For some, an artist’s working process could be as interesting to see as the so-called “final work.” Where does inspiration come from? How is something constructed? How does an idea go from being an intangible thing to being an object or image that exists in the real world? Sometimes artists use sketchbooks or preliminary drawings to help them sort out ideas or technical matters. Other times, sketches are exercises or thought generators and not a means to a specific end. Regardless of how employed, sketches offer insight into creative practices and, sometimes, into an artist’s daily life.
As an institution that collects works on paper as well as craft, RAM has various sketchbooks and sketches in its holdings. To date, these works are being acquired in tandem with, or in relation to, other work by the same artists. In some instances, the museum has sketchbooks and sketches that directly correlate to works in the collection—showing them side by side offers opportunities to compare and contrast a fully resolved work with the ideas leading up to it. In other instances, RAM has sketches and sketchbooks as part of an artist’s archive – there may or may not be direct examples on hand, but their presence still offers a window into how an artist pulls ideas together.
If institutions have materials like this on hand, they do not always exhibit them in the galleries—RAM is doing so because they are valuable resources and significant objects and images independent of their connection to any other work of art.
Margaret Ponce Israel, Sketchbook, 1983, Found Strathmore sketch book and watercolor, 14 x 17 x 1/2 inches, Racine Art Museum, Gift of Sally and Larry Israel in Memory of the Artist. Photography: Jon Bolton