Lauren Simkin Berke's Sketchbooks

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday July 28, 2016

The 2016 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbooks, in which artists show their personal work and open a window onto their artistic process, continues with Lauren Simkin Berke, who lives and works in Brooklyn.

I’ve used sketchbooks since I was quite young, and have been making my own for the last seven years. Sketchbooks are, and have always been, an integral part of my artistic practice, and in recent years I’ve begun to consider them my primary work.

In my adulthood I’ve tended toward using sketchbooks for making do lists, for my daily practice of drawing from found vintage photographs, planning projects, doodling, making miscellaneous notes, and sometimes doing rough sketches or final line for illustration work. For the most part my current sketchbook marks are made in fine tipped technical pens, dip pens, or occasionally a brush pen.

My teenage and young adult sketchbook-keeping was more free form, filled with drawings from direct observation, including life drawing of nude models, location drawing, scattered with poetry, postcards, and ticket stubs. I started improvising bookbinding techniques to make my own notebooks and sketchbooks in college, where I usually I kept one book at a time that contained all my class notes and drawings, though there were some semesters where I had a book for each class and a separate sketchbook. If I traveled I would dedicated a book to that trip. I have sketchbooks from visits to Rome, Florence, Paris, and Ballyvaughan (Ireland).

I started my daily practice of drawing based on found photographs in 2005, and the line of those drawings quickly became the subject and structure of the art objects I make. These art objects take the form of paintings, etchings, collages, photocopy transfers, other mixed media work, and quite recently I've started playing around with embroidery. In 2006 I created a blog, where I posted my daily drawings through most of 2014. There are almost 1400 drawings archived on that blog. I stopped scanning my drawings, but have continued the practice, posting photos of them regularly on instagram.

I’ve not yet had the opportunity to teach, but if I did I would certainly encourage the use of sketchbooks, if not require it, depending on the focus of the class. Over the years I’ve written a bunch of course proposals, my first was for a class titled “Sketchbook as Brain, Index, and Playground,” where students would “explore the sketchbook from actual construction to the ritual of daily use and the development of visual play into visual essay.” Hopefully, someday, I’ll have a chance to make this course a reality.

Lauren Simkin Berke is an artist and illustrator who identifies primarily as a drawer (of the ink on paper variety). Lauren is an avid sketchbook user, book binder, coffee drinker, and cookie baker, drawing for clients such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Advocate, Family Circle, and Rémy Martin. Lauren has self-published art books and zines under the name Captain Sears Press since 2012, and sells a variety of merchandise on Etsy, and at Brooklyn Collective (, a boutique in the Columbia Waterfront District of Brooklyn. Lauren is represented by Riley Illustration and Accola Griefen Gallery.

Rep’s website:


Instagram: @lsberke

Twitter: @lsberke

Upcoming events:

Lauren has original work for six cover illustrations included in an upcoming exhibit, Grand Vocabulary: Contemporary American Illustration, at The Delaware Contemporary, which will be up August 5th through October 16th.

Also, Lauren illustrated a limited edition book for Rémy Martin, part of "L'Odyssée d'un Roi," a collection including a bespoke trunk by Hermès, and hand etched Saint-Louis crystal decanter with matching wine glasses, to be auctioned at Sotheby's in NYC on September 10th (and at later dates in London and Hong Kong). All proceeds to benefit The Film Foundation. 





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