Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sketchbook Conversations -- a Chat with Sharon Rohloff

This week's Sketchbook Conversation is with Sharon Rohloff, one of my long-time blogging friends. Some of you might remember the interview I did with Sharon last year as she was just opening her Etsy shop. I'm delighted to have her here again today to share her sketchbooks and her design process.

I'm always amazed by how many different ways sketchbooks can be used. Last week's conversation with Jaime Haney showed how a sketchbook can be used for planning paintings. This week's peek into Sharon's sketchbooks shows how a sketchbook can be used to plan out other creative projects.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is no right or wrong way to use a sketchbook. Each sketchbook is as unique as the artist who uses it. If at all you feel a pull to create, do it, no matter what it looks like.

And now to Sharon's sketchbook story:

I have made sketchbooks and books of collage for over 30 years (I consider them the same thing). They are my playground for experimenting with new ideas and color combinations.

Sharon Rohloff, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls

I am a soft toy artist with an Etsy shop where I sell my handmade dolls and doll accessories. My current working sketchbooks are a way of visually talking myself through the problems of working in 3D. When I am exploring a new idea what’s in my head is often impressions rather than verbal. Words that might describe these impressions would be: soft, romantic, angular, tall/small, colors, simple or dramatic. I draw cartoons of expressions or scribble hairstyles that I can refer to later to see if there’s something worth working out in embroidery or yarn.

For example I think the eyes of a doll are an important part of adding personality so I will sketch many types of eyes to get a feel for which ones capture the mood I’m going for in a particular toy: happy, childlike, secretive, 1920’s, diva, etc.

Sharon Rohloff, Sketchbooks, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls, Sketchbook Conversations

At other times I need to work out the details of an outfit I’m designing. Most of my dolls have a retro look that is loosely based on the 1920’s or the 1950’s. I will look at reference material from these eras and write notes in my sketchbook, drawing little details such as collar designs, so I don’t forget about them. I also write down names from these eras for potential doll names.

Sharon Rohloff, Sketchbooks, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls, Sketchbook Conversations

My sketchbooks are really my secret vault of future work so I rarely share them with anyone. Having a place to play, make mistakes and dream on the page without worrying about other people seeing my rudimentary ideas makes my sketchbooks valuable to me. Sometimes having to explain what you are doing while inventing diminishes the excitement of discovery. The privacy sketchbooks offer is part of their appeal and keeps me inspired to use them. Unlike social media sharing, no one will know you were thinking about making “X” while working for months on other projects. When you eventually produce your elusive “X” it will be brand new to your audience!

Sharon Rohloff, Sketchbooks, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls, Sketchbook Conversations

I use many different art tools when I’m experimenting with drawing but in my doll idea sketchbook I primarily make pencil sketches, occasionally filled in with colored pencil. A #2 or HB pencil allows me to sketch quickly and erase easily the parts I want to change. These drawings are quite rough but they give me enough detail to start working on patterns. I usually don’t color the images because after working out an idea I head straight to my fabric stash to pull fabric to form a color story.

I like using a 7” square hardbound sketchbook by Pentalic for my pencil sketchbook because it is easy to carry around and it fits in my backpack. You can find them at Michaels or any art store. I also like Canon watercolor and mixed media books in the 9 x 12” size for watercolor work. I prefer cheaper books to sketch in because I don’t worry so much about messing it up or ripping out pages.

Sharon Rohloff, Sketchbooks, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls, Sketchbook Conversations

Sketchbooks are a simple and quick tool for me to capture those elusive “aha” moments. There is something comforting about the feel of my hand on paper vs. drawing on my computer tablet where there is a piece of glass between my work and me.

Sketchbooks are a great tool for working through your visual ideas without committing time to a larger piece until you’ve thought through some of the details. I used to work in graphic design where we would draw up to 50 “thumbnail” sketches of an idea in order to talk over the design with others. These were literally tiny 2” squares filled with visual clues to layouts, dominant elements and open space. Think of your sketchbook as a bigger version of this, a place to dump your ideas just to get them out of your head so you can consider which ones you like best.

Sharon Rohloff, Sketchbooks, Pink Ginger Kitty, Handmade Dolls, Sketchbook Conversations

It’s also nice to know that you don’t have to share your sketchbook with anyone if you don’t want to! This frees you up from judging your work too soon and allows space to talk to yourself in a visual way that perhaps only you understand.



Thank you, Sharon for sharing your story with us today.


Dear readers, you can connect with Sharon:





*Photos in this post © Sharon Rohloff. Used with permission.

4 comments:

  1. A fascinating insight into how Sharon uses her sketchbook to jot down and draw ideas for her dolls. It is great to see Bert and Lola from sketches on a page turn into proper cloth dolls! Your work is delightful Sharon. :) Anne thank you again for another sketchbook conversation. I really think these conversations should be preserved in a book. They continually inspire me in many different ways. I will be sad once the conversations end! :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this week's conversation and I'm also glad that you've been enjoying the series, Simone!

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  2. Thank you for including me in your "Sketchbook Conversations" series Anne! I have enjoyed reading how other artists use their sketchbooks too. Thanks also to Simone for her kind comments about my soft toys.

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    1. So glad to have you here, Sharon! Thanks so much for sharing your sketchbooks and your story, opening your vault to my readers!

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