In the following interview the very talented Chicago artist Laurie Hogin reveals pages of her sketchbook and talks about how essential sketching and note taking is to her artistic process. Hogin’s fluorescent paintings illustrate fictional narratives that reflect facets of the human experience and pop culture. She is known for incorporating brilliant day-glo hues into paintings filled with personal icons, symbolism, and a variation of toy like species that resemble naturalistic specimens. Laurie Hogan is currently a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. See inside her sketchbook and read the interview below!
Have you always kept a sketchbook?
On and off. I’ve been a committed keeper of a sketchbook at certain times in my life, but in the last two or three years the activities that should be located in sketchbooks: doodling, small drawings, half-baked or impulsive plans for larger paintings, lots of note-taking and quotes on topics from reading, talk radio, and random thoughts and images have been on scattered papers, which reflects being to busy and distracted to be disciplined about the sketchbook. Not good, all my sketchbooks have been really useful! I also make and collect lists of text, and sometimes do what some might considered “journalling”, although that term is so ’90’s psychobabble and vaguely narcissistic I’d rather call it almost anything else. Brain belching. Documenting intellectual spasms, hypomania or outrage (I’m sure any artist will know what I mean). I often do this in my studio, or in faculty meetings, lectures, airplanes, at the in-laws’ house–since the visual and language use different parts of the brain, it’s not distracting. Without the disciplined use of a book, these things often wind up on scraps of paper, post-it notes, meeting handouts. When I got your e-mail I collated a bunch of it and pasted it in a current, somewhat neglected sketchbook, and it has inspired a commitment to keep the book with me at all times!
Why is it important for you to keep a sketchbook?
I’m learning how much easier it is to do all these ancillary creative activities: interruptions of useful thought, association, and image-making that occur at various, random times in the day, in one place, a sketchbook. Quite honestly, your interest motivated me to go get a new one (well, three). Something I’ve been telling my students for years is that they should make sure the book itself, as well as the media used in it, feel good and fun to the touch, because if you don’t like the paper, or the size is awkward, you will not use it. But when I have the right, kinesthetically pleasing sketchbook and mark-making materials, the book rapidly becomes an amazingly useful repository, a collection of thoughts and images that are otherwise lost and forgotten!
Do you often sketch out ideas before working them into finished pieces?
Not really. Scale is so important in my work that the sketches exist as works of their own kind, and the larger works get planned out intentionally on the large surface, canvas, usually.
What brand of sketchbook do you use?
I like Strathmore or something from the “School Supplies” aisle at Staples. Actually, I’m really enjoying making sure I have both types on me at all times. I love wimpy, cheap paper that feels like money. I read a recent paper by a couple of neroscientists on the “drug theory of money”. The pleasure I take in that kind of paper is similar to that of collecting and accumulating, and it helps me essentially collect my own work, which feeds the studio practice.
What are some good sketchbook tips and habits that you can share with our readers?
Get one that feels right and is not annoying to have with you at all times. I hate schlepping stuff, so mine is small and light, but the kinesthetics of it is key! It’s got to be fun to engage with it as a surface for mark-making and as an object. Then be somewhat disciplined. Use it at every opportunity.