The Sketchbook Project collects sketchbooks from people all over the world, and turns them into a global, traveling library — taking them on tour in a little trailer that’s a bit like a taco truck for books.
Created by friends Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker in 2006, The Sketchbook Project is a tribute to collaboration, proving that, sometimes, an artist doesn’t need a mystical muse to come and shower them with inspiration to make art happen, but just a neatly-planned project and a bunch of strangers to join with them.
To participate, you sign up for a sketchbook tour on the project’s website and once registered, receive a sketchbook, a send-in date, a choice of several different themes to center your sketchbook around (past themes include “Strange Neighbors,” “Borders and lines,” and “This is not about me”). Once submitted, your sketchbook is loaded onto The Sketchbook Project mobile library and goes on tour — becoming part of a worldwide community of artists, traveling across cities, and, in the end, living in The Sketchbook Project’s permanent library in Brooklyn, NY, where visitors can get a library card to check sketchbooks out.
In March, co-founder Steven Peterman traveled from the project’s headquarters in Brooklyn to Richmond, Virginia to speak at TEDxRVA, and brought the library with him.
I went to art school…I went to Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta and I wanted to create art, but I never — I didn’t think I was that good. I didn’t think I was ever going to be a professional artist, but I still wanted to create…
I really needed a purpose. I never liked to just make art for art’s sake. I wanted it to be for a show or I needed a deadline or something like that … so I was kind of struggling a little bit with this idea of just creating art for art’s sake and I knew that there were other people out there who also kinda felt this way — you know, they weren’t going to be professional artists; they weren’t going to be selling their work to museums or having these big shows, but they wanted to be inspired and create together…
So, I met this guy Shane …. and we came up with this idea for these projects.
Steven and Shane’s projects, the biggest being The Sketchbook Project, aim to get the crowd involved in art — to give even the most wayward artist purpose, deadlines, motivation. “Our mission,” they write on The Sketchbook Project website, “is to allow anyone to be able to participate in art, and to create a collection of work that represents the current state of artists worldwide.”
And since its start, The Sketchbook Project’s results have been incredible:
Participants from over 135 different countries on 6 continents
26,735 sketchbooks in the collection (as of March 2013)
962,100 pages in the collection
45,583 Sketchbook Project library cards issued
94,866 library check outs
For more information on the project, watch Steven’s entire talk below: (Photos via The Sketchbook Project and TEDxRVA)
In the middle of my PhD, I reached a point where I was completely and hopelessly stuck. Every avenue of research that I tried led to a dead end. It seemed like my basic assumptions just stopped working. I felt like a pilot flying through the mist and I lost all sense of direction.
…I stopped shaving; I found it very difficult to get up in the morning. I decided and I felt that I was unworthy of stepping into the gates of the university because I was not like Einstein or Newton or, in fact, any other scientist whose results I had learned about, because no one ever told me that scientists get stuck.
So I couldn’t be a scientist.
…And I noticed — maybe there’s a pattern here. I asked the other graduate students and they said, “Yeah! That’s exactly what happened to us — expect nobody told us. We studied science for thousands of hours, but not one hour of the actual doing of science: how to go into the unknown, what happens when you do research. We were taught that science is a series of logical steps, but it’s nothing like that when you actually do research.”
Uri takes lessons he learned while doing improvisational acting — a hobby that promised him failure from day one, he says — to make accepting roadblocks and uncertainty in scientific research easier to handle for himself, his students and his labmates.