I’ve always felt that looking at an artist’s sketchbook can be, or at least feel like, an invasion of privacy, a bit like reading private correspondence. However, when it’s offered freely and is of this sort of quality, those reservations don’t need to be applied. The fact is that many artists would be pleased if their finished works were up to the standard of what Kurt knocks off as an aide-memoire.
Sketchbooks are a central part of the process of Kurt Jackson’s exhibited work and are, as becomes clear, more than just visual notes made at a specific time and place. Rather, they are the place where he evolves the finished result, almost in the manner of a discussion with himself. As a result, they’re even more illuminating that you might think. The other useful thing here is that we have Kurt’s own words to describe the process. This is much more than just an “I did this, I did that” progression, rather a description of the way the scene developed and what was happening at the same time – “A buzzard flaps from bank to bank as we pass underneath – a continuous line on my page, up one bank the birds shape and come down the other bank – all joined together, all connected. A dark, fluid pencil line.” This stream-of-consciousness becomes poetic and all-absorbing, merging the written word and the painted shape into a single work of art.
This is a remarkable book that says much more about the creative process, practically, intellectually and spiritually, than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s utterly compelling.