(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
A week ago Nick and I went to New York for a little R&R and a lot of culture – not much of that on the tip of Cape Cod at this time of year – actually that is so not true, there is a remarkable amount of cultural type stuff going on here right now; but the point is we were in NYC, and one of the reasons we went was to see the Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library. For those of you who don’t live within ear shot of me, or don’t follow my art page on Facebook, the Sketchbook Project is a world wide art initiative organized by the Art House Coop. In a nut shell, anyone so inclined could pay just $25 (I think that’s what it was) choose from one of their 50 or so themes, receive an 80 page 5×8 moleskine sketchbook that they could do pretty much whatever with (the only real rule: keep the book 5×8) and send it back by mid-January for inclusion in the 2011 Sketchbook Project tour of the US. Cool right? Of course as soon as I heard about this I was all over it and signed up immediately, whereupon my sketchbook stared blankly at me for about two months while I mulled over a myriad different ideas in my head. Finally I managed to grab about 5 days to myself in early January, get it all filled up with stuff and back to Brooklyn right before the deadline. My theme was ‘…You’d Be Home By Now’ and I had all these images from magazines of houses I’d like to live in, stuff I’d like to have in my home, etc. and there is a continuous road that runs through all the pictures and round the cover and back to the start of the book again. It kind of represents how Nick and I are always going round and round in circles looking for ‘home’, trying to figure out where we want to be, what we want to do with life, etc. And I guess all the pictures would mean that if we just stopped we’d realize we are home; or maybe they mean that it doesn’t matter where we stop on that road it will be home. It all sounds vaguely profound and well thought out but actually it’s probably just a great excuse to cut a ton of pictures out of Dwell magazine and the CB2 catalog and stick them in a book; which is basically what I did, though with a little more thought than that makes it sound. (Oh, and there are a bunch of image transfers of maps in the background too.)
A Slideshow of My Sketchbook
So…there we were in NYC at the Brooklyn Art Library last Sunday. Nearly 29,000 people had signed up to be part of the project (from over 100 countries), although only a third of the books were returned. Still an entire wall down a long narrow room was filled floor to ceiling with close to 10,000 books, including mine (which of course was the first one we checked out, just to make sure it really had made it there in one piece. It had.)
I had three people whose books I wanted to see, none of whom I’ve ever actually met but we have stumbled into each other in various social media formats.
The first was my Twitter friend Vicky Phillips (@accidentalvix) who lives in London. Her theme was ‘Nighttime Stories’ and it was a really cool book that started with images of traditional fairy tales (in a combination of drawings and collages) and then went into more sinister tales in pen and ink and then to dreams which seemed to be not stories but things she actually wants in her life. It was very engaging; like a children’s book but not. All flighty and fanciful and spontaneous. I really liked it a lot.
Vicky Phillips 'Nighttime Stories'
Completely opposite was the book by Nikki Soppelsa who I know from Facebook and I am in The Collage Collaborative with. She is the person that told me about the project in the first place. She chose ‘The View From Up Here’ and had restructured her book so that it had only a few pages but they were thick and stiffer. She used a lot of the images that drew me to her collages in the first place – the arch, the bird, the clock – mixed with old photographs. All very organized and deliberate and precise with repeated images in the exact same place and then other stuff around them. Sometimes a bit macabre but also quite funny. It was great the way each of the 8?, 10? images were the same but different. Another delight to look at.
Nikki Soppelsa 'The View From Up Here'
Leslie Wilson-Rutterford (who found me on the artists networking pages of the Art House Co-op) also reconstructed her book; it looked like a kind of treasure box with little toys and trinkets in it. I think she had xeroxed the actual treasures onto clear acetate and then layered all the pages so that you could see a few pages beneath but as you turned them more pages (and more treasures) became visible. Like if you were removing actual trinkets from a box. Really creative and clever and so well executed. Perfect for the theme ‘I’m a Scavenger’.
Leslie Wilson-Rutterford 'I'm a Scavenger'
After those we just checked books out randomly based on the themes. We got several with the same theme as I did just to see what other people had done, and several in themes that just appealed to us. And then we started asking for the ones that looked the coolest on the shelves; which usually meant the ones that had been reconstructed and were much fatter than the others like this one by Dorothy Grunes which was on a piece of canvas that opened out and was painted with coffee (her theme was ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’).
Dorothy Grunes 'Coffee and Cigarettes'
And this one looked intriguing on the shelf all bursting with color and stuff, and it lived up to our expectations. Every page a visual treat. I loved, loved, loved, loved it. (Katrina Mosher ‘Things Found on a Restaurant Napkin’.)
Katrina Mosher 'Things Found on Restaurant Napkins'
And my other favorite one was this seemingly simple book by Alexandre Paiva from Brazil with the theme ‘Down Your Street’. What looks like basic drawings is actually sewing; tiny, intricate, beautifully done stitches. Gorgeous.
Alexandre Paiva 'Down Your Street'
In all we probably looked at 35 or 40 of them. A few were really dull (to us at least) and some appeared to bear no relationship whatsoever to the theme, which didn’t impress our ‘follow the rules’ personalities at all. But most of them were intriguing, beautiful, clever, original and bursting with creativity. And I was damn proud to have mine be among them.
Here are just a few of the ones we especially liked.
Natalia Schonowski 'Coffee and Cigarettes' (Hard to tell from the picture but several of the pages are burned, presumably with a cigarette, and painted with coffee.)
Kent Reimer 'Coffee and Cigarettes'
Jonpaul Smith 'Secret Codes'
Susan Ross Donahue 'Secret Codes'
Vickie Hudnall '...You'd Be Home By Now' (A chronicle of her training and life as a trucker. The windows have been cut out and filled with acetate so if the page is down it looks like the view from inside the truck, and when the page is up it's just the scenery. Cool!)
Janine Brown 'Science Project Gone Wrong'
To see them yourself check out the tour dates across the US.