Sketched Interpretations


By Michele Bacigalupo

Thanks to the Sketchbook Project, the price of displaying one’s own artwork in a museum may be as low as 25 dollars.

The ongoing project features work from artists located in over 135 countries. The exhibition’s permanent home lies in Brooklyn, NY, in the bustling neighborhood of Williamsburg, and is set to take its mobile library on a tour of North America in the summer of 2016.

The Sketchbook Project originally began in Atlanta, GA in 2006. It has since relocated to New York City, where the Brooklyn Art Library holds 32,046 of the books. However, what’s featured in Williamsburg represents only a fraction of the artwork. The organization has received contributions from over 70,000 artists to date.

Perhaps the most alluring feature of the Sketchbook Project is that anyone is able to sign up and participate. Upon registering for the project, participating artists receive a leather bound book composed of 32 blank pages. They are encouraged to fill the white paper however they please. The mediums used to convey the book’s message are entirely up to the artists, as are the images and stories involved.

By browsing through sketchbooks already on display, one can see the broad range of creativity that exists within the bookshelves. Judging by the library’s current collection, artists appear to have already taken the Sketchbook Project into every direction imaginable. Yet despite this evidence, new ideas, themes, and styles of interpretation continue to be produced.

Sketchbooks may be filled with absolutely anything. One never knows what may lie beneath a book’s cover after checking it out at the library. There are books that contain caricatures, photographs, foil, marker, or magazine clippings. Some have words, stories, or poems scattered throughout the pages.

There are other projects that stand out significantly on the shelves from their outside appearance. These books captivate an observer’s attention even from a distance of several feet. One example is embellished with buttons glued along the outside binding. While most of the library’s contents are relatively thin, several sketchbooks take up a sizable amount of shelf space, bearing a resemblance to overstuffed photo albums.

One doesn’t need to travel to Williamsburg to witness the master craftsmanship of the books. The Sketchbook Project’s digital library is publicly available online.

The work comprising these sketchbooks comes from real people who possess variations of talent–both ordinary and extraordinary. Each book feels genuine, and almost no two are alike. A visitor to the library is also prevented from asking the tired question, “This is art?”

If skeptics cannot see the aesthetic value in a book, The Sketchbook Project entices them to try and do better by creating their own interpretations.

All photos by Michele Bacigalupo.