Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Christy's New Things To Love In NYC: The Sketchbook Project

Today marks the beginning of this series in which I share some of my new favorite finds in NYC. Enjoy!
While walking to Egg in Williamsburg, one of my favorite brunch spots in Brooklyn, I always pass this trendy storefront with the words "The Sketchbook Project" etched on the door. I have always been curious about what is happening inside this little brick-and-mortar shop, but usually by the time I stick a fork into my eggs rothko, I've somehow completely forgotten about my curiosity.

It kept happening over and over again (because let's face it, I love me some eggs rothko) until one day I decided to bypass brunch entirely and head straight over to the little shop with walls lined with colorful sketchbooks.

And, guys, I'm so glad I did.



It turns out that this little spot which I kept passing time-after-time in my lust for brunch is actually one of my new favorite places in the city. The Sketchbook Project is like the guy in every John Hughes movie who was there the whole time but just hadn't been given the time of day.

You can head on over to the website to see a more official description for how this place operates, but essentially, it's a library comprised of, you guessed it, sketchbooks. Over 30,000 of these precious books have been donated to the project from artists all over the world, and the result is a breathtaking room filled wall-to-wall with artistic genius.


When we walked in, I was ready to tear this place up. I imagined myself picking out all of the sketchbooks with the prettiest bindings and just hoarding them to myself for a few hours. As you can imagine, that would have been insanity.

No no, folks, there is a system, as well there should be. The first thing you do upon entering the Brooklyn Art Library (the flagship location for The Sketchbook Project) is get yourself a library card. You then head to a computer in the back, scan your card, and magic happens. You are presented with a list of categories by which you can request your sketchbooks. Within a drop of a hat, a helpful employee (or volunteer? I'm not sure) is at your side with two books -- one from the selection you have chosen and another entirely random one.

For example, the theme I selected was "In 5 minutes..." and I was brought two books, actually both from that same theme. At the start, I was entirely unsure of what to expect. I thought maybe I'd just skim through books of quick sketches from, yes, talented people, but I was fully unprepared for the level of artistry I was about to encounter.

Artist: Lady Orlando, Mexico, In 5 minutes...
Artist: Lady Orlando, Mexico, In 5 minutes...

Artist: Lady Orlando, Mexico, In 5 minutes...

Watercolor, pop-up pages, poetry, mixed media -- these books were so much more than I ever could have imagined. They were like small art galleries unto themselves.

Artist: Maria do ceu diel Oliveira, Brazil, In 5 minutes...

Artist: Maria do ceu diel Oliveira, Brazil, In 5 minutes...

We sat there for an hour, requesting more and more books, sitting at a long table in total amazement of what existed in these pages.



There was such an intimacy to opening them. Carefully, I'd turn each page, with full reverence for how precious their contents were. It was as though I had received the sweetest invitation to read the diary of someone I had always wanted to know better. Every picture, every poem, every pencil stroke was privileged information that I received joyfully.

Georgianna Kreiger, California, Superheroes in everyday clothes

I was particularly excited when I stumbled upon a short note written to me from a young artist named Clara at the start of her sketchbook.

Clara Herzog, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Uncharted waters

She was fifteen-years-old, and she was good.

Clara Herzog, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Uncharted waters

Clara Herzog, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Uncharted waters

Clara Herzog, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Uncharted waters

The Sketchbook Project is a reminder that true art isn't limited to ornate fixtures in world-renowned museums. Instead, art can be sandwiched tightly in a Moleskine notebook, maybe the very one sitting in your messenger bag at this exact moment. The true artistry comes in the invitation, in welcoming someone else to step into your private pages and know you through them.

Marta Vivanco, Madrid, Spain, Uncharted waters

Marta Vivanco, Madrid, Spain, Uncharted waters

If you want to visit The Brooklyn Art Library, head on over to Williamsburg (103A North 3rd St). For those of you who aren't in or around New York City, don't feel left out! The Sketchbook Project has a mobile library that tours nationwide. It may be making a stop in your town. You can also peruse their digital library RIGHT FREAKING NOW! And if you're reading this post and you're thinking, "Hey! I'm artist! I should have a sketchbook in this library!" then you should consider contributing your work to the project. I know I'd love to see it.

I was going to end this post with a page from my sketchbook, but unfortunately it's mostly just grocery lists and standup notes at this point, so I'm not sure it's much to look at. What would I find if I looked in your sketchbook?

11 comments:

  1. That is too cool! I've never heard of this place, but I'm sure going to head there now. Amazing! Thanks for the tip:).

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    1. I hadn't heard of it either! I just kind of happened upon it on my way to brunch, but I feel like it's one of the cooler experiences I've had in Brooklyn so far.

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  2. MINE IS THERE SOMEWHERE!

    I did this as part of my university degree, I filled out a sketchbook and sent it in, I've always wanted to go, aaaaaaaaaaah

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    1. I was so excited when I saw this comment! That is just too awesome. You can look up sketchbooks by artist's name, so next time I'm there, I'll look yours up!

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  3. I'm for sure going to have to check this place out. Also, I'm pretty excited about your new series and will probably be trailing around NYC behind you each time you post something. There are one million things to do here and some things I would just never find on my own.

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    1. Thanks, Steph! Sometimes I feel like there are almost too many wonderful things to do in NYC. It can get overwhelming, so I agree, it's good to just check in with someone you trust about what to do in the city. I'd love to hear some of your favs too!

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  4. Wow, this is amazing! This has now topped my places of where I want to go when I visit NYC. The digital library doesn't do it justice. I must sit near the shelves for hours. ;)

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    1. Absolutely! It's an excellent way to spend an afternoon. When are you visiting? Let me know if you need any other recommendations!

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  5. This is such an amazing project, I wish they did something like this over here.

    This year I treated myself to a pocket Dodo Pad personal organiser, and I'm so glad I did. It's designed to be doodled in as well as to be used as a diary, so I've been really enjoying filling up the blank doodle pages during long staff meetings. Here's one of them:

    http://web.stagram.com/p/705772799012321476_211584301

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  6. This makes me wish I lived in NY! Although I'm discovering there's more art in Delaware than I ever would have thought.

    My sketchbook is not nearly as inspiring as those, but I like it. It's mostly got rough sketches for design concepts and the occasional whimsical drawing!

    Jenn | Business, Life & Design

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    1. I positively love your little whimsical drawing! I want to see more!

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