Friday, April 26, 2013

The Sketchbook Project

Back in February I signed up for the Sketchbook Project, an initiative of Brooklyn Art Library in New York. It’s a challenge I’ve wanted to take on for awhile, partly to see if it would help me to mend my ways: try as I may, I’ve never exactly been known for my neat, organized sketchbooks.

Each year the completed sketchbooks embark on a series of road trips within the US and occasionally across the border into Canada. Each tour has a specific theme. Initially I chose Capes, Masks and Tights, which should have been a perfect fit for the Moth Woman Vigilantes. But as I read more about this theme, it seemed that the project was primarily aimed at cartoonists and graphic novelists, which doesn't reflect the current direction of my own work.

After giving the matter considerable thought, I decided to change my theme to Mysterious Maps, because I could see a way of incorporating it with my current imagery, as well as extending its narrative scope. My sketchbook, The Secret Sites of the Shadow Women, comprises a series of surrealist silhouettes drawn in a range of artist-quality black felt pens. I chose this medium, which I've never drawn with before, because acrylic paint caused the paper to buckle. India ink produced a similar result. It also dried to a glossy, patent leather-like surface, which was definitely not what I was after. The translucent, semi-transparency of the quick-drying felt pens perfectly suited my purposes, both technically and conceptually.

The book could equally be called The Shadow Women of Suburbia; all the drawings are on pages clipped from the 1982-83 edition of Gregory's Melbourne Street Directory. (Incidentally, according to Wikipedia, the 75th and final Gregory's street directory was published in 2011).

There was a major benefit in drawing onto the maps, rather than directly into the sketchbook. Its pages are quite thin, and the ink would have severely bled through. As I wanted the book's layout to bear some resemblance to a real street directory, I needed to use both sides of every page.

Because I've been making artist's books this year, I couldn't help but bring something of that sensibility to this project - the sketchbook even has a Colophon page. But a few technical setbacks (quite a few, actually) during the gluing stage, forced me to think on my feet and not be quite so precious about it. Some miscalculations were also turned into strengths. For example, after placing the image on the front cover too far to the right, I added a faux strip of 'book binding tape', drawn in with felt pen.

The next step is to register the book and send it on its way to Brooklyn. After it concludes its tour, the sketchbook will reside in the permanent collection of Brooklyn Art Library.

To see inside the book, watch for my next blog post.