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History on Hand

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

By Sydney Passmore

For my last project interning here this summer, I was fortunate enough to learn the procedure of handling important documents and how to properly organize and digitize those documents. The important documents in question were Walter Anderson's sketchbooks - most from the 1960s.

Digitizing allows for the sketchbooks to remain intact, while still giving the public access to Walter's work. By sharing this archival material, people regardless of geographic location will be able to become familiar with and learn from Walter Anderson's work.

This has been one of the most amazing opportunities given to me this Summer. I was able to touch (with gloves of course) the same pages that Walter touched. While to him, these pages may have been just slips of paper to hold his ideas, they felt heavier to me. He could have one long, connecting line and it would create so many details. I caught myself trying to imagine how his hand created the lines on the paper. I wondered if he did them in a quick, fluid motion or if he drew each line while pondering the form it would take in the end.

If you look at the sketch books sequentially, you can see that even for great artists like Walter, practice really does make perfect. There are hundreds of sketchbooks and Walter filled all of their pages, front and back. The lines of the pages were not a boundary for Walter and he would allow each sketch to overflow onto the next page. He sketched the things that he saw on Horn Island; sometimes he would sketch the same thing (flora and fauna) over and over again at different angles. There were times that I would have to stare at a picture for a moment before my eyes could see the position of the animal he was drawing.

Walter would jot down quick little thoughts like, “the artist - ‘I don't know how to do anything’." These words marinated with me, as I begin my last year of college. How important is it to become a master of none, with a knowledge of all? Interning at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art has taught me so many things, and being able to touch real history makes it even more gratifying! I hope that these sketchbooks can help people to learn more about Walter, or to just enjoy his artwork through a broader network. My time here may be coming to an end, but I will forever be grateful for the learning experiences I have had this Summer.


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