If the Sketchbook Project Library is popping up anywhere near you, then you have to visit. It’s in Melbourne at the moment and I went to have a look at the weekend.
It’s a travelling library of artists’ sketchbooks. Every artist involved in the project started with the same blank sketchbook which they could then write, draw, paint, paste in, cut out, as they wanted.
The books we saw were absolutely beautiful. Some were travel journals, others filled with preliminary sketches to prepare for a larger work; some had a narrative, others were collections of random images and writing. It was amazing to be able to touch these books and leaf through them, to feel the paper that was almost solid with paint or to unfold pages that had been cut out to make intricate patterns. Getting such a close insight into an artist’s work and being able to interact with it is a very special experience. I went with two friends and we spent hours exploring the books.
Even checking the books out with our personal library cards was fun. We picked up a card at the entrance and registered it, then we looked at the online catalogue and chose a theme (travel, cartography, science, narrative, etc.). One book related to that theme was brought out to us along with a random book. This meant we saw amazing books on themes we might never have considered. We could only have two books at a time each so we went up multiple times to make different selections. We saw around 24 books in two hours. There are a few thousand sketchbooks currently in Melbourne (the total collection comprises close to 28 000 books) – if only I had enough time to see them all!
I felt really inspired looking at the books. I wish I could draw! But the best thing about the project is that absolutely anyone can take part, regardless of their drawing skills. The next submission date is 15 January 2014 and you can choose to make a basic submission of a sketchbook only (25 AUD), or to have your work digitized (60 AUD). This means that even if you can’t get to The Sketchbook Library in person, you can still have a look at some of the work online in the Digital Library. Do it, it’s great!
The Sketchbook Project Pop-up Library is located at 234 St. Kilda Road, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Melbourne until 9 November.