Reed Carpenter‘s work comprises imagery that spans the humorous, absurd, surreal, and serious—oil paintings of pigs with human hands, uncanny self-portraits featuring disembodied eyeballs, and figurative portraits dappled with light reminiscent of Rembrandt. His sketchbook studies offer a somewhat more raw touch while retaining a seemingly effortless mastery of medium. See more at @r33dcarpenter.

“I consistently run into the problem of overthinking whether an idea is ‘good enough’ to develop into a fully-fledged painting,” says Carpenter, “so I tend to reach for a sketchbook when I want to just let go and have fun with whatever is at hand, without necessarily concerning myself about whether it will work. In fact, recently I’ve started doing paintings in my sketchbook instead of just loose doodles; I’m finding myself much less likely to second-guess myself, especially in a medium I’m not very familiar with (in this case, watercolors/gouache and acrylics). Some of my favorite pieces have come out of sessions where I’m just splashing watercolors around and getting messy, and being able to be ultra portable is always a bonus!”



London-based artist Ana Pallares’ work can barely be contained on canvas, let alone the page. Jammed with aggressive lines, frenetic yet fluid mark-making, and splashes of overly intense color, the cartoonish compositions unpack an unbridled sense of Rabelaisian humor. Her images are often portraits of anonymous figures haloed by electric zigs and zags, spiked with sexual candor and dark humor that read lewd at first glance; yet the text interlaced in each piece unfolds a micro-novella of narrative. Pallares proffers an air of the confessional while touching on universal subject matter in a way that invokes a slow-burn empathy. 

“I started my sketchbook back in 2018 and only got back to it earlier this year,” says Pallares. “It serves as a visual diary where I can express my emotions and collect my thoughts. 

It has quite a therapeutic, soothing role for me.

For me, sketches are a thing in itself. I don’t create them thinking they will eventually become proper paintings. However, if I am really happy with any of them, they might serve as an inspiration for a future work that will be created in much bigger scale and will be extremely colorful. They are all independent drawings. However, put together they create a better picture of emotional journey I am going thru.”

Sketchbook Sketchbook, Artist, Process, WIP Uncategorized


Owen Connell (IG: @parlorfstudio) has been working as a painter, designer, and tattoo artist in Seattle for the past 30 years. His work—relentlessly energetic, seemingly never stoping for breath—harkens to the rhythm of hieroglyphs, amassing Kandinsky-like cryptic tangles of pattern and abstract flow. His sketches are usually the base for a final piece, merging and intermingling nascent ideas with finished art, built over time.

“All my art work and tattoos start with pencil and paper,” says Connell. “Sketching and sketching, building and layering until the work tells me to stop.”

Sketchbook Sketchbook, Artist, Process, WIP Uncategorized


Christopher Buening‘s prolific work comprises a pied diary of personal experience and relationships. His materials are redolent of things rococo, glittering with heaps of oozing glaze or White-Off that form stalactite-like characters in his ceramics and create ghostly negative space in his paintings.

In addition to sculpture, painting, and gallery installation, Buening has developed a unique practice of guerrilla ceramic installation in public spaces, arranging compositions made of hundreds of brightly-colored ceramic shards that amass to form figurative images or elaborate shrines tucked into urban wastelands. Other installations in the wild are composed of exquisitely sculpted ceramic simulacra—hand-painted objects like pills, cigarette cartons, and beer cans. Left to be found by passersby, they languish and erode: an ode to decadence, survival, pleasure, and indulgence.

“Sketching is just another function of my journaling,” says Buening. “My sketchbooks—I have probably a hundred or more—are writing and drawings all intermingled. It’s a stream of consciousness function and I don’t really use them for anything other than verbal, visual and mental diarrhea release. These are all mixed media on sketchbook paper, done at various times over the last few years.”

See more at @ChristopherBuening



Nikita Ares (IG: @kita.licious) makes lush, splashy paintings with a graceful linework reminiscent of Matisse, with color to leaven any mood. Her oil-thick and rich paintings gush neon supernovas and emote sheer feeling, often harkening to sentiments about her home and history in the Philippines, or her present life as an artist in Seattle. Her sketches pack as much radiant energy, color leaping and dripping off the page.

“I use this process as an opportunity to express my ideas, frustrations, and spirit,” says Ares. “Playing with the idea that paper is an ephemeral material, sketching allows me the gestural freedom to express ideas and make marks without holding back. I confined myself to a specific time range for each piece (15-25 mins) to tell a story in my mind and connect a visceral narrative to each drawing. I love using oil pastels and paper. They have an inherent quality of roughness, grossness and speed that are unique to the medium and process through which I create.”

See more at @kita.licious.



For those looking for existential/actual porn, welcome Kaj-anne Pepper AKA their drag persona “Pepper Pepper”. Pepper (IG: @ThePepperPepper) is a queer portraitist and performance artist who “loves butts, collage and digital manipulation.” The breadth of Pepper’s art is comprehensive: working in video, drag, installation, theatre and dance, they walk the line between classic campy cabaret, dada poetics, a very intense dash of vulnerability, augmented with exquisite tech touches, including filmic and theatrical pageantry dripping with faux gems very real warmth.

“I definitely work in the beat generation’s ‘cut-up’ technique, which was pioneered by Brion Gysin and William Burroughs,” says Pepper. “I do a fair bit of self-portraiture, which is expected as someone who has worked in drag. I’ve been thinking about my digital-diva-self for a long time—how it is an extension of my body, a collection of these floating images connected to my desire to be seen in some way at some point. My work on paper is often a meditation that may or may not have any relationship to my theatrical work, except for the fact I’m a body considering the idea of another person’s body which is often present in my work.

I’ve been drawing a lot of butts sourced from the internet or from friends. Lately I’ve been doing a #buttraiser: I take other peoples #buttselfies and redraw them and post them on the internet and use that as a vehicle to ask for donations to a local food charity. I like the idea of an ass in service to the community. I like the idea that an ass can be put to work in many ways. I like how an image of an ass is often an invitation, depending on the light.”


Invitation aka Ass Economy, 2020: “This one is about the internet and asking for tokens.”
ButtraiserMadame, 2020
Sumptious, 2020 
ButtraiserLadyC, 2020: “Part of my #buttraiser where I draw butts and post them to collect $$ for charity.”
Healsup, 2020
Anthony, 2020 

In extension, 2020:  “It’s like a telephone echo!”

2019 A Cut-Up with the sky. Mixing a skyline from another collage on top of a still from a commercial I produced.

2019 Thinking about “Nature Is Always Queer” – Peter Hobbs. Used this skyline for a self-portrait. 

Skysthelimit, 2019: “I must have been on a roll with that sky idea. I love that the figure became a window.”

CainMarkoandMadame, 2018: “I asked if I could mix my roommate’s painting with my pornstar friend’s silhouette.”

Self-portrait, 2016

See more at



Jessica Damsky (@jessicadamsky) melds the imagery of ancient myth with the modern seamlessly. Her visual vocabulary is rich in history, her skill as a draughtsman indisputable, yet she tempers these traditional skills with ruthless dry humor and a sly feminist touch in a way that’s refreshingly raw and straightforward. Don’t underestimate the grip of vagina dentata.

“I use my sketchbook extensively for working out ideas for paintings,” says Damsky. “Often after doing a sketch, I will realize that my idea is really stupid. I needed to sketch it out in order to come to terms with that. Other times I will obsessively do sketch after sketch, trying to figure out a good composition for an idea. For example, I have been trying to come up with a good composition for a harpy. I haven’t really come up with one yet. But I have so many sketches of harpies.”

Our lady of the sanitary hands. Burn off the Covid. Be clean.
Martyr in the wilderness with rocks
This became a painting. Noli me tangere.
Medusa holding all the shattered fragments of a man.
Medusa study
Covid spring break asshole kids as bacchanales. The one on the news was all, If I get Corona, I get Corona!” It occurred to me that they are just like the orgies from the Titian painting. I think I am super clever, but who would want a painting of theses stupid kids? Not me.
Jesus lizard lady. I realized how dumb of an idea this is, upon seeing the sketch. Did not make it into a painting.
A nice young man being eaten by a pitcher plant. Allegory of the dangers of vaginas or something.
Based on Ancient Greek pottery painting of Prometheus tied up getting eaten by an eagle. This was around the time Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I was so pissed off.
Clam attack!
Idea for a seven celestial spheres type painting, and I was pretty pissed that someone close to me said they believe in the flat earth bullshit. This is the flat earth, with the sun that shines only on the US, and fetus angels, and god as a dove with a bomb. I am glad I got these ideas out in a sketch without making it into a painting.

“I’ve been teaching beginning drawing for maybe eight years now,” says Damsky. “I do a day when I teach them about portraiture and make them model for each other. The last 20-minute pose of the day I use my sketchbook and draw one of them. Sometimes I’ve been teaching six classes per quarter, So I probably have 50-100 drawings of students. I have these memories of my professors, where they have made a huge impact on me and the trajectory of my work. It’s kind of surreal now being a professor myself, and seeing the students back where I was so long ago.”

“Doodles on everything, even though I am an adult.” —Damsky

This was in grad school. I had a critique by one of my favorite artists, Julie Heffernan. Among her advice: I was “trying too hard to be clever, but the content is not as deep as the clever surface. There’s nothing worse than an artist that promises to be clever but never delivers.”



Image courtesy of Steven Miller.

On September 18, 2004, Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger married herself. A conceptual artist who primarily works in the realm of performance, she exhibits work in quite experimental, untraditional ways: love poems to sailors transmitted via semaphore, all manner of mail art, documenting dreams on YouTube (replete with mussy bedhead and pajamas), documenting COVID-19 quarantine on YouTube, or dressing in the same monochromatic clothes for a month at a time. Flatchestedmama’s self and prodigious humor are the armature and essence of her work, something highlighted in the “Public Declaration of Commitment to Her Creative Self”, a marriage ceremony which included her father walking the artist down the aisle, vows, a wedding cake crafted from cement, and a legal name change to officially meld her artistic identity with her given name.

“My sketchbook plays an essential role in my art making and has for many years,” says Flatchestedmama. “It is the first place ideas get jotted down or drawn out. This usually happens at night. Once drawn, I will then take the time to collect necessary props/costumes, scout a location, and/or edit the idea. Due to a lack of technical skill, my drawings always make me laugh for a few minutes, so that’s fun too. In the end, I feel they are pretty spot on as far as capturing what was in my mind’s eye at the time of ideation.” 

First Kiss via Video Chat is my most recent sketch,” says Flatchestedmama. “It may be coming soon… the prospective party has yet to download Zoom.”

“I just found this sketch, which was not in my sketchbook,” says Flatchestedmama. “I drew it then posted it by my door as a ‘to do’ reminder. It was there for about three weeks before I completed the image which was used on back of the I ❤ MoM postcard.”
“I have also been known to sketch-sext. A person I briefly dated in 2019 was enamored with a track jacket I was wearing in a Tinder profile pic, so I sent him the attached drawing. That one still makes me laugh and is now in the collection of good friends.”

“For the Greetings from a Safe Distance series, using the sketchbook was more about organizing the episodes and listing the web addresses I wanted to showcase at the end of each episode,” says Flatchestedmama. “I also used the sketchbook [see below] to write down brief scripts. The page listing all of the assets each character brings to the show is because one of us may be voted out, stay tuned!”

“I do Santa pics on a yearly basis and this past year was the strangest one I have ever made: I had just been introduced to tardigrades by another party I was dating. This person in question had just turned 43, so I wanted them to do the 1(43) piece I had recently completed. [In the photoshoot] I would be a tardigrade (something they loved).

It was too soon in the relationship to take a Santa photo with them and I ended up only taking the tardigrade to Santa….”

“This is a piece that I did in 2009 where I carried around “The Weight of My Love” in the way of 13 sketchbooks. I no longer have all of those—I’ve moved into smaller and smaller places over the years and am currently operating with just two sketchbooks.” 


In my former role as visual arts editor at City Arts Magazine (it folded November 2018), I used to manage a column that featured the interiors of artists’ sketchbooks. For a while I’ve wanted to revive a version of this. This is that. I’m perpetually entranced by process and the thought that goes into creative projects. I don’t personally maintain a sketchbook process per se…but somehow I have way too many notebooks crammed with odds and ends, comprising the detritus of life. I think sketchbooks are a unique kind of chronicle: For some artists, sketchbooks encapsulate the most bald and honest of autobiographies—weathered tomes filled with automatic writings that’ll make your head spin. Others document a purely voyeuristic vision of the world: landscapes and people and phantasmorgraphical interpretations of reality laid out in painstaking detailed linework. And there’s so much in between. I love it all.

Here’s a video I made about my own sketchbooks a few years ago, as well as some snaps from a few of my sketchbooks and travel diaries from Serbia, Croatia, Italy. (IG: @amandamanitach)

“This and the following few images are from a sketchbook I maintained while on a trip to Serbia, Croatia, and Italy in 2017.”
“One of the things I’ve taken up during the COVID-19 quarantine is making illustrated grocery lists.”
Sketch for a neon sign created for the Sou’Wester Lodge art gallery (2018).


Many of the recent works created by Liz Tran (IG: @liztranstudios) revolve around the notion of heartbeat. She calls them “Heart Map” paintings, and to make them she tracks her own pulse as it responds to favorite songs she’s listening to while painting—tracks such as Bjork’s Violently Happy, I’ll Be Your Mirror by Velvet Underground, and Sade’s Babyfather. The resulting undulating streaks and bursts of layered color are a delight at first glance, but contain intensively personal content beneath the surface. Her sketches reveal an even more concentrated sense of personal immediacy—a different kind of urgency and expression—through use of text. 

“I don’t keep a traditional sketchbook,” says Tran, “but if I feel the need to jot something down, I’ll grab a sheet of paper and do a quick painting. These ‘sketches’ are often words, lyrics, a test or a fleeting vision. They typically live happily in my flat files, though occasionally they’ll make an escape.”