Sacred Sketchbooks

You wanted to know.

Carol Es- Space Pen - click for detail

It began some years ago - like so many artists - I felt down about my art and rethunk my path. I'll do this at times. I'll need new inspiration. A change. A new challenge, and I'll have to pull myself out of my comfort zone. I decided to call Ellie Blankfort. She happens to run an artist's advisory service, although, she does much more than that. She is like a coach and a mentor. She has a ton of art history expertise and curating experience. Best of all, she understands artists. So I began working with her a couple times a month.

I met Ellie in 2006 when I had a studio in San Pedro at Angels Gate Cultural Center. It was the year I was a candidate for the LACMA Modern and Contemporary Art Council's Art Here and Now program, of which she was a member. The council does studio visits with local artists and then purchases a work for the permanent collection (but not from me, I didn't win; Elliot Hundley did). Still, I was visibly nervous having LACMA curator, Howard Fox, and the rest of the committee wandering around my studio asking questions. Ellie really stood out. She took the time to reassure me that I had value as an artist. At the time, the council was very interested in my Journal Project.

Carol Es - Journal Project - click for detail Carol Es - Journal Project - click for detail

Years later, when we worked together privately, she introduced me to a sketchbook exercise she calls the, "Eye-book." She uses the technique with her artists that feel creatively blocked, but I didn't think much of it at first. In fact, it felt a little bit like "homework." Now I wonder if she knows how powerful this thing really is. It seemed to work like magic after only a couple of months, and I made sure I did it every morning.

The steps of the Eye-book are very specific and they alternate every other day. You use writing and drawing in a way that stimulates both sides of the brain. And these actions tap into your creative conscious and sub-conscious mind. Keeping up the discipline of it regularly doesn't just give you access into your visual intellect; it makes creative thought crystal clear.

By the third month into this process I felt like a brand new artist. At least the way I practiced it. I, of course, melded Ellie's instructions in with my own approach and my own philosophies to suit my own process. Normally you are free to use any medium you want and render your sketches to your heart's content. I purposely use only a Space Pen. That, or a simple pencil. I have a philosophy - that developed over time while learning the Eye-book - that something flowy like a ball point pen removes all the nonsense of "art." Because I don't see this exercise as art-making. My view is that you can't if you want real results. I have known a LOT of artists over the years, and the most common problem I hear among them is either that they can't make art directly from their imagination, or they don't know how to tap into their own original style. This breaks everything down to the bear bones, which is all about the line. Now, maybe I already had the ability to draw from imagination. Not to sound cocky, but let's assume it. I still didn't have this kind of control over it, or the confidence until the Eye-book. I also didn't have the ability to be so objective. And even though I've never had any painting ideas in mind while filling these sketchbooks (you're not supposed to think about that), I've found several raw compositions in them after the fact.