As some of you may know, I have been working for the past year or so at a place called Brooklyn Art Library, which is the world’s largest collection of sketchbooks! What’s so cool about this place is that anyone in the world can add their sketchbook into the collection, and this year everyone on the staff got to make a book to put into the collection!
Books don’t need to be thematic or cohesive in anyway, but I decided that I wanted my book to tell a story of some sort. I was still very new to New York when I started working there (I had only been in the city for around 3 months), so I decided to use my sketchbook as a reflection of everywhere that I’ve ever lived.
The cover and first page of “House Party”
I also had recently become obsessed with drawing all the beautiful old apartment buildings you can find in New York. Each building has it’s own personality and unique little flourishes that I loved looking at and drawing, so elements of that can be seen in my book, especially the cover. I used an X-Acto knife to cut out some of the windows to make a peak-a-boo effect through to the first page.
For the second page and first full spread I wanted to keep with the general buildings before going right in to my more detailed drawings, so these are just little standalone doodles that I imagined. I decided to only use primary colors throughout this book, which was still a challenge for me because I rarely use color at all, but it was fun to push myself in that way.
My second spread shows the first actual apartment I ever lived it. I lived there for 2 years with my friends on the outskirts of San Francisco. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved just by looking at this building on Google Maps to get a reference, but doing so made me very nostalgic. I loved living there, even when it got so cold we could see our breath because the heater didn’t work.
Next, shows my first place in San Francisco, which was actually a dorm building. This is more of an imagining of the building, since it’s hard to get a good photo of the building itself. I also have a lot of good memories from that building- it’s where I met the people who would be my best friends through out my time at college. One of the things I remember most was that my room had an amazing view of the SF skyline, and that at the end of the school year, the sun would rise directly in the middle of my view, which made for extremely beautiful sunrises. That feeling, more than anything, is what I tried to capture here.
Next, I decided to try my hand at adding in some mixed media/collage materials into my book. I found these great old envelopes that I immediately loved and knew I wanted to use in my book, so I created this page with some general construction paper. For the longest time I didn’t know what I wanted the envelope to hold, but I found an old book at a junk shop who’s first and last page serendipitously felt very relevant to what I was trying to say with my sketchbook. For this spread, I cut out the first page of the book and blacked out sections to create my own narrative.
The full page taken from a vintage book I picked up at a thrift store
This spread shows the second dorm building I lived in while in San Francisco. I loved this building because it was made of brick, which is rare for California buildings. Brick always felt very “East Coast” to me, so coming home to this building everyday made me feel less homesick for New England.
What it looks like when you open the doors
I really liked having interactive elements in my book, like the envelope, so I decided to try to push that with this spread by having a series of doors that the viewer could actually open. This page was especially fun not only in the construction of the interactive part, but also just in trying to imagine as many different types of doors as I could.
I dedicated a page to the idea of all the different keys I’ve had throughout my life. Not shown: all the keys I’ve lost in that time
I knew I wanted the envelope motif to repeat at least once, so I was lucky that when I found that old book to use with the first spread that the book’s last page was also very fitting. For this one, I decided to highlight the passages I liked instead of blacking out the ones I didn’t – a fun reversal of what is otherwise the same concept.
By the time I got to where I was currently living at the time (I’ve since moved, updates about all of THAT later…) I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look. It was admittedly a pretty ugly building, one of those new gentrification buildings that are ultra modern. I decided to make it a little more fun by making it a mini page that flips open to a more colorful and fun pattern. Even still, I’m not crazy with how this page turned out.
I also repeated the doors element from before, this time using windows as a nice break from drawing buildings over and over.
Example of what it looks like when you peep into the windows.
Finally, I drew the only actual house I’ve ever lived in, and the place I’ve lived in the longest BY FAR, which is the house I grew up in in the suburbs of Boston. I lived in that house from birth to when I moved away to college, which is why I think the process of moving is always so strange and overwhelming to me. The idea that since moving out of that house, I have now moved another FIVE times is insane to me, but that’s just life in a city I guess. Rare is the person who gets to stay in one place for a significant amount of time in a place like New York.
Not pictured: the spare key I found in a junk bin that I’m planning on sewing into the right page
The last page of my book: featuring a cartoon “Me”, and a mini artist statement.
Overall, this sketchbook took me about 3 months to complete! It took me a long time to plan out things like the envelope pages pages and decide how I wanted to showcase each building, but overall I’m extremely happy with how this book turned out. Filling an entire sketchbook is hard, much less one that you want to tell a story, so I’m happy that I finished it at all.
You can see my book in person at Brooklyn Art Library with the call number 348.67-4, and also on tour this summer with the library’s bookmobile! My book along with the other 2018 submissions will be visiting Toronto, Chicago, and Atlanta over the course of the summer.
As I said, anyone can be a part of The Sketchbook Project, so if you’re interested in having a sketchbook in Brooklyn Art Library, you can find out more here.
I had so much fun completing this book I actually am already in the process of filling up another – this one using only collage! Updates to come on how that turns out, as I’ve never used collage before as a medium. Wish me luck!