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Drawing the line
Twenty Savannah artists turn their pages for 'The Sketchbook Show'
By Ty Underwood

Most works of art, from simple illustrations to abstract sculptures to massively detailed paintings, undergo revisions before they’re revealed to the world.

Along the way, the artist’s concept changes, or is supplanted by a better idea. Sometimes the piece becomes something completely different. That, of course, is the nature of art, and creativity in general.

Friday at The Little Beasts Art Gallery, “The Sketchbook Show” will peel back the layers by spotlighting the earliest connection between the artist’s fertile brain and the finished product: The sketchbook page.

“We thought that it would be cool if we were able to get together really talented people that we knew, and give the public a chance to see what their process looks like, their unfinished work,” explains Justin Harris, one of the show’s organizers.

Harris is a junior at SCAD (in painting), and nearly all of the artists whose works are featured in “The Sketchbook Show” are art students there, or recent graduates of the MFA program. “It’s interesting how tight everybody gets at SCAD,” says Harris.

Illustrator Britt Spencer, who earned his Masters in 2011, believes this sort of exhibition is exhilerating for artists.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what other people come up with,” he says. “The great thing about a sketchbook is the freedom that it offers. There’s no objective when you start, whereas in illustration you have a scene you’re trying to convey, or something of that nature.

“But with a sketchbook it’s kind of liberating – draw a little sketch, or a doodle, and it doesn’t really have to say anything. It can say something, but it certainly doesn’t have to.”

The 20 artists were given no rules – just that the work must be literally torn from the pages of their sketchbooks. In Spencer’s case, “The only thing that’s unifying is just my own personal style and the fact that it’s all in the same sketchbook, so everything is the same size.”

It will be presented in a salon setting, with little to no space between the hung sketches. Harris and his co–directors simply walked through Little Beasts, measured the available wall space, and informed each artist how much room they’d be allowed.

“We gave them free reign, because we respect them all as artists, so we thought that would be more real,” Harris says.

“When I was structuring the list, I was thinking about who could be hung next to who. There’s some people I asked to be in the shows to act as segues – not only were they good, they were also like two different people. So you could put them in between two artists, and then it would flow.”

Stylistically, it’s all over the proverbial map, from whimsy to gothic to horror to satire. And every other dimensional deviant of sketchery.

“I wanted to have a huge variation,” Harris explains. “Kind of, almost anything you could think of that people would do in their sketchbooks that looks cool.”

Jose Ray, like most painters, carries his sketchbook everywhere. One never knows when inspiration will strike. He says he’s “always trying to capture that essence” and sometimes draws with his paintbrush to keep the brain–to–canvas connection as linear as possible.

The sketchbook, Ray believes, “just gets to the heart of what each artist does. A lot of times, a fully–conceived project can be a little more removed.

“I see a lot of artists whose work I think is just OK, and then I see the drawings and I love them. You see that rawness and that original intent there. By the time you sculpt it, work in your concept and everything, it totally changes.

“It may be a more cerebral thing, but it’s lost that initial kind of rawness that I always enjoy seeing.”

The Sketchbook Show

Where: Little Beasts Art Gallery, 1522 Bull St.

When: 6–9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13

Admission: Free


All art will be for sale