It’s almost exactly two years since I reviewed the first Sketchbook Confidential and I wasn’t exactly complimentary about it. My problem with it was that, despite having two editors, it had no editorial content and therefore no way of knowing what it was that I was looking at. However, it must have struck some kind of a chord, at least in its home country, for here we are with volume 2.
Once again, 38 artists (two fewer than last time) present pages from their sketchbooks and say what they mean to them. And, again, they all seem to mean the same thing: a way of recording things, places, events and ideas. Robin Poteet says that sketching probably helps lower her blood pressure, which is arguably better, and certainly cheaper, than medication. I also don’t feel I know any more than I already did by being told that, “The local office-supply retailer binds my blank books for a nominal fee”. I’m guessing she’s a good customer and it’s sort of nice to know that her books are made for her, rather than being one of the almost endless variety available off the shelf, but I haven’t got any further into the creative process.
Selective quotes are unfair and I should say that the artists do their best to help us, but the problem, the same problem I had with the first volume, is that they all say the same thing and I have no editorial guidance to know what I should be looking for, or what these people are telling me about the creative process. Looking at an artist’s sketchbook can be illuminating. It can reveal what went on behind their public works, but it can also be like rummaging through their underwear drawer – just a little too intimate, too personal and, ultimately, unenlightening. Without a useful commentary, it can also be like looking though a pile of their family photographs albums – an endless parade of fading anonymity.