katie grove

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”


“My sketchbook is uncensored.”

                    Katie Grove

Like many of the artists I’ve written about in Spaces for Thinking, Katie Grove was introduced to sketchbooks at an early age, maybe age 9 or 10. Katie was taking private art lessons, and Lisa, her art teacher, introduced sketchbooks as part of the art experience. “I don’t recall any specific lessons from this time. But I do remember I would use the sketchbook to work out ideas and make sketches. Working in it became essential.”

Katie attended Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, PA, which had a well funded art program that provided access to an assortment of materials. The students enjoyed nicely maintained studios and a robust curriculum that included traditional classes in painting and drawing but also 3-D sculpture and photography. Katie took all of them. The students were encouraged to experience and experiment. She recalls her art teachers emphasizing the importance of keeping a sketchbook and being given a lot of sketchbook homework. “I always loved the sketchbook assignments. When reflecting on those years, I think the more ideas you’re working through, including experiments, along with the sheer amount of work you’re making, the more you learn about yourself. It helps you let go of the preciousness of each assignment when you have a lot to do.”

Katie’s “most meaningful sketchbook experience” came during the year she took off between Tyler School of Art and SUNY New Paltz to travel. “I camped, spent time rock climbing, and being outdoors. This was the time I really sketched the most. These books are part sketchbook and part journal.” She sat by the campfire each evening and worked in her sketchbook. “It was grounding. Working in one was a way to absorb the experiences of the day…. I would consider my compositions very carefully during this time. I gave it such attentiveness.” This nightly ritual honored her sketching practice and became an integral part of her travel experience. “When I travel, it’s when I am most active in a sketchbook. It’s my only artistic outlet when on the road. It gives me an anchor.”

Her sketches are often “fodder” for work. For example, the books she worked in during her year of travel fueled her making process during her years at SUNY New Paltz, including her thesis show. She scanned images and writing from these books and incorporated them into silkscreen. Reviewing older books for their content is an important part of her creative process as well as a “wonderful trip down memory lane.” To this day, she will still “grab an image from them and watch it grow into a new work.”

These days her sketching has moved away from a traditional bound book onto 18” x 24” sheets of paper. Though these sheets are less portable, they meet her drawing needs and allow her to scale up her ideas. “The larger paper functions somewhere between sketching, working out ideas, writing, and making connections. Honestly, if I had paper the size of the wall I think that would expand my idea-making process even more!” The smaller sketchbook she does use mostly serves as a day-to-day writing journal, including notes and comments about the books she’s reading. On occasion, their pages will include a sketch or idea.

When asked about showing her sketchbooks to other artists, Katie, who wants to be a writer, shared that they’re personal because of the writing they hold. “They’re private. They’re not ready for the world, yet, because they are uncensored. My ideas and experiences fill the pages.”

Though her sketchbooks are no longer the essential workhorse they once were, Katie is a seeker. She knows the value of her travel journals and small sketchbooks. She’s looking to preserve each large sketch, every small notation because of the power they contain. “Their existence reaffirms the existence and strength of the artist.”

Would you like to know more about Katie and her work? Visit her website or on Instagram!