I'm excited to kick off another new feature on Sélavy: Art Library! I was inspired by our rather extensive collection of artist monographs and exhibition catalogs, so I'll be sharing a different book here from time to time—some old, some new, but all interesting!
For this first post, I pulled the fascinating Wayne Thiebaud: Sketchbook, released by Abrams in 1987, now out of print. It is a facsimile reproduction of pages from Thiebaud's loose-leaf sketchbook over several years, "samples," as Thiebaud describes it, "that cover various aspects of what a sketchbook, for me, is about."
The colorful cover at the top of this post is actually the slipcase for the black, fabric-bound book. Inside the cover, a small bifold holds Constance W. Glenn's succinct essay, which places Thiebaud's use of a sketchbook in the art historical tradition, in which Thiebaud's "cityscapes, flowers, shoes, cakes, and farm ponds" are really just objects for working out solutions to "classical, formal problems that have occupied artists for centuries."
Of course, one of the most fascinating things about peeking into anyone's sketchbook is seeing their process of observation, and experiments to find what does and doesn't work; for Thiebaud, the sketchbook is his 'brain" or "research" as he alternately likens it.
The sketchbook begins with notes on Thiebaud's trials of a new medium, small cakes of Japanese watercolor, and "Western" versus "Eastern" composition techniques.
It wouldn't be a Thiebaud book without being mainly food, and this book doesn't disappoint. I love seeing the smudges and smears of the soft, buttery graphite, and meticulous recording of rows of pastries in their cases, which he notes are, more often than not, drawn from memory.
But there are also selections of his San Francisco cityscape studies, from the "intersections in the upper Marina section" which he felt looked so "damned ordinary" in person that sketching was his way to "energize them."
There are many thumbnail portraits throughout, and I was delighted to find these quick studies of the iconic art critic, Clement Greenberg.
Here is a detail from the previous sketch of Greenberg, where Thiebaud scrawls: "Speaking about Hans Hoffman / Clement Greenberg / Berkeley Art / 1986," just below a vibrant watercolor study.
And of course, pies.
All the pies. I love the luscious brilliance that watercolor brings to his famous subject.
On sketchbooks, Thiebaud concludes: "I always think about what I call serious artists—those who are continuing and perpetual students . . . those who really do believe in a sense of tradition and use it as a primary engagement in their own work."
I hope you enjoyed this first edition, and are inspired either to sketch or eat pie! I'd be happy to hear any requests for certain artists—I think I can probably accommodate most! ;)