I attended art schools half my life. One thing every art teacher always required was a sketchbook, a 9x12 inch or larger solid black hardbound sketchbook. Well, it was the bane of my existence as an artist and put me off sketchbooks entirely in my youth. We were told to gather inspiration and work out our ideas with rough sketches and color schemes, to plan out within its pages our final "masterpieces". Yet instead of being a source of inspiration, it was a source of stress and guilt. Stress came from those BIG blank pages, the desire to not ruin a good book, and being unable to recreate exactly those "masterpieces" once they were put down on paper. Guilt came simply from not keeping up with it daily. I am an artist, after all. Keeping a sketchbook is supposed to be part of my lifestyle, my job, right? Then why was I completely rubbish at it? Did that mean that I was less of an artist, because quite frankly, I hated them? After art school, all the "good" pages were torn out and the rest were...well, to be honest...burned. Those burdens were no longer mine to carry.
Ten years would pass before picking up a sketchbook again. Would you believe it was another 9x12 solid black hardbound sketchbook? The year was 2011. The reason was an attempt at finding my voice, my identity, my art again. It was no longer a burden, but rather, a tool. Mind you, not my favorite tool. It would be filled with mostly written words and scribbles and very little art. Sketchbooks and I would remain on the same bad terms for the same old reasons for another four years. In the meantime, while using it, my life changed and my art, too. You see, my art wasn't always tiny. Yet, making that one necessary change, following that one whim, discovering the joy in the process of tiny art felt like coming home to my own being. It just made sense. There was a desire to create more regularly with it, too. Though not wanting to use up precious supplies, other means were needed. Enter the purchase of my first tiny sketchbook and a challenge with friends. In 2015, the goal would be to complete one theme based page each week for 52 weeks. That sketchbook was inexpensive, less than $2, and upon completion, it became priceless. A passion was kindled, or obsession, some would say. Bought three more just like it and started looking for even tinier possibilities, like miniature dollhouse books. Since, tiny sketchbooks have become one of my favorite and most treasured tools.
Wanting to take my art outdoors led me to look for even more options in tiny sketchbooks, more compact, more durable, and create a travel art kit that could be customized for my needs and desires on any given day and venture. Family, friends and myself began creating a collection of tiny books and supplies, pencils, color pencils, watercolor pans, brushes, some with sawed off handles, stencils, rulers, pens, tins and bags. One dear artist friend suggested that I try a waterbrush. So glad that she did, because it has been a wonderful investment. Each tiny book is given a different purpose in my art process, like color testing, shapes, composition, techniques, theme, narratives, freestyle, etc. Each piece of the collection is a tool for observation, learning and connecting with my art, myself, even others.
I am an artist, after all. Keeping a sketchbook is supposed to be part of my lifestyle, my job, right? Well, no. It is simply a tool that I may or may not choose to use. Requiring a ceramicist to create an oil painting when they've never used it before could be torture for them. Or it could be something wonderfully new, if they want. Only the artist can decide what tools to use and what art they want to create. Only the artist can determine when they want to create it, too. In truth, I am still rubbish at using my sketchbooks daily. Just using them regularly is fine by me. Sketchbooks and I have a healthy relationship now. They are always there for me when I need and want them. Some days I am a sketchbook artist. Other days, I am simply an artist.
Dear readers, to see more of Leigh Anna's tiny art, visit her website: www.nellandgrey.com
Or pop by @leighannanewell on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? You can catch up here. And for more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews.
*Photos in this post © Leigh Anna Newell. Used with permission.