Think About This: The Value of Sketchbooks

I have about a dozen sketchbooks around the apartment now.  In them my imagination runs wild.  My hand draws images of what is and what could be.  I draw word maps.  I sketch.  I do SWOT analysis.  I learn a lot by actively thinking and writing this way.  It’s great to be able to instantly see what you’re thinking about with a few strokes of a pen.

I’ve had one with me most of the time since probably the middle of 2009. One day my girls are going to go through them and get a better idea of who Dad really is/was/etc.  At least that’s my hope and so sometimes I do leave them Easter Egg-type thoughts and notes.

My favorite sketchbooks right now are ones you can buy at Half Price Books.  They’re hardcover with a spiral and have a good 100-200 sheets of the prettiest, most inviting white space one can imagine.  They’re only about $8 and one of my greatest fears is that they’re going to quit carrying them. (If you’re ever in there and want to pick me one up, I’d be happy to fill it up for you, though, I’d also encourage you to keep it for yourself and go exploring.) I’ve tried the ones for my Mac, or the iPhone, and thought about the one for the iPad, but to me there’s nothing like writing in one in pen, or pencil or marker, or pastel, or charcoal.  Yes, you can do that on a computer now, too, but I think I’m going to stay Old School; at least on this one thing.

A Gift From My Mom

One of the things my mom gave me for Christmas was another sketchbook.  It wasn’t like my HPB books, but it has something I’m left to ponder.

And as I sat dining this morning over my bowl of Life cereal and eating an English muffin, I looked at the cover and began to ponder what’s written, actually pressed, into the cover of this one.

It says:  Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.

What Does That Mean? 

Ok, so here’s the question. In a sketchbook, where I share my dreams, aspirations and often strategic thinking, am I actually working hard at it, too?

Or is it commenting about dreamers who sit idly by and write something down in the book instead of going and doing something about it?

All I Know About Everything

Once one of my uncles at Christmas gave my late grandfather, Andrew Sheptak, a similar book.  (Grandpa was an artist.  He was born in Czechoslovakia and had emigrated to America before WWII, I think. And oh, was he ever opinionated.) The title on it was: All I Know About Everything.  The family joke was this: when it came to what all grandpa knew, the book appropriately was filled with blank pages. (I can still hear Grandma telling me about it over the phone.) The corollary to the first book was a second book, this one entitled, “More About What I Know About Everything.” And yes, it was blank, too!

Of course, Grandpa Sheptak thought where ever he was was a sketchbook.  In my youth I watched him sketch scenes on the bark of Birch trees in Northern Michigan, and write on the walls of the garage and basement of their house about what the temperature was that day, that my mom had come to visit, or that he’d seen the first bright red cardinal of the season contrasted by the white of the snow still on the ground.

His notes are in dozens of art books I still keep on my shelves.  I may never get to some of the art work in the books, but I have made a point to scan through them to learn more about what Grandpa “knew about everything.”  Because it’s in a sketchbook, that answer often becomes quite apparent–the person writing in them oft confesses more about what they do not know than what they presently or maybe ever will understand.

Maybe I should write a one act, one sketchbook play on such.   Now what would be the most appropriate thing to call it?  Sketchbook? Or All I Know About Everything?

Time to get out my sketchbook.  Enjoy.

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This is an image of the tree line from the new County Road 510 Bridge near Marquette, Michigan.

1 Comment

  1. Clark Kent's Lunchbox

    “Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.” That is a great, great quote. I need to hang it in my office somewhere.

    I’m with you. I can’t use those electronic sketch pads. Has to be pen and paper all the way. Good post.


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Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander, a selfie from camping for 13 weeks in 2022 on the Claxton family land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northwest of Marquette.

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