The Sketchbook Project Presents Online 24,000 Sketchbooks, Created by Artists from 135 Countries


Artist: Helen Sander­son

If you love some­thing give it away.

If it doesn’t come back to you, it was nev­er real­ly yours…

Or, it’s a labor of love you cre­at­ed under the aus­pices of the Brook­lyn Art Library, with the full knowl­edge that giv­ing it away is a cost of par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Every year, thou­sands of artists, from the expe­ri­enced to the fledg­ling, pay a nom­i­nal fee to fill a 5x7 sketch­book with a cus­tom bar­code. Upon com­ple­tion, the books are to be mailed back to the one room Art Library, to become part of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion, cur­rent­ly over 34,000 vol­umes strong (24,000 of which appear online). Vis­i­tors receive free library cards that allow them to view as many vol­umes as they like in-house, three at a time.

Artists will­ing to cough up a slight­ly more sub­stan­tial fee can have their book dig­i­tized for online view­ing at The Sketch­book Project.


Artist: Tim Oliveira

In their vir­gin state, the sketch­books are uni­form. From there, any­thing goes, pro­vid­ed they retain their orig­i­nal height and width, and swell to no more than an inch thick. (Messy, gooey books might face rejec­tion, in part because they threat­en to con­t­a­m­i­nate the herd.)

Dip in at ran­dom and you will find an aston­ish­ing array of fin­ished work: messy, metic­u­lous, inti­mate, inscrutable, self-mock­ing, sin­cere, abstract, nar­ra­tive, care­ful­ly plot­ted, utter­ly impro­vi­sa­tion­al, accom­plished, ama­teur — ren­dered in a wide vari­ety of media, includ­ing ball point pen and col­lage.


Artist: Estel­la Yu

My favorite way to browse the col­lec­tion, whether in per­son or online, is by select­ing a theme, just as the artists do when sign­ing up for the annu­al project. 2016’s themes include  “sand­wich,” “great hopes and mas­sive fail­ures,” and “Ahhh! Mon­ster!”

(“I’ll choose my own theme” is a peren­ni­al menu offer­ing.)

The theme that guid­ed the artists whose work is pub­lished here­in is “Things Found on Restau­rant Nap­kins.” Would you have guessed?


Artist: Christo­pher Mof­fitt

You can also search on spe­cif­ic words or medi­ums, artists’ names, and geo­graph­ic loca­tions. To date, The Sketch­book Project has received sketch­books by cre­ative peo­ple from 135+ coun­tries.

Those ready to take the Brook­lyn Art Library’s Sketch­book Project plunge can enlist here. Don’t fret about your qualifications—co-founders Steven Peter­man and Shane Zuck­er have made things demo­c­ra­t­ic, which is to say uncu­rat­ed, by design.


Artist: Bet­ty Esper­an­za

via The New York­er

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New York Pub­lic Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Down­load and Use

Down­load 422 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

LA Coun­ty Muse­um Makes 20,000 Artis­tic Images Avail­able for Free Down­load

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her 2011 sketch­book, “I’m a Scav­enger” is housed in the Brook­lyn Art Library. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.