Sketchbook Etiquette

Version of 7/29/2002

The humble sketchbook started as a way for an artist to carry around a lot of paper, which he turned into drawings, and which he could show to other people so they could see his ideas and how his style developed over time.

Eventually, other artists would draw in his sketchbook to show him things, a technique, a joke, whatever. Showing these drawings to other people was a lot of fun, as was drawing in other people's books. This grew until artists started keeping two sketchbooks, one for their own work, and one for the sketches of their fellow artists. The camaraderie and intimacy expressed in these books led to some wonderful artwork. Eventually non-artist friends and fans wanted to have books like these too.

The sketchbook as we know it today, and I'm referring specifically to the ubiquitous black sketchbooks fans are known for carrying, has a certain tradition behind it that a significant number of newcomers to the fandom are sadly unaware of.

The most important thing to remember is that sketchbooks are for SHARING art. They are for showing to other people, so that an artist's work is exposed to and seen by a lot of other people. They are NOT for grubbing up as much free artwork as possible for one's personal collection. If you're going to have a sketchbook, treat it as if you were the custodian of a public trust, like a library. This attitude is very important.

They also grew out of a way of showing friendship. Money doesn't buy love or friendship. While it may buy a sketch, remember that much of the sketching you will see going on will be between friends, because the artist WANTS to do it for a friend. Don't push the issue - you might not be as close to someone as you think, and it's no fun to find that out.

There are several points of etiquette on both sides of the equation.

If you own a sketchbook, remember the following:

I do have to mention the most heinous act that can be done to a book. Stealing.

Rarely is an entire book stolen, but, to give one of the most arch examples, pages have been torn out and stolen. A friend told me about someone taking a razor blade and cutting nine fully colored pictures from one of his books. Just think, now nobody will be able to see those pictures again except the thief, who probably just filed them away somewhere. So much for sharing. Someone who does something like this should be vilified by the entire fandom (And we know how long fans can hold a grudge).

On the artist's side:

That's it. Have fun!

Rich Chandler

Permission is hereby granted for this document to be circulated as far and wide as possible, including Furnet, Usenet, being included in FAQs or stored on BBSs and FTP sites, incorporated into Con program books or printed out as flyers. The only proviso is that it should be replaced with any updated version found, and any corrections, additions, or comments should be sent to me first.

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