Last Christmas I received this wonderful package from my eldest son. He had paid my way into "The Sketchbook Project," a traveling library of artists' books created by thousands of people from over 135 different countries. And what's more, he 'super-sized' it by assuring that the finished product would not only travel around the U.S. but would be "digitized" for others to see on line! How exciting...what pressure!
While my beautiful little manila covered book sat in my studio for many months, it always occupied a space in my brain. I kept mentally going through my roladex of 'great ideas' searching for the right topic, style, medium etc. The word 'wander' kept circulating; I think I may be a professional wanderer....but how to depict?
I Wonder As I Wander is a favorite hymn of mine. My research revealed that it was based on an Appalachian song fragment collected by John Jacob Niles in 1933 in the town of Murphy, NC. A young woman sang this haunting tune at an evangelical fundraiser for 25 cents a performance. Niles completed the song by composing more melody and adding lyrics. It was first performed that same year at theJohn C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.
I got the chills learning this as the Appalachian Mountains, Murphy and the Folk School all hold dear places in my life. As a wanderer at heart and a lifelong wonderer, the theme of the little book came together quite easily. I set to work writing the "poetry" and planning the pages. Here's a sneak peek:
There is a path (hmm, is that the yellow brick road...?) that connects each
page to the next.
Simple? yes, but that is what I like about it. No angst, no ax to grind, no rant or diatribe. Just simple, happy thoughts that could appeal to any age, simple easy drawings that share the wistfulness of the original song.
See the barcode on the back? This is an important part of the entire project. As soon as I pop this baby in the mail they will match it to my registration and set about photographing it for the on-line viewing. You can use my name as author to find it (after the Jan 15 deadline). But wait there's more:
the book will also go "on the road" in a little bookmobile of sorts that travels to different venues across the country. They camp out in public places for a day and visitors can freely punch in tags or subjects they might enjoy and voila! they get matched with several sketchbooks to "check out."
Someone asked me why in the world would an artist want to pay to send their work to a collection project. I wanted to ask why wouldn't they? I suppose that for me the Mission of the project so closely fits my own:
"We think art should be collaborative. Using the Sketchbook Project as our vehicle, we have connected tens of thousands of artists from all over the globe. We are the largest collection of living artists sketchbooks in the world."
Art should be available to everyone, art should contain pieces that appeal to a variety of people, if one is not exposed to real art (as in touching, smelling, connecting with the media) one will never, ever become a collector. If I can find a way to get "it" out there, I will.
And besides, it's kind of fun to think that my grandchildren could wander into the Brooklyn Art Library and wonder if grammy has anything in it.
Guess what? She does.
Wondering and Wandering,