I actually signed up for it a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to do a post since I didn't have anything to show for it...and an illustration blog post without pictures is like a day without sunshine. Or some other overused cliche...
Anyway, the jist is that you pay $25, pick a theme, and they send you a sketchbook. You fill up the sketchbook with stuff along the theme, send it back, and they take it on a tour across the country. What's more, people who attend the shows can check out your sketchbook to read, much like they were at a library. The book becomes part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library, and everyone is happy. Yay! Also, for an extra $20, the fine people at Arthouse will create a digital version of your sketchbook for people to view online. Even more yay!
I got my sketchbook a few weeks ago (it came about 10 days after I signed up) and have since been storyboarding and doing materials studies. There are about 39 full page spreads, so I'll be doing quite a bit of drawing. My theme is "I'm a Scavenger", and my idea is to do a "story" of several creatures in Africa (and a poacher), and how their lives end up interconnecting. We'll see where it goes...with art, everything has a tendency to change as you go. Since the sketchbook steps away from my media of choice, I had to do some materials studies. If I felt really up to it, I could rebind the book with a surface that would suit acrylics, but after hand-binding 7 copies of my book, I'm a little bookbinded out.
Left to right: ballpoint pen, pen & ink (with Winsor & Newton's nut brown ink), pencil, and colored pencil (using Prismacolor's dark umber)
What I'm looking for in materials: something that won't smudge, works with my drawing technique, and has minimal bleed-through on the paper. The sketchbooks provided by Arthouse are Moleskine cahier notebooks (popular with hipsters worldwide!), and the paper is much thinner than I am used to working with. Since my overall design will be using both sides of the paper, I want to draw with something that won't ruin the underside of the paper. Tricky stuff, let me tell you. To do practice studies, I went out and bought a pocket sized pack of cahier notebooks, that way I wouldn't mess up my official sketchbook.
Study #1, ballpoint pen: I'm not a ballpoint pen person, but some people can sketch up a storm with it. It has no bleed through, but it's also limiting in that there's only one size of point on it.
Study # 2, Winsor & Newton ink: I'm a big fan of the color, especially since I'm kind of going for an old, used travel journal look. But there's a lot of bleed through on the underside of the pages, and the ink would spread out from the nib a bit when I was drawing. Since I'm not a super pen and nib inker anyway (unlike some people I know), I passed on the medium.
Study #3, pencil: Finally, something I'm a little more comfortable with. However, it's a little boring, and has the tendency to smudge. Since I'm hoping my sketchbook will be flipped through by quite a lot of people, I want to minimize smudgy graphic thumbprints.
Study #4, colored pencil: Ah, now we're talking! Pencil technique without smudging. And I can get a variety of values through pressure instead of hatching (like I would have to do with pens). Plus no bleed through! Though just to be sure, I should probably do a bigger sketch...
Yep, I think this will do quite nicely.
If you're interested in signing up for the project, click the Sketchbook Project picture link above. There's still plenty of time to sign up, but if you're interested in a certain theme, sign up for it ASAP as they tend to fill up!