Brooklyn Sketchbook Project: My History-Themed Sketchbook

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In September, I had a very exciting package pushed through my letterbox. It was my Brooklyn Sketchbook Library sketchbook. 

I'd heard about the idea through my local Urban Sketching group and decided to take part. You order a small brown, blank sketchbook, fill it up with whatever you want and then mail it back and it basically lives forever more in the Brooklyn Sketchbook Library, near New York. You get a notification when someone views your book and you can have it digitised if you want to, as well.It also travels around in a van so even those not local to Brooklyn can have a look at your sketchbook. It's a cool initiative, it's fully funded by the contributors (us) and I loved the whole idea of it.  

I chose the theme 'Cityscape Escape', mostly because I'm drawn to buildings and city scenes. When I ordered it in the summer, I had expected to take my sketchbook out and about on days out, weekend trips and holidays around the UK (I had a visit to Edinburgh planned), but the Covid-19 outbreak and various restrictions had other ideas for that. So I looked up photos of all the cool places I'd been on my phone and turned it into a kind of travel-heritage journal. All historic things. There's a sketch from a photo I took at York while I was at uni in the late 1990s, a drawing of a Gloucester street I visited when lockdown briefly eased in summer 2020 - and some images of interesting places around my local area. 

I completed the sketchbook in pencil, unipin fineliners and Faber Castell watercolours. I've also used my ever-faithful Tombow brush pens in there, too. And I've scribbled in notes about the places - their history, the characters that lived there and any other interesting bits of info, as well. Locked down at home in various degrees for the best part of a year, it became a really beautiful and mindful way of reminiscing about all my past adventures. I think I'll fill up another one when rules are eased - and do that one in the open air, with new places I'd love to go! 

This was so much fun to do. You can have a look at the video of the sketchbook here: 

Thinking about taking part in the sketchbook challenge yourself? Here are a few tips I can pass on... 

1. Plan ahead
It might look like a small book when it comes but it can be a struggle to get it filled up in time. Once you place the order, you might be in for a wait until it gets to you, so use this time to figure out what theme you're going to do and what sort of subjects or art you'll create to complete it. 

2. Consider your tools
The sketchbook has a plain brown cover and I found the paper inside super absorbent. I would load up my brush with paint and the paper would suck it up. So I found it impossible to do any big, billowing washes - I just coloured in using the paints. It also does show through the other side slightly and I imagine it would if you're using any thick, black pens, for example. Of course, if you use both sides one side will hide the other, but just a warning. 

3. Order early
The deadline might seem ages away to you but life does get in the way of that promise to yourself to sketch something every day. Don't wait until a month before the deadline to order your book, do it as soon as you know you want to take part. And if you're ordering a few weeks before a deadline, maybe wait and order it for the next one. 

4. Don't take it too seriously
Yes, ok, so a sketchbook that's going to live in a Sketchbook library on the other side of the world for generations to come is a bit daunting. But I actually found myself doing some of my most spontaneous, lively work in this book. If you're too careful, you'll put off doing it - or your style won't look like yours because it'll be too tight and rigid. Treat it like a hobby and be as creative as you need! 

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts - or your experiences making a sketchbook project book of your own - in the comments below!