|Some of my current sketchbooks.
Many artists keep one sketchbook, carry it with them everywhere, use it wherever they may be, and when it’s full, they have a chronology of their sketches. Then they start a new book.
As a lifelong journal writer, that type of continuous chronology appeals to me greatly. Some part of me wants to have a chronological sequence of my sketches – a visual and parallel analog to my huge collection of written journals, which I have always kept sequentially, one volume at a time.
And yet, to date, I am actively and concurrently using 11 sketchbooks and have filled three others since September 2011 when I began sketching. Why do I use so many sketchbooks at once when my natural and emotional propensity is to use one at a time?
The answer is threefold: paper type, portability and laziness.
The first part is obvious. Unless I bind my own sketchbook (which I have done, but then the sketchbook took on a life of its own and refused to let me sketch in it), I can’t have a single volume that contains both toothy, heavy paper for water media and smooth paper for pens.
|12/7/11, watercolor, 9" x 12" sketchbook
In between are other sizes and formats with a variety of paper types and weights. I favor 5¼” x 8¼” (landscape and portrait) and 5½” square formats, which offer both portability and a relatively spacious surface.
|10/24/11, F-C Pitt Artist Pen, graphite, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" sketchbook
I can think of a couple other practical reasons for keeping multiple sketchbooks simultaneously. Since the sketchbooks I use are all relatively slim, if I were to ever lose one, it would be a loss of only a few weeks of sketches, rather than months or years. (I’d bet at least some of those artists who carry one sketchbook continually have lost a huge chunk of their work. Ouch!) And sometimes when I’m short on time but want to work with watercolors, I can work in a second book while the first is drying.
Maybe sometime I’ll try working in only one sketchbook for a while, from first page to last, to see if my desire for chronological continuity overcomes my need for paper variety and portability. (I doubt it will overcome laziness.)