Open Sketchbook: Ala Ebtekar

Ala Ebtekar is an artist currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. For years he has been exploring the intersection between contemporary American and traditional Persian cultures through stunningly beautiful projects like the ones below:

Ala Ebtekar - Artwork 1

Ala Ebtekar - Artwork 2

Ala Ebtekar - Artwork 3

Ala Ebtekar - Artwork 4

I asked him to share his sketchbooks and answer a few questions, and what he sent back was unlike any sketchbook process Ive ever seen.

Ala Ebtekar - Open Notebook

PLUMB: What are these notebooks and what do you use them for? How do they fit within your process of making your work?

ALA EBTEKAR: A lot of my “journal entries” or sheets I practice on are from discarded books and book pages. Often they’re from books I might have used in previous works, and what remains from them. They’re a starting point for ideas, composition, and the flow of line. I often give myself the task to draw 1,000 lines each morning.

PLUMB: What do you draw within them?

ALA EBTEKAR: Brush and ink. Always.

PLUMB: And when they’re done, what do you do with them?

ALA EBTEKAR: They remain either as bound book pages or loose sheets in the studio. They’re never really shown or exhibited.

PLUMB: Have you ever lost one? Did it matter?

ALA EBTEKAR: I’ve lost many, and have thrown away even more. It can be nice, like anything, to go back and look through previous work. Sometimes I wish I had kept the ones from years ago. I feel lucky that my parents kept so many drawings and books I made from a very early age.

Ala Ebtekar - Open Notebook 2

PLUMB: Under what conditions do you make your best work?

ALA EBTEKAR: When you slip into that zone, that’s when the best work comes out. Music helps tap into that space, as does a certain clarity and intention.

PLUMB: What’s your relationship to the Internet?

ALA EBTEKAR: Many. It exists, and I use it as a research tool as well as an extension of my practice.

Ala Ebtekar - Open Notebook 3

PLUMB: Whose notebooks would you like to look at?

ALA EBTEKAR: At the moment, Sigmar Polke, whose sketchbooks I had a chance to look at this summer at MoMA in New York. Besides him, perhaps someone like the Behzad (Persian miniature painter) or Bruce Conner.

PLUMB: Have you ever looked at someone else’s diary?

ALA EBTEKAR: Absolutely. By invitation only of course. Much of what I’m interested in is exactly that: an intimate space created by the individual and his or her notebook or journal. And then I like this one-on-one relationship that the viewer gets to step into and encounter.

PLUMB: What’s your favorite Plumb notebook so far?

ALA EBTEKAR: I love Linda Geary’s Elevated Journal, as well as Nathaniel Russell’s Drawn to Music.

Ala Ebtekar - Open Notebook 4