“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
“A sketchbook is a microcosm. Various forms and ideas can live together and have a conversation. It's a space of connection.”
Shanti Grumbine began her own sketchbook at age 14 when she took her first photography classes at Ulster County Community College in their evening education program. “It was the beginning of being an artist. It was really mine. It changed my life.”
Shanti’s mom was an artist, and she witnessed her mom’s art-making process. These experiences gave her an early confidence in making. During high school, she would invite friends over to be human props in staged eclectic environments created from found items in the basement or house. “My friends would participate in my world and these photos would become source material for sketches and drawings.”
Shanti doesn’t have a formal sketchbook practice. “I never did. I have notebooks to work things out.” She uses these books to record research, writing, and studio to-do lists. However, some projects require working things out visually. Then the notebook becomes a sketchbook. For example, when she realized her screen prints made from excised newspapers looked like medieval musical scores, “I needed a quick notational way of understanding how I was going to organize and how I was going to use the staff and how it was all going to lay out and be read.” So she used a pad of graph paper to create “studies.”
“I can immediately know what this is going to sound like (referring to the screenprints) if I just do the drawing.” But Shanti is also seduced by drawing itself. “I use a very straightforward notational method and then, of course, I become totally fascinated by the drawing process.” She eventually lets the drawn elements fall apart and reform. The action of sketching nourishes her relationship to making, responding to it, and then considering that response. It’s “fluid” and cyclical.
Another of her notebooks is purely digital: her phone. When she lived in Brooklyn without a studio space, she explored her neighborhood, photographing architectural elements and creating an album of source material. Images were -- and still are -- sketches for drawings. She reviews her phone archive “looking for different formal issues. The act of shooting is casual and intuitive. Then patterns, relationships, and textures emerge when I swipe through.” The phone is portable and always accessible. The portability makes it easy to be engaged and active. Its accessibility allows her to dovetail her work with other daily moments, like being on the subway or lying down with her daughter. She’s able to scroll through her phone with ease and with intention.
When beginning a new project, Shanti uses her notebooks and the phone album as starting points. Once she has established an idea, Shanti wonders “if a (dedicated) visual sketchbook will help with organizing and making connections. I don’t want to lose information. I want to allow the elements to talk to each other.”
Shanti’s notebooks are deeply process-driven, from conception to technical choices to language. The choreography between her ideas and the pages are an act of embodiment. In her notebooks, her concepts find “a home where my hand is a part of it.”
Would you like to know more about Shanti and her work? Visit her website!