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The sketcher diaries
Over a hundred artists tear out pages for group show

A year ago, SCAD painting students Justin Harris and Lomaho Kretzmann asked several dozen artist friends to submit work from their sketchbooks. It could be unfinished, just a doodle even, no big deal.

The Sketchbook Show was a hit, eliciting national attention and drawing hundreds to the now–defunct Little Beasts Gallery and revealing some hidden secrets of the artistic process. This week, the boys are back with a grand new space and a far larger cast of characters:

2013’s Sketchbook Show includes more than a hundred artists from around the globe who have torn out pages from their personal workbooks. The week–long exhibition opens at the Ashmore Gallery on MLK Blvd.with a pizza–and–beer reception on Friday, Jan. 18 and closes with a live music show from Coco Beware and Wet Socks on Jan. 25.

The pool of potential pieces continues to grow as Flickr, Tumblr and other social media spawn communities of artists who share their work online, and Harris and Kretzmann follow their favorites. They sent tentative e-mails to see if anyone was interested in sharing sketches.

“We were operating with a big ‘what if’ factor,” shrugs Harris.

Also fans of the edgy aesthetic showcased on and in VICE and Juxtapoz magazines, they decided to reach out to those artists as well. Requests went out all over the country and as far as the UK, Australia and Greece.

“We wanted to do a show that wasn’t just Savannah people, so we sat down and wrote this enormous list of people we look at constantly,” continues Harris, who came to SCAD from Seattle, WA. “We wondered, ‘What would happen if we e-mailed all these people?’ The ones that responded are in the show.”

Big manila envelopes began arriving, full of pencil sketches and renderings in oil; some color, some black and white. Included are some big names in the indie art world like San Francisco’s Jesse Balmer and Brooklyn comic chameleon Jonny Negron, as well as British pencil artist Ryan Humphrey.

Also on the walls will be pages from local artists, including Andrew Brodhead, Jimmy Butcher, Cory Hand, Ben Tollefson and offerings from Kretzmann’s and Harris’ own books.

“I expect the final number to be over 3,000,” muses Harris, sifting through the piles of sketches.

Each artist’s work hangs in horizontal strips, with the brightest–hued pieces on top and the gray and graphite works at eye level. Harris describes the placement as a spiral that winds its way through Ashmore’s three stark–white floors, an effect that at once unifies the show and also highlights each separate artist.

“I consider curation to be an art form,” he says. “This is as much of an installation as a show.”

Ashmore’s owner and director Lara Martino is pleased to have the thousands of sketches filling the gallery she opened in February 2012. Her grandmother, Jan Cullen, was an avid Savannah art collector in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and to Martino, the city’s art momentum is nothing new. At just 25, she is one of Savannah’s youngest gallery owners and enthusiastic about the punk rock/street art aesthetic Harris and Krentmann are bringing to the yard.

“I’m big on collaborating,” says Martino, who studied arts management at the College of Charleston and appraisal studies at NYU before settling in Savannah. “My goal for the space is to bring in emerging artists and different types of media.”

After the Sketchbook Show’s opening reception, the pieces will hang all week until the next Friday, when Harris and Kretzmann will reassemble what hasn’t sold into a new format before the closing concert. The sketches are priced to sell, from two dollars to a hundred, enabling everyone to purchase a piece of original art.

“We really wanted to make this super affordable,” Harris says. “What’s the point of having a show if no one buys anything?”

The Sketchbook Show, Jan. 18–25

Opening Reception: Jan. 18th 6-9 p.m. [free]

Closing Reception: Jan 25th 8–11 p.m. ($5 cover)

Where: Ashmore Gallery, 412 MLK Blvd.