The Sketchbook Project

May 6, 2013

a library of sketchbooks

By Amy Hackworth.

As an earnest high school art student, I labored over projects that had considerably more heart than skill. At the time, I couldn’t fathom that great artists regularly parted with their beloved projects anymore than I could imagine parting with my firstborn child. I was shocked and saddened to realize that artists made a living by selling their work. They created something beautiful, some piece of themselves, and then (hopefully) sold it. To strangers, even.

Thankfully, artists do sell and share their work regularly, and we are all the better when their concepts and ideas have a home in the world. But gallery space can be hard to come by, which is part of the reason the Sketchbook Project exists. It’s an interactive, crowd-sourced community art project where everyone is welcome. (Over 26,000 folks have participated so far!)

You sign up to receive a sketchbook, choose a theme to loosely follow, and then fill your book with your own personal brand of brilliance. I love the Sketchbook Project because its supports the notion that we all have something worth saying through art. You can fill a sketchbook with sketches (of course), or painting, drawing, collage, photographs, photocopies, phototransfers, stencils, or tracings. Wouldn’t a collaborative family sketchbook be a fantastic summer project with kids?

And unlike my carefully guarded high school art projects, this prized possession is meant to be shared with the world. Once your sketchbook is full, you send it to its permanent home at Brooklyn Art Library where it will be cataloged and shelved, but not before it travels the country in the Sketchbook Project’s Mobile Library (check out the tour here). You can even have it digitized so it can be viewed online.

Would creating (and parting with) a sketchbook be a breeze for you? Or a perfect summer challenge? I think I’d feel more motivated if I knew my project was off to a fancy mobile library. Would you?

P.S. I just picked up a couple of art books for our kids at a museum sale. I can’t wait to dive into this drawing book with our boys and try out some of the printing projects in this one. Do you have favorite art/activity books that have inspired you or your little ones?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 se7en May 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Oh let me comment, let me comment… this is our favourite family art project of the year every year for the last few years. This year we did a travelogue ( and previously we have created a family almanac ( and our first ever in 2011 was a day in the life ( Really have no problem parting with them… it is the creating and the focus of the whole family for a couple of weeks each year while we brainstorm the things we would like to include and while we work on little arty tasks together… Very fun family project – highly recommend it!!!


2 Stacy Lienemann May 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

Ed Emberley’s books are great.


3 christi May 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

what a great project…this reminds me of michael bierut’s notebooks, which he has faithfully kept throughout his entire career (26 years and 85 notebooks!)


4 Loni May 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

What a delightful idea. If only I could sketch.


5 Sophie December 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Love Ed Emberley too, and this one:
Drawing-Lab-Mixed-Media-Artists-Exercises by Carla Sonheim Publisher: Quarry Books (July 1, 2010) ISBN-13: 978-1592536139
It is “designed to help adult students recover a more spontaneous, playful approach to creating”. Lots of great projects!


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