Let's get outside the box.

As someone who is constantly meeting new creative people, the reaction to this project that I hear the most is 'I could never do this' or 'No one wants to see my stick figures' but what if we do? The Sketchbook Project has always tried to be inclusive. We want anyone to feel that they can at least be creative in some way. That even if your sketchbook is filled with stick figures you made it and you spent time on it. We started to wonder what makes people finally take the plunge to create outside their normal practice. We recently came across an Instagram from Emmy Potter posing with her Sketchbook Project 2018 book. Her post said that she was finally working on a new project and 'stepping outside of her comfort zone'. We had to learn more so we reached out and here is what she said:

(Make sure you follow along with Emmy (@emmylanepotter) on Instagram and other artists working on their books by searching #sbpprocess)

Tell us about yourself!

I'm pretty much your standard New York City cliche: 28 year-old Midwestern girl who moved to the Big Apple with a couple suitcases and a tiny bank account to pursue her dreams. I grew up in a small, rural town in mid-Missouri and went to college for musical theatre in Oklahoma City, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree. Both my parents have theatre degrees (my dad actually teaches theatre at a local university), and my older brother works in TV post-production out in Los Angeles, so I come from a family where the arts are valued, supported, encouraged, and essentially, a way of life. I've been in New York for six years, and I work an office job to pay my bills along with having a few freelance entertainment writing jobs for a couple different websites. I ride my bike all over the City, which gives me great joy. If you see a tall blonde girl zipping down the Hudson River Greenway on a silver bicycle in a Doctor Who workout top, it's probably me.

How did you hear about the project?

My best friend is actually getting married at the Brooklyn Art Library in November this year, and I had never heard of it. As soon as I pulled up the website and started reading about the project and the purpose of the library, I was charmed by the whole thing. Then I saw a Buzzfeed video about it that a bunch of my friends (including ones outside of NY) were sharing it on Facebook maybe a month or so later, and I was even more charmed! As a total Hermione Granger of a person, I'm a sucker for ANY kind of library, but yours is particularly charming. Oh and it's not super far from my apartment, so I plan on biking down soon to browse in person.

If not visual art, what sort of art do you normally create?

I'm primarily a writer and actor, so my art tends to be verbal and performance-based. I also trained in ballet and modern dance for years as well as sing and play a couple instruments, so I'm really more about using words and my body to create imagery rather than just my hands, if that makes sense. These days, however, I am constantly writing. I tend to carry a couple of small notebooks/journals around with me so I can jot things down throughout the day: story ideas, dialogue, comedy bits, and of course my feelings about life in general. Ha. I'm working on a screenplay right now, so lately I've been talking out loud to work out dialogue between characters and then writing it down.

What made you "step outside of your comfort zone" and sign up for the Sketchbook Project?

I love the whole ethos of the project: that everyone, regardless of who they are and their artistic background (or lack thereof), has a story to tell and equal space for that story to live on your shelves. Kids can have work next to professional illustrators. A grandmother could have work next to a world-class painter. The whole thing feels very intimate, supportive, and collaborative in the best possible way. It's very freeing. I see it as an opportunity to really stretch myself creatively while still connecting with other people. Plus it just sounded so fun!

What advice do you have for others who may want to create but are unsure how to approach it?

My acting teacher and I talk a lot about why even if you aren't necessarily "good" at something that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, because no matter what, you're still learning something. You learn by doing, so just do it! Play around. Get messy. Stay open. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to create art, because you're working from your own point of view, experiences, and skill-set, so you'll be creating something that is totally unique to who YOU are and nobody else. You give yourself so much freedom once you embrace that! I also find listening to different music and asking myself a lot of questions helps open up the process and gives me a sense of direction.

What is your spirit animal?

A phoenix. It's such a hopeful creature; constantly re-birthing itself after its own destruction. I think that's something to aspire to: embracing mistakes and failures, growing and changing from them, and then soaring to new heights.

Steven Peterman