Sketchbook Project Williamsburg

Fetch-a-sketch: Sketchbook library checks out artists’ journals

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There’s nothing sketchy about this show.

Williamsburg’s Art House Co-op will exhibit more than 20,000 sketchbooks from artists around the globe who scrawled, painted, cut, pasted, and even carved up two million pages over the past year in the first stop of the Sketchbook Project’s seventh annual world tour.

The N. Third Street library will house the paper volumes from April 14 through the end of the month — but you’ll need to visit the art space for more than once (or enroll in a speed reading class) to absorb everything.

If you treat the sketchbooks like flip books and manage to get through one page of art per second, it would take 23 days to finish every single volume in the collection — an infeasible goal, according to the Art House Co-op’s Eli Dvorkin.

“It’s impossible — it’s such a daunting amount of work to process,” said Dvorkin, whose favorite sketchbook is usually the one he’s finished most recently. “We find books, fall in love, share with the rest of our crew, and constantly find new ones.”

Artists can sign up online and receive a blank 32-page paper book made from recycled Oregon pulp that they can fill any way they like. When they’re done, they send it back to Williamsburg to be exhibited in the Co-op’s library space.

“The footprint for the books is really small but they stand up well,” Dvorkin said. “You can flip them in a bag or a pocket and take them with you on your adventures.”

The only rule is that the artists must keep the books at the original dimensions of five inches by seven inches, but everything else is fair play. Dvorkin has seen artists cram text into every corner, turn the books into pop-out maps, and even slip pieces of wood, metal, and plastic onto the pages.

“I’m a huge fan of work that finds a way to expand off the page — books that take on sculptural qualities, fold out into giant maps, dozens of feet long,” he said.

Last year, more than a thousand sketchbook fans streamed through the library’s doors to check out the new books at its opening. An even larger crowd could show up on Saturday before the volumes embark on an international tour that will bring them to Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Philadelphia, Vancouver, London, and Melbourne.

And on April 18, next year’s Sketchbook Project will be open for submissions — so get ready to find your inspiration and make your notebook of art.

2012 Sketchbook Project Tour at the Art House Co-op [103 N. Third St. between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg (718) 388-7941]. April 14-30. 6-10 pm. Free. Visit

Reach reporter Aaron Short at or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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