the reading room


The sketchbook workshop at FICA Reading room

– what is creating a sketchbook?

– what is the interaction between the FICA reading room material and the participants?

– What is in-situ ? Can you walk and observe and draw?

– how does the individual change in a collaborative exercise?

what is creating a sketchbook?

The first exercise required the participants to use certain material placed in the room as a way to find how to break the barriers of what could be a sketchbook. For me it was all about seeing how and which paper would be placed next to each other, how the size, form, the binding method, the tearing, cutting, change in its meaning would play a role in understanding what is a sketchbook. The areas being explored or becoming vague for me were artist book, craft making, notebook, sketchbook as something installed, a scultpure, an object. I do remember a work made of silver foil as a constructed house with foldable doors and roof. Another was a stark red / black book symbolizing the relationship for the participant with color.


( use of red / black paper by Astha Mittal  )


( a minute book by Preeti Singh )


For Nilanjana Nandy, it was using the exisiting book, tearing it and re creating and mixing with a found material of a map. Slowly the book and the map became to interact. There was a reference made to Joyce Kozloff’s works on Maps as an afterthought.


( opening the pages of the book by Divya Singh )


( a view of the book )


( another view- point hung on a string)


( a foldable book / sketching by Shivangi Singh )


John Xavier started to explore the possibilty of folds, of how many times a paper could be folded, and its unfolded boxes, frames becoming points for the sketching. Starting from using an A4 size paper to a newspaper.

 what is the interaction between the FICA reading room material and the participant?


(an image sketched from a book in the library)


“Architecture is the art of how to waste space”. Philip Johnson, The NY Times, 1964

a sketch in response by Tehmeena

the second exercise was about using the material available to everyone. This meant engaging with the books available. The simple instructions were to use text, images, a quote, poetry, a line, a sentance which may spark drawings in the newly created sketchbook or any existing sketchbook / note pad.

I remember a discovery of a book on “Brice Marden, a NYC based artist and his graphite drawings”.

This led to a discussion on what is minimalism, where do you stop drawing in such a methodology, Mark rothko and the idea of repitition on the surface and where do you Stop in creating such works?

Astha mittal closely observed how others were making marks and pointed out to the ability of Charcoal as a medium of working and its close relation with her current Acrylic paintings on emotions. The Smartphone became an easy way of a sharing images in comparison to Tehmeena Firdos’s collection of loose papers plucked out of her previous sketchbook from college. Tehmeena picked up an architectural quote from a book and constructed a narrative of characters and objects in her box like sketchbook.

For me, it was finding the connection between being in the room and sucking out, chewing, and recycling found knowledge into the sketchbooks and  also to question;

1. Can this be repeated inside other forms of libraries, a medical college, an Archaeological resource center,   a library of objects?

2. What does it mean to work in the same space as the library?

3. What is the transfer of knowledege?

4.Can the sketchbook form an alternative way of learing for course material?

 What is in-situ ? Can you walk and observe and draw?


This exercise took us out of the Air conditioned environment into the nearby Community park with its limited slides, swings at the very back end. One of the artist climbed a tree while others sketched, roamed around, used this period to experience being outside. The sketch above, by a student from AUD University struck my attention as it was crossed out as sketch rejected. His other sketches focused upon people around him as he enjoyed drawing big strokes on paper. I was also recently questioning my own nature of selecting / rejecting and crossing out works where something fails… a compositional balance, a face not right, something which falls out from the sketch being just right.


In-situ and i loosely instructed to draw as walking if possible. This sketch by Tehmeena captures the next door house with the Security guard cabin and a clock inside. It also strikes a possibilty of drawing in the moment and the ability to see / not see details, object omitted / kept in the sketch.

how does the individual change in a collaborative exercise?

I had only explored this exercise between two people, a way of having a conversation and drawing together.In this methodology, all of the participants, about fifteen decided to join sheets to create a single sheet of paper. Then it was an act of creating, responding with materials by the particpants.


Since I have not been able to gather material from most of the participants, and also have a conversation with them about their works, it becomes difficult to conclude my thoughts on the exercise. The collaborative exercise in the future workshop has to be between a fixed group. The In-situ can be a walk through exercise for an entire day to experience and draw the city. The use of the library material can be re approached with more reading time and the particpants existing practice as a base. Further readings in the Library will bring in sketchbook as not only a place to draw but also think of resolving problems, notemaking, and an end to themselves.

Studio Visits and conversation before the workshop

Prior to the workshop, i had visited Orijit’s (graphic artist) studio in neb sarai to ask about his experience as a Comic book creator and the action behind reaching to the final published comics. He shared about his earliest days of sketching in-situ, sketchbooks falling into the river with water marks becoming part of the work, drawing the surroundings, the trees and fascination with mapping the cities and landscape.

Priyamwada Singh, a delhi based Architect shared a pile of sketchbooks from her days back in Columbia University in US. Her sketchbooks ranged from being a scrapbook with poetry, folded paper, notes, architectural mapping, unrealised projects to in-situ line drawings capturing a perceptual experience of being in a place. The sketchbook collection became a travelogue.

For Priya Kuriyan, a delhi based illustrator, sketchbooks were hardly ever used for Client related work as the A4 size loose sheets of paper became a suitable choice of working. However the sketchbooks played a role as a personal dairy to record memories and observation.


Notes from the 2012 Drawing Research Network symposium, a research based paper wrote about Sketchbooks of Cezaane, Turner, Van gogh as being the most private spaces of the artist, never to be shown, disclosed. For me the sketchbooks have ranged from being figure study books to the current obsession of being a work in process of exercising my thoughts as they come. The workshop explored the aspect of Sketchbook as an art form in its making. It also played on the boundaries of working privately yet sharing in a public library space. The whole nature of recording observations, memory and carrying out exercises of reading, viewing other material for engagment in a form which could be walked around with, carried around and worked upon privately became an area of further investigation. Its mobile nature, a studio in the backpack makes its possible to capture which may not be possible otherwise.

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