I carried my sketchbook everywhere with me in high school (still do), and sometimes something happened that I found a little confusing. I’d get distracted by a conversation during lunch hour or class, and set my sketchbook down. Before I knew it, someone was flipping through it. Usually it was someone I wanted to remain friends with, so I learned not to get too upset. Mostly.
I can’t say what the people flipping through my drawings were thinking, since I’m not them and can only guess, but I can explain a bit about what a sketchbook is for the artist. For me, anyways, but I don’t think I’m in the minority.
In some ways it’s a journal. It’s a place to work out whatever I’m thinking about during the day. I doodle out the interesting things and people I see in my sketchbook during the day, draw whatever strange creatures I had dreams about recently, and use it as a way of relaxing when life gets too complicated. A journal isn’t meant to be perfect. Neither is a sketchbook. The things I draw are affected by what I think and feel at the time, and nothing is meant to be a finished product. So on days when I don’t feel like my art is going that well, having someone unexpectedly flipping through it is a bit like having them dig through my laundry bin.
Of course, as an art student, I normally have teachers looking through my sketchbooks, but that’s different. I go to art classes so my teachers can help me get better. Letting them see all of my drawing process is part of that. And they don’t stand right in front of me when they look through it.
Of course, since I’ve been working to maintain my friendships with those folks who don’t quite understand the importance of a sketchbook, I’ve gotten to be okay with people touching my sketchbook. Not every artist has, though. So next time you want to see someone’s artwork, ask first.
I’m attaching an image of a recent sketchbook page of mine, in all its messy glory. The words are notes from church. Images copyright Dragon Harris.