently used is the A6 which I keep as an illustrated diary when travelling, notes from exhibitions , lectures etc. The A5 sketchbooks tend to have a more traditional function eg I'll be taking these for drawing in situ on my painting holiday later this week. It's useful having 2 on the go so that when doing quick sketches,you don't have to wait for the page to dry before doing another. I've fairly recently discovered the very cheap but good quality A4 excercise books which I use as scribble pads taking notes on courses, sketching out ideas , ripping out pages for other purposes. Doesn't matter if it gets dribbled on when taking notes for dyeing for instance
Last year, I started keeping an A4 spiral sketchbook as a 'lab book', recording what I'd done for particular projects AFTER I'd completed them eg July Take it Further challenge on Persian Archers (above), notes on screenprinting course( below). It's a useful process to review what worked, what didn't and to distil and summarise. Although not an 'art journal' , I'm happy to show it to people and it acts as a compact portfolio of my current work. This, using the compost principle, is the equivalent of the dustbin of sieved compost.
I started a new A4 casebound sketchbook for the Studio Journal course. I have used it for the exercises and am beginning to realise that although I won't use it quite as intended, it could have a role to play for capturing ideas. Currently I have photos stored on the computer in an 'ideas' folder and inspirational articles and pictures from magazines stored in looseleaf binders . In one of the colour excercises we did, I combined photos with scanned copies from my A5 sketchbook and found matching swatchs of fabric (below)

Of course in the compost scheme of things, this is the black compost bin where the breakdown and transformation of materials takes place, the core of the process. As up until now this process has mainly taken place in my head , it will be interesting to see how useful I find committing ideas to a journal.


Nathalie G. said...

I had fun reading this post as I can find me in your words.
I was honored to have 'met' you in class


Linda B. said...

I love the 'reverse' compost heap analogy, though I've neither as many sketchbooks nor compost bins as you, but more on that later.

The keeping things together idea seems to be working for me, but then I don't take a sketchbook out and about with me, yet!
I've also begun to take some photos off the computer to work on, elevating/isolating the things that appealled to me when i took the photo. That has been enjoyable, but I need to take it a step further and move into fabric as you've done!

I was told that you couldn't use shredded paper for compost - how are you planning to use yours?

Julie said...

Thank you for a fascinating glimpse into your sketchbooks.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your composting methods - your work is lovely and having so many sketchbooks must be really inspiring - my 'sketches' are still in my head and won't come out!!

Sarah said...

Wow - I love looking at other peoples sketchbooks - your's look great. When I've finished my current class I'm very tempted to sign up for the course.