John deWolf's Sketchbook

" Speed of exploration over the quality of line work is my maxim."


John deWolf
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Earlier in the day, I was asked to submit images from my sketchbook. I thought: How did they know sketchbooks mean so much to me? Did I say something? Perhaps it was an uncanny coincidence. Only hours earlier I remarked on a student’s sketchbook and their progress exploring and collecting ideas. Maybe it was leaving the house sans keys and wallet, yet with sketchbook in hand?

My sketchbooks were for intended for me—and few others—until now, as I have been asked to share them. I view my sketchbook as diaries to express an interior monologue. Any given page represents half-thoughts and impressions I may have about a project, but page after page reveals the evolution of a concept. Leafing through, I often recall what I ate, whom I was with, or where I was when I made a certain mark, regardless of the journal’s age. (And yet, I cannot remember to leave the house with everything I need for the day!)

I put little care into my mark making. I have fleeting moments to explore ideas, thus quantity and speed of exploration over the quality of line work is my maxim. My books are neither pretty nor at times legible—coffee or wine stain, bent cover and lost spine are not issues for me. While not precious, losing a book, however, might lead to months of anxiety. Thankfully, I believe I still have ALL of them.

They also serve as scrapbooks and wallets; on this day, my journal revealed cash, receipts for reimbursable expenses and a dental appointment card. In addition to being a diary of the affairs of work, my sketchbooks are a means to keep my desk tidy—though rarely it is—the sounds of paper torn and Scotch tape pulled are often heard from my office. Members of the staff jokingly suggest, “scrapbooking?” I rebut, “trying not to lose track of things.” To me, a napkin, drink coaster, even a receipt all are paper waiting for a “eureka” moment.

Perhaps my sketchbooks are a loose visual storyboard of me. A collection of scribbles, Post-it notes, and torn paper my sketchbooks reveal an approach that is loose and methodical, scattered and multi-tasking, exploratory and iterative, obvious and ambiguous. 

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