Lili Schuch realized that her sketchbook had at some point become the artwork.
Lead Image: The small format of a sketchbook provides portability and allows speed, and the use of a spread of pages gives Lili Schuch the space to capture a wide view, as in this scene found outside of Budapest.
If plein air painting is about capturing the moment, Schuch’s landscape-format sketchbooks are an embodiment of the idea. If the Hungarian artist can carve out 20 minutes, she can create one of her “foldable landscapes.” Armed with a Moleskine sketchbook and a relatively small palette of watercolors, Schuch looks to depict both the atmosphere of the landscape and the activity that enlivens it.
“When I bought my very first pocket-size watercolor sketchbook, I didn’t think I would get so much pleasure and inspiration from it,” recalls the artist. “It started as a sketchbook for details for my larger paintings, but then I discovered the advantages of the compact size and shape. Soon it turned out to be my tool in plein air painting; I bring it everywhere I go and look for landscapes that would fit in these two lengthwise pages. At first, when I sat down at a beach to capture what I see in a page, I found my book too small. But then I thought, Why not use both pages and create a whole in two separate pages? The result turned out to be very interesting: a landscape unfolding in two pages, something that becomes understandable if you open the book fully. When I’m ready, I just close it up, put it in my pocket, having a new artwork and one more memory from another location.”
Indeed, the sketchbook quickly outgrew its use as reference.
“I look at it as an individual collection of artworks, not just a secondary, forgettable sketchbook, although I’m planning to go back to some of the locations and paint the same scene once more in a bigger size,” explains Schuch. “This sketchbook is also great to get some experience and confidence for painting larger watercolors. I particularly enjoy painting scenes with water; I just sit on the beach near the sea or at a lake, enjoying the atmosphere and the sound of waves, and sketching. I’ve never been the type who likes spending long hours painting every detail. This is why I love watercolor; it can be so quick, fresh, and spontaneous, yet very expressive. My ‘foldable landscape’ paintings usually take 20 minutes to complete, and when it’s done I take a photo including the painting and the landscape I painted, allowing others to see the real site and my point of view.”