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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Exercise 1.3

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

To Hide or Not To Hide?

I find art that is revealing and personal to be the most moving / interesting. However, I find there is a line between what an artist reveals on the surface and what the artist leaves for interpretation. Not all will be noticeable, or is supposed to be noticed. Messages will be hidden, symbolism will be used, layers will cover what the artist doesn't want to be seen - especially on first glance. Is this the same for sketchbooks?

What does showing sketchbooks actually mean? Who are we showing them too and why? I feel this conversation is purely aimed at the online culture. Perhaps sharing is a way to gain validation or gratification. I mean, is there any other reason?

When we talk about the idea of hiding sketchbooks or not, my thoughts tend to fall quite literal - I either show a page in my sketchbook or I don't. I don't hide things in the page, I just don't show it if it holds something I want to keep private. But generally, there are no secrets, it is just selective. That said, I do feel protective over the things I write and will find myself obscuring a photo of a page in an effort to hide the text. Like this blog for example, I don't feel overly comfortable with sharing what I think / write. So much so that I want to restrict what I say, cut it down and perhaps leave a lot of things unsaid with fear it is unrelated. It's an area I'm least confident in (yet I do enjoy), and would try to hide my notes in case they are poorly written or make no sense.

Sketchbooks are revealing, but is this what the artist wants to reveal about themselves and their work? We understand sketchbooks to be a place of trial and error, can revealing the contents make an artist feel conscious of being exposed as fraud? More commonly known today as imposter syndrome. Let's face it, not everything we put in a sketchbook is good, and that's the point - though it is often hard to fully believe in this. Sometimes they can look like a child has just picked up a pencil for the first time and scribbled, with lines trailing off the page (always thought this was effortless and cool). Other times they look like works of art fit for display in a gallery.

It's an interesting topic, which in all honesty, I hadn't given much thought too. I think personally this boils down to the question, what kind of work do I actually want to share? Doesn't matter whether it is in the sketchbook, on a canvas or even digital, for me I think it depends on the contents. By showing something, will this bring anything? Perhaps it is to gain clients for freelance work, or something you might find useful to win a job. Otherwise, I wonder if it is something people can enjoy looking at? If no, then why bother?


I began with researching such ideas to hide work as per the exercise. I struggled quite a bit with finding inspiration here, there doesn't seem to be many examples on the internet. It really takes a rabbit hole to find some interesting structures, but I think the collection of images worked well for the purpose of this exercise.

I really enjoy the fold out pages in books. I think they're an interactive element for the viewer to discover more than what the book offers, especially in the top right image shown above. There is also something intriguing with the books that looks rugged, used and full. In contrast, it is equally interesting when the book uses different folding techniques, different sized paper and pockets that seamlessly blends in the book. Something I'd maybe like to consider when working through my sketchbooks in this course, is the use of different textured paper and materials to act as pockets, image top left.

If I were to hide work in books, using a fold out method would be my preferred technique. Below I combined a couple of very quick doodles for ideas, as well as the mocked up concepts. As you can see, under the sketches on the right you can see the white pages from exercise 1.2 - I also kept one zine open on the left to a page I liked.

I would like to go back and cover the page on the left with paint, and include more writing that can be covered.

When researching for this exercise, I found myself drawn to a particular style that fills the pages in sketchbooks. In a way, I felt the pages below did show methods of hiding things. The paint spread across double pages with text either scribbled in a writing that is hard to read, or that is partly covered with the layers of paint, felt to be a comfortable method I would adopt in my books..

As text feels most precious to me in books, this collection of images above found on Pinterest inspired me to fill a double page, testing the idea of hiding writing under paint. Based on the exercise, I experimented with the question "to hide or not to hide?" whilst including some of my own thoughts.

The paper bag insert became an extra page in this situation which I felt strengthened the idea of hiding elements in the book, the bag seamlessly blends in.

"Could it be that I have lost my mind?" scribbled at the bottom of the left page. "There was something I wanted to say - but I forgot" Is nicely hidden on the left page, can you see it?

Overall I enjoyed this exercise and felt the results were a success. After finding inspiration for the above double page spread, I fell into a trance whilst colouring in the page. I'm confident in filling books with random thoughts and ideas knowing I can cover them in any medium that feels right. I also learnt that adding pockets in books can be a good thing! Rather useful in fact.


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