Friday, November 30, 2012

Is Your Sketchbook Private Property?



Above: a sketch of my sketchbook drawn in my sketchbook.

This is a story that starts with a tragedy: a lost sketchbook, but I will tell you right now that there's a happy ending.

But there was also a cost.

One time I wrote about having too many sketchbooks.  I sure do. This week, I was teaching a class at a middle school. I had a couple of sketchbooks with me, which I refer to for class cartooning exercises. Afterward, I went to the office, returned my visitor pass and drove home.

Forty minutes later and about a mile from home, I realized I had left one of my two sketchbooks in the classroom. I must have left it on the teacher's desk.

I called the school and my little sketchbook was found. I could pick it up any time the school was open. Hooray!

I drove back the next day, went to the school office and one of the women who work there handed me my sketchbook back.

"I hope you don't mind," she said. "I let a special needs kid look at it. I was busy and handed your sketchbook to him to keep him occupied. He was mesmerized. He just sat and was quiet. He looked at every drawing in your book. He was fascinated."

It could be worse. My sketchbook could have been lost that day. I was relieved it was found and so I nodded and said something like it was OK that this kid pored over my sketchbook.

But she should have asked me beforehand.

This begs a question.

Is your sketchbook your private property? Can anyone look through it? If someone you don't know picks up a sketchbook of yours and starts to look through it, page by page, without your permission or knowledge, what would your reaction be? Would you then be liable for anything that that person reacted to in your sketchbook?

11 comments:

natefakes said...

If any kid looked at my sketch book, they would be moderately confused. Mine is full of - well - awful drawings and bad ideas. BUT - those good ideas pop out in there at times. And yes, I believe it's private property. I don't want people reading the "worst of" material.

Stacy Curtis said...

Not everything in my sketchbooks is for public consumption. I have notes in there, ideas for future projects and sketches that are never intended for anyone's eyes but mine.
Picking up someone's sketchbook is a lot like thumbing through their diary. It's personal and shouldn't be perused without permission.

More and more artists are publishing sketchbooks, but readers have to understand there's things in their sketchbooks that the artists are not sharing. You don't get 100% of the sketchbook, you get what the artist is willing to feed you.

Brian Fies said...

Not everybody's sketchbook is a diary, but mine is and I'd be mortified if someone else read it. On the other hand, I'd never take anything to a classroom that I didn't want or expect kids to paw through. On the other other hand, the office lady was wrong for treating your property so casually but if it helped a special needs kid get through a tough day (why's he in the office otherwise?) I'd be pretty forgiving.

cafiend said...

There's a reason the published journals of famous people are edited first. The sketch book is a place you should feel safe exploring concepts without thinking of an audience. That does place a burden on you to keep it secure in a world afflicted with discourtesy. Hopefully you don't have a really dark dark side.

Dan Reynolds said...

I don't use a sketch book. I keep everything locked in my cranium and it only comes out to play as finished work.
Having said that, I have been known to lose my head once in awhile. In the case that I was at a school, and I lost my mind, and a special needs kid got ahold of it, I guess he could look at it, shake it, and maybe throw it against the wall to see if any ideas came out.

I would, of course, insist that the ideas be returned. Ideas are very valuable. One of the things I like to think about being a cartoonist is that I have the God-given ability to pull humorous ideas out of thin air, create them on paper and have people send me money. I make a living doing this. If one thinks about it, it's really like printing your own money. It's the real definition of funny money.

Smurfswacker said...

Decades ago, in my fanboy days, I lost a sketchbook. It turned out I'd left it in a comic shop. I found that out when I visited the shop again and discovered my missing sketchbook on sale for $20.

M and Mx said...

Interesting story. My take is that every drawing I have ever made or will make will one day be in a museum or large collector's book, preserved for all time. So, that's fine at that point that people see my drawings. I generally keep my art in my sketch book and my journal in my journal book. And ne'er the twain shall meet for precisely this reason.

I did find it interesting that the secretary had the understanding that the action of allowing a kid to peruse your sketchbook might be offensive as she prefaced the story with "I hope you don't mind..."

Iris Yan said...

I think once it was sort of "lost", people can look through it, maybe even to try to find out who owned the sketchbook. But sneakily checking out a sketchbook like checking out a diary you know it belongs to somebody, is not cool. But then again, we usually pay a price when we look at other people's stuff. Ignorance is bliss. :)

Mike said...

Thought the happy ending was going to be that you had lunch with the special needs kid and he showed you HIS sketch book. And he had some great artistic talent being covered up by his shortcomings in academic areas. And this was actually several years ago and today he's a successful artist and very happy, thanks to that chance encounter.

But this happy ending is good, too. Maybe you should get a briefcase so that, at the end of a presentation, you'd pack up everything and nothing would get left behind.

Dan Reynolds said...

smurfswacker reminding me of the time I was in Seattle at the airport and I left a little notebook of sketches and preliminary ideas of a strip about a little blonde kid and his stuffed tiger. The tiger would come to life and I thought it had a lot of promise. I had named it Cal 'N Hopps.

I never found that book. I always wondered what ended up happening to it. Who knows - it could have been a classic strip. Oh well.

Dan Reynolds said...

smurfswacker reminding me of the time I was in Seattle at the airport and I left a little notebook of sketches and preliminary ideas of a strip about a little blonde kid and his stuffed tiger. The tiger would come to life and I thought it had a lot of promise. I had named it Cal 'N Hopps.

I never found that book. I always wondered what ended up happening to it. Who knows - it could have been a classic strip. Oh well.