I have been holding onto this monster sketchbook, different from most I choose to draw in and a bit overwhelming at a whopping 14x17 inches. After three poorly drawn pages in 2010, intimidation got the best of me and I squirreled it away. Then eleven years later and armed with new confidence in my drawing skills, I was determined to revisit and fill it. Curious to see what the first page drawing was, I opened it up to a very stiff and simple black ink self-portrait accompanied by notes on a painting project titled “LA FACES” (meaning ‘LouisianA Faces’). This got me thinking…I find there are always two pages that are the hardest to fill in any sketchbook – the first and the last pages.
When starting a new sketchbook, I am eager to fill it up with art and ideas. But I get anxious when I open it to that first bright white clean page. What should the first drawing be??? That first page sets the tone of the entire sketchbook. I want it to “WOW!” the viewer and hook them into turning the pages to see more. I find that I usually draw the same themes or subjects on the first page of my sketchbooks - doodles, self-portraits, a sun and/or stylized lettering of the word “ART” or “THE SKETCHBOOK OF RIECE WALTON” (my homage to Picasso who inscribed “I am the sketchbook of Pablo Picasso” in one of his sketchbooks).
The first page in this sketchbook is not impressive – a scratchy self-portrait in black ink with some stylized lettering. To most, the lettering would not mean much, but for me it is a tribute to a dear friend and former teacher, Lloyd Sensat. As a student, we called his stylized letters “Sensat Letters.” His lettering itself was art – an old circus poster style with a graffiti feel. I still include some version of it in all my sketchbooks to pay my respects to Lloyd, as his ghost continues to influence me and my artwork.
The last page of a sketchbook is equally as difficult. It should tie the book together and show how the journey ends. What I find interesting in this monster sketchbook is that, by complete circumstance, the last page is also a self-portrait, drawn 11 years later than the first. But unlike the first, this one packs a punch with character, detail, and dramatic shading (it really shows how my drawing style has evolved over the years). Being that it was drawn near the end of the year and on the last page in the sketchbook, I wanted to express looking ahead to 2022, while keeping an eye on all that I learned in 2021. A perfect image for a last page.
After filling the monster sketchbook, I grabbed the next one off my shelf - one I had started a couple years ago. This one is much smaller at 3x9 inches, and the first page’s drawing is a wacky waving tube man. Who knows what I will come up with for the last page in this one. I just hope it will be good so the other drawings won’t be embarrassed.