Thursday, October 30, 2008

But I Don't Want to Mess it Up!

A lot of people have sketchbooks and journals that sit on the shelf unused. I was looking at cartoonist Cedric Hohnstadt's website and was interested to see what he had to say about keeping a sketchbook.

A sketchbook is an important part of any artist’s development, no matter how busy or successful he/she gets. The sketchbook is the one place where you can really let loose, try new things, experiment, and (most importantly) make lots and lots of bad drawings.

When I say “bad drawings” I don’t mean getting lazy or not caring about your work. I mean bad in a good way. For most artists the temptation is to try and fill your sketchbook with beautiful artwork, but that can be a mistake. If your drawings are all wonderful, it means you are only drawing things you’ve already mastered. And that means you aren’t improving, growing, and pushing yourself to get better. It just means you are going back and forth along a well-worn rut. The day you stop doing bad drawings is the day you stop challenging yourself, and as a result you stop growing and improving.

I can identify with a lot of what he's saying. Sometimes I'm afraid to touch my sketchbook for fear of not making a pretty drawing, but that's exactly the point of keeping one. That's why when I saw this journal, I laughed out loud and bought it. Now I'm busy destroying it.

Each page is a prompt with some very unusual assignments. The author describes why she made this book:

This book was created for anyone who has ever had trouble starting/keeping or finishing a journal/sketchbook. By forcing ourselves to wreck it on purpose, the “journal as an object” loses it’s preciousness, and allows us the feeling of completion. This book was created for every person who has looked at other artist’s journals and said, “I wish I could do that. I’ve started dozens of them but didn’t stick with it.” or, “But the journal itself is so beautiful, I don’t want to wreck it with my ideas/handwriting/drawings.” Or, “I feel pressured to write something good.”

In this book good does not exist. The goal is to fill it up, to shift your perception of the blank page and the journal itself into a place for experimentation. Into a place where you just get stuff out onto the page. A place to start working against your better judgment. To do those things you were taught to never do (make a mess, destroy, fold down pages, write in books, play with dirt). This book IS the place.

Each page of Wreck This Journal is filled with prompts telling you how to systematically ‘destroy’ the entire book.

Keri Smith's website shows images that those who bought the book have sent to her. They show that in the process of wrecking the journal, some beautiful pages have been created -- and many have found a creative outlet in their lives.


Ben Villarreal said...

That looks like a great book, Andy! I don't think I've mentioned this, but I'm auditing my first drawing class this semester with my wife (just for fun, and 'cause I've always wanted to be able to draw), and I definitely have that problem with keeping my sketchbook.

I also think the same goes for those of us who keep fancy writing journals. I eventually stopped that and switched to small notebooks I keep in my back pocket--they get used much more that way.

Paul Bozzo said...

Thanks Teacher! You really have done a great job teaching us (your readers/viewers)a great lesson. Last week I bought a drawing pad to use as a notebook for drawings. I now know how I will approach it!