The sketchbook goes everywhere with me. Sometimes it’s a hiding place, a way to assuage social anxiety, other times just a way to pass hours I don’t know what to do with. Because I’ve never kept a diary, it’s the closest thing to a record of my days. Unlike many artists, I’ve never used a sketchbook to work up ideas for more finished work, or for any ideas at all for that matter. What I draw in there is what I see of where I’ve been. More often than not it’s faces of singers, readers, and sitters on public transportation which make me take the book out. I hardly ever know these people but drawing them establishes a tenuous connection (whether they know it or not).
The last couple of sketches in the book I just finished were of the singer/songwriter Will Oldham and the electronic combo Bitchin’ Bajas. I don’t know any of them personally and likely never will, but for the 15 or 20 minutes when I was making marks as they played, I was engaged more actively with their music and for that, no matter what I end up with, these drawings matter.
I have a stack of about 15 finished sketchbook teetering on my studio book case. I don’t look at them that often but when I do there’s an occasional drawing which doesn’t seem so bad and, as a whole, each book does remind me of specific blocks of time. Remembering with pictures isn’t the same as remembering with words. It feels sturdier to me, less prone to sugarcoating or other revision after the fact. But that’s probably because drawing has been how I’ve talked with the world for over 30 years and I just trust it more.
In the meantime, I started a new book. The first sketch is of a glass, wine bottle, and water carafe at Rootstock on Saturday night. Nothing profound here, but when I look at it later I’ll remember the porkbelly salad, mushroom tagliatelle, and two very different glasses of wine I had that night, the people I talked to and eavesdropped on, and it’ll happen without a single word jotted down anywhere.