:: blog ::

Charmed: the Tiny Sketchbook Project 2020

It’s January! The time of year for the annual Tiny Sketchbook Project from the Brooklyn Art Library. This year I’ve been sketching memorabilia…on idea that’s been knocking around my head for the last 11 months has been sketching my charm bracelet.

This is not a simple project. My charm bracelet is a monster.

Basic stats:

  • Started collecting in 1980
  • 102+ charms to date
  • 2 separate chains linked together
  • 1 jeweler who said “I don’t ever want to see this charm bracelet again.

The charms are all different shapes and sizes, different metals and make-up. This jangling chain of trinkets is my metal memory…the holder of so many life experiences over the past 40 years.

So when I made the choice to do this, I knew it could be a very special project.

Getting Started

I laid out all the charms and counted them, so I could estimate the time. This wasn’t a project that could happen all the night before, all while crying, like many of my previous sketchbook projects!

The elegant and slightly creepy ceramic hand that held the bracelet during the project.

Making the sketches

To help estimate time and effort, I drew a sample charm. Tho I couldn’t capture all the intricate detail, I tried to capture the spirit of the charm. The test took 5 minutes, so I figured the entire project would take about 15 hours.

The tiny sketchbook had 58 pages and a cardstock cover. The paper was thin. In past sketchbooks, I’ve used every-other page and then glued pages together to avoid bleeding. But I needed every page, so that wasn’t an option. This resulted in bleed-through. Not horrible, but not optimal. To compensate for bleed-through, I colored the background with a light blue.

The paper was thin, so bleed-through was a challenge.

I wanted to draw the charms on a chain, so I experimented with a few different linking styles. I picked one that was fast to do and that didn’t distract from the detail in the charms.

Experimenting with linking styles….the one 2nd from the bottom won out.

The back cover is a nod to the blanket-stitched pink flannel bag that came with my original charm bracelet, and where it’s carefully stored when not on my arm (or being sketched.)

The finished sketchbook


These projects are a wonderful burst of creative invention…it’s so fun to work with the constraints of the tiny size, and the preciousness of the scale is endearing.

I learned that planning a project out makes it more fun. Since I didn’t have to rush against a deadline, I could enjoy the process.

I was surprised by the challenge of sketching the small images. Many of the shapes are wonky and imprecise. I had to be okay with that, and keep going.

Next time, I’d find a better way to avoid bleed-through. And I would make accordion-folded pages to more realistically emulate the charm bracelet structure.

Farewell, little book!

It took 14 hours over 5 days to complete the sketchbook. Then the tiny book was mailed to its new home in a custom-decorated envelope. On time and ahead of deadline!

Fare the well, charming sketchbook! I’ll visit you next time I’m in Brooklyn.