the annual sketchbook thing, 2016


My other favorite thing to do anually, a review of the year’s sketchbooks! I usually do this on my Instagram but since we’re all about new traditions now, I’ve moved it onto here.

I went into 2016 with my black Moleskine from the year before. In it are drawings of things that are finally emerging after what feels like a forever’s worth of germinating and growing fiercely, silently, painfully. This was the year I started to directly address major  life themes in my work; memory, water, trauma, and healing.

I did this with both images and words – and I’m realizing only now just how tremendous an effort that has been. And still is.

I tried out a Daler Rowney sketchbook because those Moleskines are ridiculously priced and no longer come with that thick, smooth-as-preserved-baby-skin creamy parchments that I used to spend hours sniffing and caressing (I love paper, this is absolutely normal for me). The paper in the new ones are still good and can actually take watercolors now, which is such a fucking treat. But. These are no longer practical sketchbooks for me. I mean, that price. Ish.

The Daler Rowney had paper that was brilliant for on-the-go notes and quick pencil sketches. I developed my self-portrait studies a lot more thanks to this. I also used this one for developing curating notes for Slumb-a-Chamber.

Completing that, I made a hardcover watercolor sketchbook from scratch (the order in the photo is a bit off, it’s the one in the center of the photo). I love this one, this was the best sketchbook I used all year and I’m not just saying that because I made it. Or maybe I am. Because making this from scratch, I could control what type of paper I wanted (190 gsm watercolor paper) and what size it should be (10 x 7.4 inches, the same size as a favorite watercolor block). My book binding skills have improved, thankfully, so this was just as sturdy as I needed it to be, with that additional pocket at the back that doubles as a wallet, business card holder, or a pocket for gatherings like leaves and flowers.

I grew a lot in the pages of this sketchbook, became more confident with self-portraits, the watercolors. Became more comfortable juggling the major themes with lighter works like galactic animal drawings, portraits of friends, and Steven Universe fan art.

Sketchbooks are very personal, their pages become spaces for the sacred and intimate to exist unbiasedly and unapologetically. I think it did wonders for me to start making my own! It also helped me save money.

While re-stocking supplies for the next handmade sketchbook, Aisha gave me a small square-shaped sketchbook for which I made a paper cut-out cover for. This was a nice one to carry around while I worked mostly outside the sketchbook. At this time also, I was using my notebook a lot – it’s the left one on the bottom row in the photo.

The writing notebook was a gift from my sister. Cream-colored paper with embossed lines and binding that felt handmade, at first I used it only for when I needed to collect quotes or draft poetry pieces. After reading Susan Sontag’s ‘Reborn,’ I started writing more in it, writing that was just for myself. It became an almost-daily thing and I even had days spent solely on catching up with myself via journalling. In the midst of moving to a new place and acclimatizing to a lot of new, sometimes scary things, writing in this kept me grounded. It also gave me the confidence to open this wordpress and call it my writing blog.

That last one with the red sarong cover is my latest handmade watercolor sketchbook that I’m currently using. I don’t actually paint in this as much as I’d hope to, and I realize it’s because the size is a bit awkward for my painting gesures. I modeled the dimensions on the Moleskine, but it didn’t have the same effect. I recently realize, though, that it might be useful for me to practice sketching in color pencils while I make other studies on loose or scrap paper.

I’m hoping I can continue to make those handmade sketchbooks – perhaps try out a combination of different papers and sizes – but I know that making them takes quite a lot of time. Usually, at the start of a new year, there is a pronounced shift in my studio practice, like how I obsessively painted moons in 2014 and then water/sea foam in 2015 and those self-portraits of 2016! I have no idea where this shift will lead me in 2017, but I do know that I’ve got works I need to make while I’m still alive. And I need to keep my eyes, ears, limbs, and nerves peeled for them.




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