City of Toronto Helps Artist Find Sentimental Sketchbook He Worked on for 10 Years

For many artists, sketchbooks are important tools to document their ideas and creative progress. Toronto-based artist Dmitry Bondarenko kept a hard-wearing journal for 10 years, using it to illustrate trips back home to Russia and practice painting in gouache and acrylic, among other things. That is why, when he noticed it missing after his bike ride, he was rightly devastated.

“I only realized what this little book meant to me when it was gone,” Bondarenko writes. “It was with me for over a decade, and documented trips to Russia, isolation with neighbors during the pandemic, a terrible bike accident, and demos for students from the start of my teaching experience, alongside various tangential explorations.”

The OCAD University teacher simply couldn't abandon hope for his sketchbook. He took to social media and posted about it on a Facebook page called “Weird Toronto,” in addition to posting 7o fliers along the street he rode his bike. Two days passed with no response. In the meantime, someone from “Weird Toronto” shared the message with another group called “I Am a Leslievillian!” There, it finally reached the person who came across the precious journal.

A 75-year-old man named Chris Ellam was cycling on the same pathway when he noticed the blue-covered sketchbook lying on the ground. At first, he thought it was litter and picked it up to dispose of it. Once he peeked inside, however, he noticed that it was no ordinary journal and that it contained beautiful portraits and other paintings.

“How did somebody lose this?” Ellam wondered. “I was just stunned.” Since there was no name or number inside the book, he brought it with him to protect it from the rain. That was when he saw the message posted on the “I Am a Leslievillian” page and was connected to a variety of different people until he reached Bondarenko.

Ellam refused any reward for returning the sketchbook. “And then I lectured him like an old man,” said Ellam. “I told him, ‘Put your name and number in it!’” Suffice it to say, Bondarenko was over the moon with the turn of events and was warmed to see such a beautiful display of humanity.

You can see more of Bondarenko's art by following him on Instagram.

Artist Dmitry Bondarenko was devastated when he realized that his sketchbook was missing.

It contained 10 years' worth of artwork that held significant sentimental value.

It included illustrations made from “documented trips to Russia, isolation with neighbors during the pandemic, a terrible bike accident, and demos for students from the start of my teaching experience.”

So, Bondarenko asked people for help in a post on Facebook to find the visual journal.

Fortunately, 75-year-old Chris Ellam discovered the sketchbook before it could be damaged by the elements.

The two were able to meet up and Bondarenko was given back his sketchbook.

“And then I lectured him like an old man,” Ellam said. “I told him, ‘Put your name and number in it!’”


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A post shared by Dmitry Bondarenko (@handdrawndmitry)

Dmitry Bondarenko: Website | Instagram
h/t: [Good News Network]

All images via Dmitry Bondarenko.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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