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  • Kate Lentz

{The Sketchbook Project}

A few years ago, I heard about something really cool: The Sketchbook Project. Basically, you pay the Brooklyn Art Library for them to send you a small sketchbook. You fill it out, send it back, then it will stay in the permanent collection. Depending on when you sign up for it, and when you send it back, it will belong to a “volume.” That specific volume will travel in a small book mobile to different schools for a little while, then it goes back to the library. Forever! You can also pay a little bit extra so it will be scanned and uploaded to the digital library. Anyone is able to look at it--from anywhere in the world. Pretty amazing, right?

So when I was about to turn 34, I decided to order a sketchbook as a gift to myself. I ordered it about two weeks before my birthday and received it just a few days after The Big 3-4. It was to be part of Volume 16, due August 8. So that gave me something like...ten weeks to get the whole thing done. And this was not a very large sketchbook at all. So when did I begin working on it? Hmm..about two weeks before it was due. WHY AM I LIKE THIS?!

At the very least, I had been thinking about the “theme” I wanted. It was a bit limiting because we were not allowed to use acrylic--it sticks to the pages. Also, it was not the kind of paper that would work well with watercolor. (WOW that’s a lot of WWWWWW’s) So my decision was to use a ballpoint pen, a little bit of ink and to only use black and gold. With a strict color palette and limited materials, that helped a lot. I knew I wanted it to be cohesive, delicate, and slightly strange. I decided to focus on dreams or dream-like themes. Once I decided on that, I felt confident.

After figuring out the title, “Lost in the Dream,” the name of one of my favorite albums, I went ahead and painted the cover with a VERY VERY VERY thin layer of acrylic. (What? I’m known to rebel a bit sometimes). I had picked out a font that was almost somewhat tribal and I went for it. Only took me about two days to realize I had forgotten to include the letter “A” in Dream. DOH! I was pretty disheartened since I didn’t know how to fix the cover. Eventually I looked through old pieces of paper and found something that looked muted. I CAREFULLY wrote out the text and in the end, I love how it turned out.

My next step was to do thumbnail sketches. I decided to do “spreads” instead of individual pages. I do like what I did, but part of me wishes I had only drawn on the front of the pages, not front and back. There is a little bit of see-through from the pen on previous pages which is a bit sloppy.

It took me about a week and a half to physically draw everything out. Ballpoint pen isn’t my typical medium, and it seems to take twice as long as painting. PLUS I decided to do several patterned pages that were quite elaborate. Totally hated myself for choosing those designs, but in the end, it was worth it.

I finished the whole sketchbook down to the wire. The last drawing was completed the night before I had to mail it out. In the morning, I was able to take photos, film a short sketchbook tour, and admire my work for only about a second. It was a lot more difficult to let it go than I thought. Even though I will be able to see my drawings any time I want once they’ve been scanned, it was just a strange feeling. Part of the joys of working in a sketchbook is being able to have something you can keep with you and flip through any time you want. I had this small sketchbook in my purse for months. And now...I’ll probably never hold it ever again. Surreal.

I definitely loved this project. I am hoping to buy another sketchbook in the future and possibly do an entire book of patterns. Or lyrics. Or portraits. Or plants. Just...ONE subject matter. But before I commit to another NYC sketchbook, I actually decided to buy a pack of those thin sketchbooks. I want to have my own little library in the future.

I am proud of the work I did. Even more proud that I checked something off of my Bucket List. Though it was a short period of time, I feel like I grew as an artist. Though, I know I will never, ever, EVER stop procrastinating.

If you're curious to learn more about this project, check out

Also, I will include a link to my sketchbook once it has officially been added to the digital library.

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