In July of 2007 I called up Rob Dunlavey and asked if he would like to do some sort of sketchbook experiment. I really didn’t know how to define how or what we were going to do this but I was open to anything. We ended up talking about ideas and directions of what we could do.
As we’ve all here at Drawger have come to find out, Rob really takes his sketchbooking seriously. It is really inspirational and I always enjoyed looking at his sketchbook stuff here at Drawger. I thought it would personally be a cool experience if I worked with him on something like this. Maybe I’ll learn something, maybe he’ll learn something…maybe we’ll make a pile of shit. Whatever! No matter what we thought would come of it, it would be a pretty cool project.
I was happy that Rob thought it was a cool idea and the rules we ended up with were pretty simple. We’d get a sketchbook, hold onto it for a couple of weeks/months and play around with it and mail it to each other when we hit a point that we thought we should pass it on. As far as the work itself, all was fair game. If one of us wanted to paint over something or redo a page, we did it. If we wanted to add something to an element that was already there, we did it. The only stipulation is that if we add or subtract something from a page, even completely painting over an entire page, we had to do it with respect to making a better piece. There certainly were some failures in this book and I’d say about 6 or so pages in their current state were completely different pieces of art when they started. This is a tall order because we are two separate artists with different sensibilities. We actually did have a couple of phone calls that were along the lines of “Oh man! You painted over that! I liked that!” when one actually liked what was happening and the other didn’t. Such is life.
This version was in progress: I remember Rob getting all pissed off when I painted this white figure all over his laborious circles that he painted then cut out individually and pasted down. It reminded me of that thing in Chuck E. Cheeses that you can jump around in with all the balls.
This sketchbook travelled the greater New England area for a year and a half and we saved some of the cancelled postage to go along with that book.
One of the things that I knew which was going to happen, and which I wanted to happen was the development of new elements and bringing my work somewhere new. Some of the elements that I first started in this sketchbook regularly appear in my professional work now. How to deal with odd shapes, strange colors and textures that I normally NEVER would have thought using was thrown in my face from Rob to deal with and elaborate on. Knowing that it was a no-holds-barred situation, it allowed me to mess with things and not worry too much about result. In my mind, often it was about the act of making art and not worrying too much about result. Still, I studied what I ended up making in the work and saw if something actually ‘worked’ or not. Even today, I look at some of the pages and think…”Nahh…that one still doesn’t work.” It came to a time with this book where we both needed to stop and accept the current results.
This version was in progress: I bought a tube of Liquitex Brilliant Blue I wanted to try out and had my wits about me to paint these stripes all over the place...even over pre-existing drawings. Rob ended up taking some of my used train tickets I threw in one shipment to create a new face.
During the time I had the book in-hand, I often took the opportunity to show the progress to students to inspire them to start their own sketchbooks. They still ask about it! In turn, over the last year or so, many started collaborative efforts with classmates or started their own very experimental sketchbooks themselves. It is fascinating to see what the students have been coming up with.
I attached in this post are some midway scans of the some of the art as a reference for you to see how one image developed over a period of time to what we ended up considering the ‘final art’ for the book.
In the end, it was a great self generated project and I made a great friend throughout the process. We haven't worked through what we're going to do with it yet but we've gotten into discussions about putting it up for auction to create a scholarship for the Society's Student Scholarship Competition or to give to a charity that we agree on. We'll see where that all goes. We did want to share the fun with everyone first!
This version was in progress: I thought this thing sucked but ended up pretty good in the final version after Rob got a hold of it.
Showing our sketchbook to students at the Academy of Art in San Francisco during my lecture there April 7th. (Photo: Chuck Pyle)
John 'Tough Guy' Dykes, Rob Dunlavey holding the book and Alan Witschonke. I went to an opening of Rob and John's and handed off the book to him.
The well-worn packaging that has seen at least 1,500 miles of traveling back and forth!