What I've Learned and What I've Gained, Reflections Halfway Through the 2x2 Sketchbook Collaboration

Week 31 marks the half-way point of sharing pages from my 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration with Dana Barbieri. (The sketchbooks themselves are 3/4 finished).

Dana and I thought we should celebrate!!

2x2 Sketchbook, collaborations, sketchbooks, art collaborations, Anne Butera, Dana Barbieri

And reflect a bit about the project now that we're halfway through sharing it with you.

Looking at our sketchbook pages all laid out together makes me feel so joyful. It's been fun. It's been challenging. I've been inspired. I've stretched. Even the weeks that aren't my favorite make me happy. They're experiments. They're play. And they're valuable because of that.

For the past year I've been thinking a lot about sketchbooks & working in them a lot, too:

  • Last November I began using my sketchbook more regularly as part of planning new paintings. 
  • Early last December Dana suggested we work on some sort of collaborative project. By the end of the month we began planning collaborative sketchbooks. (As I mentioned before, the idea sort of scared me.)
  • In February I began working in my 2x2 Sketchbook.
  • In April Dana and I began sharing our 2x2 Sketchbooks every week on our blogs and social media.
  • In July I finished filling up my personal sketchbook, begun the previous October (a record for me).
  • Also in July I began working in a daily sketchbook (one of 4 sketchbooks I work in regularly).

Working in a sketchbook doesn't come naturally for me. This project has helped me to overcome my fear and hesitancy. This past year I've worked more in sketchbooks than ever before.

At the end of my 30 Days 30 Paintings Challenge I said that one of the things I learned was that "painting a lot leads to a lot more painting". At this point in my 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration I have to say the same about working in a sketchbook. Working in a sketchbook a lot leads to a lot more sketchbook work.

Here's what else I've learned and gained from this project:

Sketchbooks are about:

  • experimentation -- trying new things, techniques, media, color palettes, subject matter
  • practice -- the more you do anything, the better you'll get at it
  • habit -- getting into a habit or routine is good for you
  • play -- above all sketchbooks should be fun!
(I'm reminded of Mary Engelbreit's advice for young artists: "Experiment. Be adventurous. Try a lot of different things. Who cares if it doesn't work out? It's only paper!" So true about sketchbooks. Don't like your page? Turn it and make another).

Collaboration helps:
  • motivate -- when someone else is counting on you, it's easier to show up
  • inspire -- seeing Dana's choices of subject matter, media and color inspire me to try things I wouldn't think to try on my own
  • encourage -- every week Dana has something nice to say about my page (and so do you, dear readers. Thank you!); but more than that, seeing how my art inspires her art is so encouraging, too. And because of that I want to create better pages every week.

In addition to the burst of sketchbook activity and inspiration that this project inspired, the thing that brings me the most joy is the fact that this project has inspired me to overcome inertia and start learning how to do lino cuts and lino printsWeek 8's page was the first time I experimented with that technique and now I'm completely hooked. I'm still learning and practicing, but even my first awkward attempts were joyful and each print I create makes me happy.

When Dana and I were talking about celebrating the half-way point of sharing our 2x2 Sketchbook pages we decided we'd each choose our 3 favorite spreads. 

Boy oh boy did that end up being hard! 

There's something I love about each week's pages. Whether it's the color palette (Week 21) or the subject matter (Week 2) or the technique (Week 8) or a combination of those things. Sometimes it's just the unexpectedness of what Dana chose to do in response to my page (Week 7) that brings me joy. 

If I had to choose, though, I think these three would be it:

sketchbooks, 2x2 Sketchbook, Dana Barbieri, Anne Butera, black on white, white on black, terrariums, drawing

I love the combination of white on black with black on white. Plus, plants in jars... just love.

Week 19

gouache painting, sketchbooks, 2x2 Sketchbook, Dana Barbieri, Anne Butera, paper patchwork, collage

Dana's flower bouquet is such a happy accompaniment to my patchwork collage. There's something about the color palette that I love, too. It's both subtle and bright at the same time.

Week 14:

2x2 Sketchbook, sketchbooks, drawing, collage, Anne Butera, Dana Barbieri

Orange and blue make me happy. Painting paper and then cutting out the bits to create my collage was so much fun.

(And if I could choose one more it would be Week 22, after all, I did choose to use it as the button for 2x2 in my sidebar!)

Thank you, Dana for all of the inspiration, motivation and encouragement! It's been fun.

And thank you, dear readers, for following along and cheering us on. I've enjoyed every comment and was delighted to hear that the 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration inspired at least one other shared sketchbook project. I hope it will inspire many more.

If you have even the tiniest desire to start your own sketchbook (or a collaborative sketchbook), stop putting it off and do it. It's not always easy, but you won't be sorry for starting. I promise. And anyway, it's only paper.

And don't forget to stop by Dana's blog today, too, where she'll be sharing her thoughts on our project so far.

Need to catch up on our sketchbook posts? You can find all of them here.

*some photos in this post by Dana Barbieri


  1. 17 and 22 are on my list too! It was hard to decide because I really love them all. I think it's so fun to think "oh, I was outside while I drew that page." or " I tried out that new technique/paint on that page." Hats off to us!! :)

    1. Haha! How funny! There's something to love about each page, I think. You're right. Whether it's the situation of our making it or what inspired us or how we did the page.

      Yes! Hats off to us! :)

  2. I love that each of your pages builds off of someone else's starting point because it seems you often go in new and surprising directions each week. Its exhilarating to see and gives me ideas for my own sketchbook. Thank you and Dana for sharing your progress.

    1. Thank you, Sharon! :) Glad to have you following along.

      Have fun playing in your sketchbook!!


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