This past week I got inspired to begin going through my old sketchbooks for inspiration and to recall old art notes. I must have over three dozen sketchbooks and journals dating all they way back from 96′ to the present. They live on a closet shelf in my office, look mightily alike, and are often forgotten about because searching through them is a quite daunting. As I went through the sketchbooks I began flagging them with Post-it bookmarks for ideas that would be worth remembering and revisiting to make it easier next time. That’s when I thought of how great it would be if I had some sort of digital catalogue so I wouldn’t have to always search through these sketchbooks physically.
When I find a book that I want to remember to look into later, I take a picture of it with my iPhone so I will remember it when I’m thumbing through my photos, my way of battling my sometimes bad memory. I thought, what if this same idea could apply to sketchbooks as well? I could take photos of my sketches with my iPhone and be able to access them easily later on for reference. With the quality of photos the iPhone produces, they could even be used for bringing the art into digital medium in lieu of a scanner. It’s a simple idea; the photos are photographed, then using Apple Photo Stream they will all be on the cloud accessible on my Mac or iPad Pro everywhere I go. After I realized some of the sketches were high enough quality to work with digitally, I pulled down this Spider-Man sketch
(process previously posted) onto my iPad Pro and began digitally inking and coloring it in Procreate. The art was from three years ago and would likely have been forgotten or never progressed any further if I hadn’t brought it into my field of vision again through this process.
Here’s how you can try it, unfortunately I think this works best within the Apple ecosystem because how well Photo Stream integrates with Mac and iPad, but there may be a Windows or Android equivalent that can do the same thing.
What you will need:
– iPhone with Photo Stream turned on with iCloud
– A PC or Mac with Photo Stream set up, here’s an article on setting it up on PC
– Lots of sketchbooks!
Step 1 – Flag Those Sketchbooks
This is the fun part, looking back at all that good stuff. Depending on how many sketchbooks you have it may take awhile, I had about three dozen books and it took about 12-16 hours over the course of a day and one-half. Go through your sketchbooks and flag anything you think is worth revisiting or remembering with Post-its, adding a simple note to each one for reference.
Step 2 – Notate the Covers
This can be done in anyway you feel meets your aesthetic, but I simply taped a Post-it on the lower right corner or the sketchbook, I added a year range to when the book was in use, and a percentage to how full the book is, in case I want to use the rest of it. I also added some notes on the contents; what kind of sketches, studies, or projects that are touched on in the book. When it made sense I also added a small commentary on the contents if it seemed helpful.
Step 3 – Take Photos
The next step is to take go through the sketchbooks and photograph each page using your iPhone’s camera. I would take a picture of the cover first, so that in my Photo Stream I can tell what sketch goes with what book in case I need to dig for the original, also it helps me date the the sketches since I notated that on the covers earlier. If you’re able to line the books up in chronological order before taking the photos that would help, but since I didn’t realize it until after I started I will likely sort the sketchbooks into year buckets later. Shoot the photos flat and even as possible avoiding perspective skewing with good light and avoiding harsh shadows. On some I cared more than others, depending on the subject I was photographing. – Make sure there is enough space on you phone. For me I had to delete some podcasts and pics to fit them all on their, but once their up in the cloud they can be deleted from your phone itself.
Step 4 – Sketchbooks in the Cloud
Now that your sketchbooks are on the cloud you can open and edit them, rotate or crop as desired, organize them into buckets, delete a few if applicable, for me I’m going to keep them raw just because there are so many. I can now easily thumb through them on my iPhone, Mac Photos App, or iPad Pro, or import them into my work on iPad Pro or Photoshop on my Mac and make use of these finally!
Step 5 – Archive Your Originals
I completed this project by putting my sketchbooks back in chronological order and labeling my shelves so I could access the originals quicker than before and so that I was more aware of them. I simply put Post-its on some of the more vague books and binders and on the shelf noting the order by year. Now having much easier access to my library, if I ever want to grab the originals or just take a trip down memory lane, they will be much easier to access now with the flags and notations I added earlier.
As an artist with so much work in drawers and shelves I found this process very gratifying and rewarding to not only see all my work in one place, but also be able to utilize it in a tangible way. I hope this inspires you too, and can be a useful project in your creative endeavors. Keep Creating! –WEGJ