Some Thoughts on Artisanal Imagery

I sketch when I travel. There’s an interesting thing about sketching. When you take the time to focus and sketch, you remember everything very vividly. Not just the object that you were sketching, but the whole thing, the whole event. How hot was it? What did it sound like? Where were you sitting? What other objects or persons were present? It’s like that for me, and I’ve asked enough other artists to know that it’s like that for them. I take lots of photos, but it’s the sketches that contain memories.

Sketching also opens up a whole different relationship with local people. Photography is instantaneous, and even if you are a very good photographer, the skill is invisible to a viewer watching you do it. Photography is a private experience between you and stuff you're looking at. Even portrait photography, which can be awfully personal, places the subject in a pretty passive position relative to the photographer. And, there's a funky kind of anti-social, off-putting weirdness to holding a camera up in front of your face, while real life is happening right in front of you. Sketching, however, is very public. Everyone can see what you are doing. They all can see what you're looking at. As they watch you finish out the sketch, they can see exactly how you are processing the experience. They can have opinions.

Sketching looks like “work,” and usually, in places where I go for adventure, everybody who lives there, well, they work a lot. So, they appreciate watching someone do what looks like work, something that takes time, involves skill, and delivers a product. And so, I have found that bringing along a sketchbook has opened doors all over the world to places and experiences I would never have had otherwise. I have sketches of places that have never been photographed, because photography was forbidden in those places. And since I do carry a camera, I can give the sketches away without losing them completely. If the occasion presents itself, I shoot the sketches at a high pixel resolution, keep the photos, and hand the originals out as gifts. My sketches are hanging in some pretty remote places, from Turkey to Thailand, on the walls of palaces, shops, and village huts. I like it that way.

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