A new sketchbook.



It finally happened. I finished a sketchbook. This is such a strange phenomenon that I was in shock as I made my way to Aranda’s little art shop to ask for another one, but nothing could have prepared me for having to show the thing to another human being with eyes. 

The little art shop in my little town is one of those wonderful places where it’s possible to spend hours in discussion about the benefits of water soluble versus permanent markers, or stroking the pages of a blank sketchbook to see how it fits, all with the music of Chopin or Rodriguez playing in the background and a little synthetic fireplace keeping the whole place cosy. It is also one of those shops where the shopkeeper does the browsing for you, disappearing into tiny cupboards to search for exactly the thing you are failing to describe. For me and my Spanish speaking this is a tiny bit daunting. Try explaining to the lovely man behind the counter that you need a sketchbook that has more pages, but not too many (he put back the sketch pad as thick as a brick), and paper that is thicker than printer paper but not quite as thick as water colour paper, with the binding on the left hand side so you can draw lines freely… And the more frustrated I get from not knowing words the worse my Spanish gets, until he brings pretty much every type of sketchbook to the counter for me to examine and we communicate in a series of smiles, frowns, and thumbs-up.

Eventually I pull out my completed sketchbook and drew around it: “It needs to be bigger than this, with more pages, and the paper can be a bit shittier because I’m making a lot of mistakes anyway.” And he smiles: “I have just the one.” And there we are. But then he looks at my sketchbook and inclines his head:”May I see it?” And I, failing to think of the Spanish words to say But it’s not finished, and no one, ever ever ever, has ever seen the really shitty doodles in here, and this is a transitional book because I changed my head halfway through, and please don’t ask to see it! But the only Spanish word that comes out of my mouth is “Si!”

I don’t show my sketchbooks to anyone.

However, as the art shop man started turning through the pages over which I had slaved, he smiled at some, and frowned at others, and at the end gave me a big thumbs up. “I like this one,” he said, turning back to a page full of trolls. “And this one, too. Thank you for letting me look through your works.” And there it was. What surprised me was that, mixed in with the awful embarrassment and nervousness, it felt really good to have someone see it all, even the really shitty bits I don’t put anywhere near my blog usually. So this is what I have learned today: it is good to share even the shitty bits.

This is why I have made my first vlog, so I can share my sketchbook with you. I would love it if you’d comment to tell me which pages you like.

One more thing – if you’re ever in Aranda de Duero, visit the little art shop on the corner of the one way street leading towards the river, with two doors on either side. The man who runs it is a mind reader.

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4 thoughts on “A new sketchbook.

  1. This is fantastic stuff. You know that artists rarely think their own work is good enough to be seen by others. We know what it looked like when it was first imagined, and we will never capture that. But you have that je ne sais quoi that makes a really great artist.

  2. Congratulations on finishing a sketchbook! Every year I promise myself I will but never do, mostly because I have about ten different ones and am forever misplacing them. Maybe there’s going to come a year when I suddenly finish all of them!

    I think it’s great you showed your work to someone in this raw form (even if you didn’t entirely mean to!). I think it’s a universal truth that we never like our own work, we’re too tied up in seeing the mistakes, or the potential, or what it was “supposed” to look like. What’s that joke? … “if at first you don’t succeed, destroy all the evidence”!

    As for choosing a favourite, that’s tricky, I like a number of these pages for totally different reasons. You’ve got some really interesting character designs there, but I also like the double-page spread with the house in deep space on the left and the sailing ship on the right – were they part of a single piece or did they just go together that way? I also like the page on the right at about 2:10 with the tree in the middle and the dark vignetting – would like to see that the right way up!

    Oh, and as someone who’s learnt a little Russian and a little French and then tried to communicate with them, I totally understand what you went through in the shop. Thankfully my Russian friends speak good English!

    1. Thank you! I am very surprised myself, as I am the champion of unfinished business. Haha, yes, those are the words of wisdom I have to wrangle myself to forget. If I had a motto, it would be “Discard nothing, just cover it in black ink and hope for the best” – hence the large amount of “vignetting” in my sketchbook. Thanks for letting me know which bits you like, responses like yours kind of validate the existence of this blog and I really appreciate it. The house and the ship were indeed meant to go together. I like to try to match all the double pages in a theme if I can, and in my mind ships and outer space houses go together very logically. Haha, I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles abroad! And good luck finishing your sketchbooks, hopefully I’ll get to see them, too. 🙂

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