Keith Henry Brown's Sketchbooks

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday August 3, 2017

The 2017 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbook, in which artists show their personal work and open a window onto their creative process, continues with Keith Henry Brown, who works in NYC, and lives for music.

I keep sketchbooks mostly to figure out stuff and solve problems. I think they’re not as beautiful as a lot of my colleagues, because I don’t take them as seriously. For the most part, they’re not meant to be looked at by anyone but me; they’re a little embarrassing, kind of like a teenage girl’s diary.
So why am I showing them? I guess because they show the process. 

I make them for three reasons: to address deficiencies (stuff I feel I’m weak at drawing); sketch things that aren’t really finished ideas, but I just want to take a crack at for fun; or portraits, which are a thing I obsessively enjoy doing. In a recently years, I’ve contributed a couple of times to The Sketchbook Project, which is a pretty cool idea: a crowd-sourced library that features thousands of artists' sketchbooks contributed by creative people from around the world. There’s a store front in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but they also travel around the world in a mobile library where they allow people to take out original sketchbooks and peruse them(Find out more here:

So my sketchbooks mainly function like a mad scientists’ lab—I try things and see if they work, usually in pencil and pens but sometimes a bit of color. A lot of the time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but that’s where it gets interesting!

Keith began his career like many young artists, dreaming of becoming a cartoonist at Marvel Comics. After attending the High School for Art and Design in New York and a brief stint as an illustrator for a couple of comic companies including his beloved Marvel, he went on to pursue a career in painting, and later, as an illustrator. His favorite artists at this time were innovators like Howard Pyle, Frank Frazetta, Burton Silverman, Le Roy Neiman, David Stone Martin, as well as painters Diego Rivera, and Jean Michel-Basquiat, among others.

Later, he began publishing his watercolor paintings. First for greeting cards and then newspapers and magazines. A lifelong music lover, his work has placed a special concentration on jazz, which reflected his lifelong love of the music.

In the late nineties, he forged a career in design and in 1997, and became Design Manager for Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. In 2001 he became Creative Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Handpicked for the position by Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, he designed marketing and promotional graphics for the 2004 opening of the celebrated "House of Swing"a new facility specifically designed for jazz music, Frederick P. Rose Hall at Columbus Circle in New York City.

He has designed and illustrated several jazz CD covers for Christian McBride, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Duke Ellington, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and many others. He is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency ( lives in New York, where he continues to write, paint and draw stuff.



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