Front Cover
How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal
by Claudia Nice
pub. North Light Books
Hardback 17.99, 128 pages
Distributed in UK by David & Charles
ISBN 1 58180 044 4

What is a sketchbook journal, you may ask? Well according to Claudia Nice it is a journal containing sketches and bits of personal history; an outlet for visual expression and artistic creativity. It may also add text entries to jog the memory and notes on such things as sounds and smells.

The content is split into eleven chapters. There is the usual obligatory chapter on materials, but perhaps unlike other books on painting Nice emphasises the need for longevity because these journals should last a lifetime. Therefore selecting neutral ph and acid-free materials becomes important. Nice also also gives full instructions for making your own field kit to carry drawing/painting materials and your journal.

One of the basic precepts behind the book is that the author aims its content at both artists and non-artists. In that latter case Nice takes the novice through the basics, beginning with a young child's [age 6] drawings, then in the next few pages introduces how to draw basic shapes, some ideas on starting a drawing, drawing circles and curves, perspective, creating shadows, dealing with human faces, and working in the field, among others. It's very good hands-on overview which shouldn't overwhelm or frighten the novice.

The next part of the book concentrates on using various media - pen, ink and watercolour - and has a useful colour wheel to help the novice understand the basics of colour theory. Nice also deals with using objects to make imprints of textures and forms.

The rest of the book is a rather rambling, but nevertheless interesting, medley of ideas and examples of subject matter for your potential sketchbook journal and executing those ideas. In fact, the entire book is taken up with examples of the author's own sketchbook journal entries which makes this a very personal tome. There is also a section on the 'sketchbook of the imagination' which contains all sorts of fantasy beings and animals. This is the only book of those reviewed on this website which has dealt with this topic.

Bottom line.... Artists with experience will only gain from this book if they are seeking new ideas for keeping a painted or drawn record; technically they will have little to gain from its pages. The greatest beneficiaries, however, will be novice artists because the book's content contains a lot of the basics whch are simply explained.

Copyright © 2001