A few months ago I won entry into the Sketchbook Project through a giveaway at Pikaland. The book arrived in the post one morning and it had a theme: "I Remember You".
I started trying harder to remember my dreams. My husband made me a little book from leftover cuttings of the thick rag paper I use for etching, tied it up with yarn, and left it beside the bed.
I saved up dreams for a while before I started drawing anything at all. It turned out to be a funny thing to draw out a piece of a dream. Of course, it was not possible to draw a whole dream, so instead it became an odd compromise. Sometimes it made more sense to draw parts of the dream that only existed by implication, or parts that must have taken place before the dream started.
I got lost in the book. I thought of things I had heard about hypnagogic hallucinations where streams of faces flash past dreamers in the space between sleeping and waking. I thought of the strange menaces of sleep apnea. And then I thought about all the vagabond ideas that run all through sleep and into the spaces before and after it.
And so a troupe of thoughts runs along the bottom of every page, intersecting dreams and winding through the blank spaces between them.
In the centre of the book there is a sort of out-of-body experience where these ideas can be seen running down the pillow and into the mind of the dreamer. It seemed like the book needed a bit of an explanation, something to anchor it a little.
This sketchbook is small, only about seven inches tall and the paper inside it is very thin. Pencil is the only medium that such thin paper could hold up against, and even pencil shows through the back of the paper. Yet the more I drew, the more involved I got.
The book developed a weird sort of logic that had to be respected, a balance that had to be maintained.
Unlikely little memories and personal references began to sneak in as well. There is a little reminder of the time we were stopped by a man in India who opened his long trench coat to reveal rows of fake beards that he was trying to sell. Then there is the lamp that hangs above the bed and looks to us like a girl floating down from the ceiling, her skirt billowing out like a parachute.
The other day, as I was putting the last touches on this book of sketches, I decided to read through the dreams I had written down in the little book my husband made for me. Even after so much time I could remember all of them, all but one.
The forgotten dream:
"Strange, lovely bird - sort of like magpie - appears in our house, is very tame & friendly. And we wonder how it came inside. It tells us it followed us home & how it snuck in past us. Turns out to be a strange boy. He has one or two objects that are with him. A sort of container that is bigger when opened from one side than from another & other sorts of unbelievable things."
So I think I will continue to record my dreams in the mornings when I can, to see what surprises might be lurking there.
I used to do that a lot when I was growing up, filling up spiral-bound notebooks with the chicken scratch of early mornings. I remember that it became easier with time.
Because this sketchbook is so small, I thought it would be wiser just to post some details from it here, since they risk going unnoticed on a small photo of the whole page. There are still a lot of things that are not photographed here though, and so I have posted photos of the whole pages on flickr. That will also give a better sense of the sleep cycle structure of the book.
Oh, and this sketchbook, along with many, many, many others will be touring through parts of Canada, America, and also over to London starting this spring. There are tour details on the Sketchbook Project page. There will also be a permanent home for the exhibition in Brooklyn and a digital sketchbook library for those who can't see the books in person. I love the idea of being able to leaf through all these books, and think it is fantastic and thrilling that so many people have given so much to this project.