I have a strange relationship with my sketch book(s) I think…
I have two on the go. One is A5, a tie-up Muji thing, with things poking out of it, receipts, photos, cards and envelopes. It is written in as well as drawn in, and is carried around in my handbag. Just in case.
The other sits at the side of my armchair at home. A3, hardback. In this are page after page of drawings, tested ideas, mark making samples… colour combination trials maybe… bits of collage made from newspaper, magazines and packaging paper, the other sort of paper that gets left about within reach. But it’s not a messy sketch book. I’m actually not a messy artist, I hate working dirty, and when it comes to materials, I’m a bit of a purist and I don’t like mixing too many things together. This is a book of ideas and tests that might get used later on a larger piece, once practiced sufficiently. It is also a place for mindlessness drawing, while watching tv or listening to music and talking in the evenings (this is why I have to be in the right mood for things with subtitles, because I can’t draw at the same time!)
Thing is though… (in this large sketchbook) I don’t like working both sides of the pages. I think this is partly to do with the messy thing… I like things to sit cleanly. But is it also to do with the fact I might be able to tear the “good” pages out and sell them? (Not happened yet)
Recently I took some photos of these works for instagram/facebook and people seemed to really like them. That’s great, but there’s a mismatch in my brain that these are effortless, thoughtless works, throw away (ish). I wish I could get my head straight about this, that sense that there has to be great effort, time, thought/theory behind what I produce for it to be of worth. These pieces are play, playful, casual. Elena’s drawings without the posh frock on. They DO have value, the act of doing them in itself has value, I know that, I would certainly tell other people that. So why can’t I tell myself? I am trying… to figure out the whole tangle of worth/effort/time and have been trying to for years. I have put time and effort into these drawings in the book, but probably not at the time of making. Maybe that’s it?
When I am looking at other people’s art, I love to see the compulsion, obsession, attention to detail, and the effort that goes into making something. And I love the pieces that I make that show that too. The pieces that really work for me on a level of sensitivity, to the marks and materials, that have a level of repetition, dedication… the ones that felt good to make, during the making, those are the ones that make me satisfied. The sketchbook work is a different thing. A counterpoint. So there is a contradiction and tension and a cognitive dissonance here: No they are not worthy, they are just casual sketchbook pieces… but yes, you can buy one, let me tear it out carefully for you… how much? God knows!!?
If anyone has any insight into what is going on in my head from the outside I’d be glad to hear it.