Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!

An Artist’s Quandary

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Tell me… do you keep ALL your sketchbooks?

I mean, every single one you’ve ever used? Or just the ones with good stuff or important things you want to follow-up on?

It seems to be a accepted thing that we SHOULD keep them, but how realistic is that?

If you’ve kept yours, do you actually use or refer to them? How are they of value to you 10, 20, 50 years on?

Historically I was keeping most of mine, just because I hated throwing out anything I spent time on – it wasn’t an issue to carry them when we moved (considering my family had 19 bookcases full of books and collectibles, a couple more boxes made no difference!) Most of them weren’t even full. I had some going back to grade school. And lots of random bits of paper with doodles on them that I saved as I thought they were particularly good.

But I had to cull substantially when I sold my house and downsized in 2017. I just kept the pages/drawings that I thought were either good or an idea I wanted to keep. It was sometimes hard, but a lot of what is in a sketchbook was just filler that served no purpose other than to kill time or practise.

I also have a paper fetish so buy new ones just because they are on sale, or I want to try a different paper finish or weight or size. That’s not even all of it on that shelf, the bigger pads are stored elsewhere. This was early this year – that’s all gone, except for a small selection of my preferred sizes that I was able to fit into my luggage.

Bottom shelf, all brand new – there are 37 different items there!

Now, because I am moving to another country with as few things as I possibly can, I’ve gone through everything and scanned work that I want to keep a record of and some process/planning sketches from finished projects and trashed the originals.

Planning sketches for a project 2019

At least with modern technology I can scan or photograph anything I want to – which is making the whole process of destroying my “babies” tolerable even if I still feel bad about it.

It was hard but, sigh, I can’t carry a ton of stuff around that NEVER gets referred to. And really… unless it is a current sketchbook that I am actively working in, it doesn’t get looked at unless I am going through the process of culling.

I don’t think I have EVER actually filled up or used up an entire sketchbook or artist’s pad in my life. I’m close on two currently… one I’m working in and keeping. The other is going to get tossed – I’ve photographed or scanned the parts I want to keep out of it.

These are/were the 2020/21 in use sketchbooks

All this made me wonder… do artists REALLY keep ALL their sketchbooks?

Author: Shannon Fennell

Multidisciplinary artist, world traveller, make-up artist, and cheese lover. I follow a low carb lifestyle to keep my diabetes in remission. Canadian expat in the UK.

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