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Sketchbooks can be a joyous outlet for creating freely without constraint. Even if keeping them’s not your thing, a look through somebody else’s – as I’m sure lots of people can relate to – is always fascinating. And with letterforms so often existing in spaces that require them to be functional cogs in coherent systems, once in a while its super refreshing to return to them as simple, one-off art forms.
Looking at the sketchbooks of Pavel Alekseev is a particularly special experience. Also known as Pavel Ripley – Ripley having been his tag name when he was graffiti artist, and the name he goes by on socials – the Moscow-based artist and designer’s sketchbooks fuse studies of different textures, patters and shapes with letterforms in the most intriguing way. Keeping a daily sketchbook practice which he shares through his Instagram page, Pavel uses this window of time to create free, explorative works. ‘I use my sketchbooks for therapeutic purposes and to keep my hands and mind in a good shape, so usually they’re just an act of pure self-expression’, he tells us.
‘I love letterforms and I love abstract art, biological structures and technical aesthetics, so I just combine all these things’, he continues. ‘I find it very interesting and useful to look for the limits of the variations you can have with letterforms and the different ways you can interpret them, because it allows you to find new ideas and meanings from very well-established, familiar, decipherable images and forms.’
Pavel’s favourite mediums to work with are paper/tracing paper, pencils and graphic pens, as he says these bring him closest to experiencing his works in-process. ‘It’s the only way to touch letters, to feel them, to make a beautiful mistake and feel tactile pleasure’, he says. ‘I love digital tools and bezier curves a lot, but I’m sure that everything has to start with hand dancing on paper…sketchbooks are training for firmness of hand and flexibility of mind; two of the most important things in life.’
While he acknowledges it can be difficult to keep a daily sketchbook practice, Pavel says for creatives it can be seen as just another ritual that makes you feel better. ‘Just like a morning workout, or yoga, or mental practice, or even a cup of coffee’ he explains, ‘it helps me to reduce stress, change point of view and keep my skills and imagination in good shape’.
‘It’s hard to do this everyday but its OK, you shouldn’t do it as a painful practice or a chore. All you need is to enjoy the process and not to be afraid of blank page.’ Pavel currently works as an art director for the educational project about history, culture and art, Arzamas Academy, and regularly posts his personal sketchbook work on his Instagram page. Thanks, Pavel!