2x2: beginnings

2x2: 2 Artists, 2 Sketchbooks, a collaboration between artists Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera. Dana and Anne met in an online painting class. Although they have never met in person, they have become friends through regular visits to each others' blogs. It was through this connection that this project began. Wanting to move from friendship to collaboration, each spent two months filling one half of a sketchbook before mailing it off to the other. Dana worked on the lefthand pages and Anne on the right. Each will be responding to the other's work on the adjacent sketchbook pages over the coming year. Watch weekly as they reveal another page of their story.

Beginnings. They can be so fraught with fear and worry. The blank first page of a sketchbook can loom in front of us and make our minds go blank. Ok, not us, me. The blank first page can make my mind go blank. And so when I was working on this first page I went a little crazy. Or maybe overboard would be a better word for it. I grabbed all sorts of bits and pieces and collaged them and washi taped them and doodled and wrote... A bit frenetic. Fun, certainly, but a bit discordant and unharmonious. Like the tuning of an orchestra.

2x2 A Sketchbook Collaboration between Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera Week 1
Dana (l), Anne (r)

I didn't have a plan. Sometimes it was me thinking about the nature of beginnings. Sometimes it was a pep-talk to myself. Sometimes it was me being silly. You can't see it in this photo, but under the right end of the transfer label I doodled a self-portrait (my eye even peeks out at you from the hole). I wrote "Don't hide" and "Be brave" beside the portrait. I guess that's a bit of a pep-talk and silliness.

Dana's response seems like a calming influence. As if she's saying, relax.

I'm relaxed. You've got to start somewhere.

If you're staring at a blank page and don't know where to begin, I say, just dive right in. It doesn't matter if it's messy. Beginnings are messy. The important thing is just to begin.

Don't forget to stop by Dana's blog for her take on our Week 1 collaboration.

About the artists:

Dana is an artist and crafter living in the foothills of the Catskill mountains two hours north of New York City with her husband, two children and little kitty. She is passionate about painting, knitting, crochet, color, pattern and design.

Anne is an artist, writer and crafter who finds inspiration and joy in the beauty of her garden and the magic of nature. Dissatisfied with and disheartened by the pace and lifestyle of the city, she and her husband (with their two rescued greyhounds and an aging Siamese) relocated to a small town in the beautiful Driftless region in southwest Wisconsin with the goal of living a slower, simpler, more intentional life.

*photo by Dana Barbieri


  1. Facing a blank page I wouldn't know where to begin either Anne! The two pages complement each other very well as the theme seems based around travel and the beginnings of a journey perhaps? Your detailed page of maps and blue hues tie in with Dana's ocean blue and simpler abstract design. I look forward to seeing pages 3 and 4! :-)

    1. Thank you, Simone! Beginning something can be really hard, but once you get going it is far less scary.

      I like how any creative piece invites the viewer to be creative, too, looking at imagery and coming up with meanings and ideas. I was going to explain my use of maps, but I like that you've given it your own interpretation.

      Thanks for joining us on our adventure!

  2. I remember reading about that first blank page - whatever book it was recommended opening the journal at random and starting there. It has helped me get started with my watercolor journals & other sketching books. Love the pages.

    1. Yes! I think we must have read that same book or one similar. A blank page is a blank page. One in the middle of the book won't be (for me) any easier than the beginning, though I have tried that before. I think just getting started without thought, just action, is what works for me. Like jumping into a pool or lake all at once instead of slowing inching into the water.

      Thanks for following along with us!

  3. What a fun post. I love learning more about you.

    1. Thank you, Carla! This has been a fun project and it's so interesting to see how things will evolve as we move forward with the actual collaboration part. Glad you're joining in!

  4. The blank page is hard to overcome yet the moment we put something down, we grow stronger, it gets easier. I like your beginning. Keep going :)

    1. Thanks, Sharon. You are so right. Once we begin it does get easier!


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