Be Part of The Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
When do you get to say you’re an artist — without flinching?
Is it the day you sell your first painting?
Or do you need to graduate from art school first?
Well, how about the day your work becomes part of the permanent collection of a swanky NYC art library?
That counts, right?
“Having my work in the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library has helped me tell others I’m an illustrator with more confidence,” said Trish Wallis Stone.
But how could little-us have our work in a big art library for posterity (without having to sleep with someone in charge)?
It’s easy. No couch casting involved.
All we have to do is what Charmed Studio subscriber Trish Wallis Stone did; be brave enough to step through the magic wardrobe to be part of The Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project.
What’s The Sketchbook Project?
“It’s more than just a project,” said Steven Peterman, the 34-year-old founder The Sketchbook Project. Petermen dreamt up the project 14 years ago when he was just 20 years old and has been growing its wings ever since.
The Sketchbook Project is an inside look at the brains of artists, a representative slice of global creativity.
“We have reignited art careers, inspired first-time creatives, and even helped a few marriage proposals,” said Peterman.
But the sketchbook project doesn’t just inspire adults.
Your Sketchbook Can Help Kids See That Being an Artist is a Real Life Path
The Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project also sports a shiny white bookmobile.
Think of it as a rolling artists’ sketchbook library that shares thousands of creatives’ notebooks with local second graders.
Wouldn’t you have loved to see and touch such sketchbooks when you were a kid?
Doing so might have opened us up to the notion that being an artist was a real life-path option for adults.
Stone’s Sketchbook Story
I love that Trish Wallis Stone (who told me about the project) discovered her passion for keeping map-based sketchbooks in 2018, in the second half of her life, at 58 years old.
Stone is a Seattle University Senior-library-technician-by-day, map-maker-by-night.
She literally maps out her travel routes before hitting the open road for driving vacations with her husband Steve in their magical Ural Sidecar motorbike.
“In 2019 stumbled upon an article about The Brooklyn sketchbook project on ArtistsNetwork.Com,” said Trish. “I felt compelled to order a sketchbook right away.”
But then, Stone did something I know myself and many of my readers would do.
She promptly let the blank sketchbook sit untouched on her desk month after month, until about 5 days before the submission deadline.
“I kept saying to myself I’d get around to it. All of sudden it hit me that I had to turn this book in a few days,” said Trish. “But I hadn’t picked a theme yet.”
Then Trish had her lightbulb moment.
(Need help generating a big light bulb moment on a deadline? Check out The Charmed Studio’s free Meditations for Artists: Reduce Fear, Ignite Creativity.)
“I thought, ‘Why not base the sketchbook on the travel notes, sketches and urban legends I’d come across in our road trip that year from Seattle to Port Townsend Washington?'”
So Stone did just that. She stayed up late into the night, four nights in a row, transferring her pen and ink drawings from her various notebooks (via a lightbox) to her official sketchbook. When she wasn’t doing that she was calligraphing stories on notecards she secured on every other page of her sketchbook using old fashioned black photo corners.
Stone added delightful details like her sketch of the 600-pound octopus that some still say lurks under The Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka The Sturdy Gurdy.)
“I finished at the last minute,” said Trish. “I sealed that envelope without having time to worry if this was a mad action or not. All I was concerned about was if I’d made typos or if the package would get there in time.”
Looking back Trish now believes it was all worth it. She sees the sketchbook project as a great opportunity for artists, especially shy ones like herself.
“I’m not a flashy kind of person,” said Trish. I don’t promote myself well — if at all. So this was an opportunity for me to get recognition in a way that felt comfortable to me.”
But is the sketchbook project right for all artists?
What Kind of Artist Would Benefit from Submitting a Sketchbook?
Newer artists might want to be brave and do this project to boost their confidence.
You can draw, write, collage, or print your way through your sixteen, creamy, 5 x 7 pages.
Maybe try this project to refine a vision through trial and error.
Or give it a whirl if only to polish those all-important presentation skills.
Established artists, on the other hand, may want to use their Brooklyn sketchbook to investigate a wild new idea for a series, with the benefits of a hard deadline and a small fee.
The options are limitless, and therefore intimidating.
But luckily this project comes with a few built-in boundaries to save the day.
Being Pressed For Time Can Be a Good Thing in Sketchbook Land
The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project has two additional pluses that may at first seem like minuses.
“The sketchbook project allowed me vast freedom of expression, but with limits, said Trish.
“The limits acted as a support, a framework, a format. And that deadline was absolutely what I needed to finish this thing I’m proud of that a few others might look at one day,” Trish said.
And I argue the sketchbook fee is also a plus because our natural desire not to want to waste money may be the only superpower we possess that is mighty enough to overcome the fear-based procrastination which often stops us from sending in our submissions.
Another Reason The Sketchbook Project is Wondrous
Have you ever noticed traditional art history tends to leave a hell of a lot of people out of the story?
What I love about the Brooklyn Sketchbook Project is that it lets so many of us back into the narrative of history.
This project honors, preserves and legitimizes, “smaller” stories, lesser told but equally important stories.
Like artist’s stories, women’s stories, minority stories, LGBTQ stories, differently-abled stories – all our stories!
(One of the best t-shirts I ever saw was worn by a female composer and it said, “Anonymous” Was a Woman.)
6 Reasons To Join The Sketchbook Project or Give It as a Gift
You’re contributing something to a time capsule library, where your work will be preserved indefinitely.
Become a part of a global movement of creatives that will inspire others.
Stretch your imagination in terms of what anyone thinks a 16-page sketchbook could be used for. (Origami, graphic novel anyone?)
You can watch your work travel to popups, exhibitions, and installations across North America.
You’ll be able to continue to engage with, track, and promote your work no matter where you live.
So are you ready to make a little art history?
This year’s deadline is fast approaching.
I’m doing it. (Gulp.)
Please let me know in the comments if you might give this a go with me and what theme you might build your little book around. It will encourage me to finish too.
You may also like the Brooklyn Art Library’s shiny, brand new 28-Day Sketchbook Challenge.
Or you may prefer the even shorter and free 14-Day Portrait Challenge.
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