I shared last week about past difficulties in using sketchbooks. I have pondered this some more and have realized that I find sketchbooks limiting. As a divergent thinker, I usually draw inspiration from a wide range of sources, which may not fit in a sketchbook. In addition, new insights and ideas often come through touch and play.
I want to be able to collate all my inspiration in one place and reshuffle material easily, so for my latest project I am experimenting with a “sketch box”, an A4 cardboard box where I can gather all my project-related ideas, material and research.
Here is what the box currently contains:
Sketches: I have done some black and white thumbnail sketches to play with different compositions, looking for a fresh angle to convey my idea. Other sketches are doodles on a piece of scrap paper, which emerged while I was listening to talks on completely unrelated subjects. I find it fascinating to observe what my subconscious might reveal.
Photo prints: An important port of call when fleshing out an idea is my extensive digital photo collection. It includes my own photos of the natural world, images of my artistic process, my finished artwork and other artists’ work. I may manipulate images in Photoshop, for example flipping images by 180 degrees or changing colours to see whether this would change the image's impact. I then print out relevant images on my home computer.
Conference talk: Images and notes from an online talk comparing design elements found in nature with human design. The talk sparked questions and ideas.
The sketches, prints and notes could have been collected in a sketchbook. However, I find a lose collection of material more flexible, as I can easily reorganise and combine items.
The sketch box also contains items that are difficult or impossible to keep in a sketchbook:
Previous artworks: Where possible, I have gathered relevant original artwork, as details and texture can get lost in a print. Where the artwork only existed as a digital image, I printed it and cut out the elements that interested me, using oil pastels to enhance the print. (I have recently discovered that oil pastels are a great medium for quick and bold mark-making.)
Found objects, materials from previous projects: For the current project, this includes homemade stencils, wire, faux leather, and the broken stem of a wine glass, among others. They serve as reminders of what I am trying to convey, but they may also be incorporated into the final work as a piece of collage to add interest and texture.
"Playboards": These are backgrounds I have painted when testing out different materials and colours. I use them to experiment with different images, generating potential design ideas and finding interesting colour combinations. None of the boards were originally done with the current project in mind. However, I believe that this approach encourages serendipity. It can lead to an interesting juxtaposition of marks that I would not have consciously thought of.