Lockdown Sketchbooks

Sketchbook Commute Video

The sketchbook and its inherent mobility are and remain to be an essential or consistent aspect of my practice and working life. It is an object and place I travel with and within; whether it be carving out, identifying, or housing time, the sketchbook’s role as a space to think and or act within has always been a constant.

Pre-lockdown drawing in my sketchbook was integrated into and core to my practice – a virtual and ultimately mobile research tool, archive, and studio. The sketchbook was an integral part of a daily routine, both as a place and filter when engaged on trains, planes, tubes and buses, reflecting and responding to liminal moments, spaces and places and utilising and valuing those particular times in the day, projects or venture.

The lockdown removed this mobility as an aspect of practice, or did it? The sketchbook, in essence, has an element of self-imposed isolation or thinking time. The reality of lockdown ultimately removed the physical aspects of mobility and the compartmentalisation of time and focus embedded in my practice for the last 20 years. All activities merged within and restricted to one space, beginning and starting simultaneously or mostly continuing without demarcation or end! 

These activities now formed a continuous overlay of the personal and the professional, pedagogy and practice creating and dependant on one experiential location. This new all-encompassing location now contains, facilitates, and ultimately questions notions of importance and hierarchy regarding the apparently related or disparate through the hybrid physical and virtual experience. This led to a new approach where the sketchbook became live all day; it was no longer resigned to a bag. The sketchbook practice expanded to include additional spaces, that of the periphery of the work/home space. The area around the laptop and screen where drawing and notation would occur throughout the myriad of zoom meetings. Such meetings and conversations became essential to continue, restore and sustain the creative, practice-based and educational communities that initially seemed to be in danger of being mothballed.

The sketchbook as an object and personal activity evolved into a construct – physically by collaging and manipulating this marginalia, whether sections of or scraps torn from notes or papers, backs, fronts, and interiors of envelopes. This has led to a broader archival and reflective approach to the sketchbook across an extended physical landscape rather than an engagement with traditional notions of perception, deception, transcription, illusion, and device. A place to think and act in groups no larger than one, though connected to many and devoid of timetable or allocation.

The lockdown sketchbook became a surprisingly expansive format to engage with and outline journeys without moving. It is a starting point and opportunity to share how new ways of working are heralded, assimilated, positioned and challenged. For me, this way of thinking and operating became the underlying experience and reality of lockdown – in fact, the opposite – an opening up and not a shutting down.