Works in Progress - Winter 2015

Have Sketchbooks, Will Travel

By Chloe Taft | December 8, 2014
Photo courtesy of the Sketchbook Project
Photo courtesy of the Sketchbook Project


Secret adventures, revenge, things found on restaurant napkins, and dirigibles. These are a few of the book topics at the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project, a venture that encourages patrons to draw in blank books—some 31,000 so far.

Steven Peterman helped found the project in Atlanta in 2006 and three years later moved it to Brooklyn’s hip Williamsburg neighborhood. Anyone who pays a fee ($25, or $60 if you want it digitized for viewing online) is given a 32-page sketchbook and a deadline to fill it however he or she chooses. Once submitted, the books are free to check out or browse online.

Participants so far come from more than 135 countries and range from professional artists and illustrators to casual travelers to members of student groups. The project is public in the sense that anyone can view the books, but the drawings often are personal. “People let loose and use the books as a way to say something about themselves, share stories, deal with something that they’re coping with,” Peterman says. “It’s a great platform to be really honest with yourself.”

As the project grows, Peterman and his team are spreading the word beyond Brooklyn. In 2012, they designed and outfitted a mobile library and drove across the country with 4,500 sketchbooks from the collection. The next tour, exhibiting books that meet a January deadline, departs this spring: Hello San Francisco, Austin, Toronto, Chicago, and at least five more locations in the United States and Canada.

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