Slideshow: My First Thirty Sketchbooks


Still life with newly organized sketch books, 12 August 1989, colored pencil on paper in Sketchbook No. 16

I have this other blog, my art blog, called Handmade Ransom Notes. I mostly use it to post new artwork – so it functions as a motivational tool to finish more art… and it’s true that I look forward to finishing and posting there, and I’ve kept it up ok… but it seems like nearly nobody finds my art there.

In addition to piles of artwork on paper, letters, and fliers, I have two long shelves of sketchbooks. I think my sketchbooks contain a lot of my favorite work (work by me, that is.) A lot of the pieces are pretty finished for sketches.

A friend of mine did a piece at Metro’s blog about sketching I’d done on transit. For that piece, I was looking through some old sketchbooks, and I thought that I really should scan and post more of my old sketchbook work… because some of it is really good.

I’ve posted some earlier sketches here and there on the Older Work page of my art blog… but that doesn’t get a lot of views either. So I came on the idea of posting a slide show that would walk through each book. 

Here’s the slide show (and some further explanations, disclaimers and links below):

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I decided to do a slide show with two pages from each sketchbook. The first page is the inside cover where I write the date and the number of the book. The second page I’ve selected/chosen/curated. It’s not necessarily the very very best page of each book, but pretty close… and a page that more-or-less stands in for the sort of stuff I was doing then. My sketchbooks vary quite a bit from page to page; various themes wax and wane over months and years… so this is a slender highlight.

I am on Sketchbook No. 61 right now, so I’m doing the first 30 books here, and I’ll do the next 30 later.

Sketchbook No. 1 begins in February 1984, when I was a student at Occidental College, taking a night class at Art Center. Sketchbook No. 30 was completed April 1995, while I was employed as a computer systems analyst at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Lately I’ve been making the title pages somewhat elaborate… but I didn’t start out doing this. For the first fifteen books, I didn’t really number them, nor did I include the date when I finished each. In August 1989, I started writing the year/s and sketchbook number on the spine, and at that point, the title pages begin to get a bit more formal. So, for the first half of the slide show, the initial page is a little boring… but it does sort of walk through time consistently.

There’s a ton of artwork in these books… and the vast majority of them are not as good as the ones I’ve posted. There’s more color in the slide show then there is in the books. Many of not-selected sketches are half-hearted, half-finished, flawed, derivative, and just not all that good a face to show to the world. Enjoy the ones I’ve selected… and know that you have to do a lot of crappy sketches to arrive at some good ones.

For more sketchbook stuff, see my art blog. Maybe browse the sketchbook category here or view the individual posts for selections from sketchbook I finished after starting my art blog in January 2009: those are sketchbooks No. 56, No. 57, No. 58, No. 59, or No. 60. Other sketchbook stuff posted under the Older Work page.

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2 Responses to “Slideshow: My First Thirty Sketchbooks”

  1. Rex McDaniel Says:


    Loved the slide show….thank you!!!


  2. nidia Says:

    Wow!! This is why i love you man. besides all the cool Rivery, and bikey things you do that is.Your creativity. Oh and let’s not forget that I also love you for being an awesome Frisbee player. Good Times!!

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