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15+ Artists Whose Sketchbooks Double as Handheld Art Galleries

The sketchbook has a special place in an artist's practice. It’s a visual playground, in which creatives can experiment with new ideas and imagery—without the pressure that comes from creating a finished piece. Rather, these books are an extension of one's wildest imagination. The ideas contained within might not make sense (or ever see the light of day), but that's beside the point. The drawings, plans, and doodles don’t even have to look good—mistakes are part of the process, too. But, there are some artists who are seemingly incapable of creating bad art, and their beautiful sketchbooks are like handheld galleries of incredible pieces.

From pen and pencil to paint and collage, artists work in their sketchbook in numerous ways. Kerby Rosanes, a My Modern Met favorite, uses pen and ink to create compelling compositions in his Moleskin journal. Despite the simplicity of his materials, the whimsical works explode with intricate details. They've gained international fame and helped lead him to numerous book deals.

Artist Eva Magill-Oliver represents a 180-degree shift from Rosanes’ approach. Her sketchbooks have a shape-shifting quality to them—hand-painted collage elements extend beyond the confines of the journal. As a result, they unfold into long vertical pieces—something you’d never expect.

Check out the different ways that artists create beautiful sketchbooks.

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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