Sketchbooks are like diaries, they contain personal thoughts and experiments, ideas that are being worked out as they come along. Looking at an artist’s sketchbook is always insightful, a rare glimpse into something we feel like we aren’t supposed to see. It’s not very often that an artists main body of work is constituted of their sketchbook though.
This is the case with Nicolas V. Sanchez. Maybe it’s because we feel like we are looking at something more private and personal than we are used to that gives his work such a magnetic appeal. If not it’s certainly a godsend for sketchbook and notepad manufacturers worldwide.
Perhaps the highest compliment that you can pay someone is by telling them it made you want to give it a shot for yourself, even though in all likeliness, you probably wouldn’t be able to. With the work of Sanchez, you’re either inclined to emulate his drawings or at least get yourself a little sketchbook to doodle in.
The intimacy that defines his work is due in equal parts to the medium – the sketchbook, as we’ve seen, and the actual subjects. His use of ballpoint pen as a means of building up textured portraits of people, places and things – all of which, under his pen, seem dear to him, remove it one step from the usual artistic process. There’s no canvas, no brushes - it’s straight from pen to paper.
The purity of this process, the spontaneous action and interaction with his materials, makes the little sketches jump from the page and live their own life. The less we know about the process, the more amazing it seems. Are the drawings figments of his imagination? Are they things that he is witnessing at that very moment? It’s possible that they’re a combination of both.
One thing that does feature heavily is the dissection of Self. Sanchez uses his drawings to investigate the true essence of his heritage, the meaning and power of his roots – shared between American and Mexican backgrounds.
It is true that he also works with paint and on canvas and the focus of his sketches, the pre-emptive drawings that might lead to a greater depth of exploration on a larger scale, are by no means of less importance. What they are though is is more raw. People crave seeing things that they haven’t before and sketchbooks qualify for this. All the energy he has spent on working around his sketchbooks has given him a significant online following.
Those that appreciate his work not only do so for what they see and for what it is, but also what it reminds them of. Sketchbooks and notepads, even ballpoint pens, are rudimentary artistic tools usually reserved for more simple times in our lives – childhood, school, teenage years. The nostalgia evoked by his eggshell yellow pages make us think of a life that’s ahead of us, full of possibilities.
Resoundingly positive and uplifting, although the subject matter is often tinged with melancholia and a sense of searching, Sanchez’s sketches make us want to look closer - both at his work and at our own lives. If it were at all possible to see the other pages, the sketches that didn’t quite work out as he had hoped, we’d see something even more intense and personal – the journey that leads to the destination.
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