While a sketchbook can be an intimate and personal object, rarely to be shared, it can also be a source of inspiration to others. Peeking into someone else’s sketchbook we might see our own thoughts reflected, the documentation of a creative journey that looks just like ours, or simply find a place of entertainment and inspiration where we could spend spend hours browsing.
Founded in 2006 by art school graduate Steven Peterman, the Sketchbook Project was born out of the idea that anyone can be an artist. Steven’s intention was to develop a global platform for artists to share their work, and he chose the humble sketchbook as the medium and a good starting point for any type of artist.
In 2009 Peterman and the Sketchbook Project moved to Brooklyn, New York, and the crowd-sourced art project soon found its new home at the Brooklyn Art Library, now holding over 50,000 books by creative people from 135 countries around the globe – by far the largest collection of sketchbooks in the world. The project has reignited art careers, sparked creativity in young minds, connected long lost friends and even helped a few marriage proposals!
The topics depicted in the sketchbooks are varied, ranging from the complex to the mundane . And you might be amazed to find 74 sketchbooks devoted entirely to sandwiches. The possibilities are endless: a journal, a memoir, a collection of watercolours, Polaroids taped to the page, doodles, pieces of fabric, leaves, feathers, stamps, a playful ribbon escaping here and there. With no rules about what to put in the sketchbook, it’s creative freedom at its fullest.
Each artist is sent the same 5″ × 7″ blank custom sketchbook; they can add, paint, fold or embroider anything into it as long as the book stays within its original dimensions. Any material is allowed on the outside of the book, except for glitter as it rubs off onto other covers. The project is open to anyone, anywhere, whether you are a professional artist, a skilled illustrator, an art enthusiast or an 80-year-old with a creative mind. Everyone is welcome.
These days, the collection is available for public exploration by appointment only, but the Digital Library is always open. This virtual extension of the Brooklyn Art Library contains 25,019 complete scanned contributions to the Sketchbook Project, with more being added regularly. When using the Digital Library, you can curate collections of your favourite sketchbooks and share them with your friends, searching by artist name, location, medium or theme, and if you are stuck on what to search for, you can ask for a random book to be selected for you.