“To arrive at clear water one must shovel through mud.”
“September 15th Lost – bushwacking. Sometimes when you’re in the studio, it feels like you’re bushwhacking through the jungle trying to find something.”
Yura Adams’ sketchbook serves her in the now: each page correlates directly to her current studio activities. Studio writing is an important part of her practice, and she writes in this hybrid sketchbook and studio journal “to relieve emotional upheaval, excitement, anger and the like. It’s about what I’m doing or something stimulating in the work. It’s life writing, not only art writing – though everything goes back to art. My life is about my art.”
Jokingly she shared that her sketchbooks aren’t “recording the minutia” of a day the way her mom “kept a record of whatever she did. She wrote down everything! Mom had calendars everywhere listing the vitamins she took. Books with marginalia and diaries.” Instead, Yura sees her sketchbook as a “chronicle of a thought process that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s not just a way to work out ideas. It’s a record of working out the ideas.”
The sketchbook serves as an anchor to what she was thinking about and seeing in the work at the time of its making. For example, she created a practice of asking herself to respond to the question: “What is ‘hot’?” Asking herself this question many times over a period of years gave her a way to anchor her work in its own moment. For example, “when I was in the “Light Switch” body of work, in February, 2018: ‘What is hot?’ Sparkles. Hexagram. A figure formed of 6 straight lines.” These notations give her work structure. “When I look back, it clarifies what I was thinking at the time. Sometimes, I’m surprised I was thinking about that then.”
At times, Yura has used her book to sketch from observation. “During a period when I’m not making art, the sketchbook is the link that maintains me. There were two periods when I stopped making art in the studio, and I always kept a sketchbook. It was spotty but I always kept it. It kept me going on some level.”
Maintaining the sketchbook offers Yura a way to work in tandem with her studio practice that has its own rhythm. She often draws daily in her sketchbook while developing ideas, then leaves it fallow for stretches while she completes paintings and installations. Lately her sketchbook is filling up fast because of her activity level. She starts her day with drawing in her sketchbook before emails; then frequently takes the new drawings to the studio and has 3 books rotating between her morning desk and the studio so she is always has one available. She had found when she's active in the book she "can work out ideas pretty fast with many drawings, and it gives me a visual foundation. I'm drawing to try to figure it out. It's all visual thinking."
Yura is by no means committed to bringing to life every idea that lands in the sketchbook. The book is “my process. I have to work it out in the final form.” Part of a sketch might make it into a painting. Once, she liked what she drew in her sketchbook so much that she blew it up into a painting by holding her small 8” x 8” book in her hand as she painted. Normally, “I don’t do this because the painting process takes the work in a different direction.”
For Yura, sketchbooks are a way of working in the moment, which is why she rarely scales up and rarely looks at old books. When she does review them, “it’s more like when you look through old photos. There’s a feeling of nostalgia. I was there and doing that then.” Like Beth Humphrey and Mandolyn Wilson Rosen, she doesn’t expect her sketchbook to be linear, nor (unlike her mother’s voluminous recordkeeping) does she need it to be a daily timeline of her life in the studio.
“The sketchbook is so damn flexible! It’s a place of freedom.”