Open Sketchbook: Johanna St. Clair

Inside Johanna St. Clair's Notebook

Johanna St. Clair is an artist and one of the minds behind Mollusk Surf Shop in San Francisco and Venice. We asked to see her sketchbook, which turns out is a bit unconventional.Johanna St. Clair - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: So what are these cards?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: They’re blank business cards that Nat Bloom made out of screen-printing scrap and left at our store, Mollusk Surf Shop. I stuck them in my car when I was cleaning out the shop a couple of years ago, and then I started drawing the crazy characters crossing the streets at stoplights. There are a lot of interesting people downtown near the sewing factories that I’m constantly visiting.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 2 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: Did you make the holder?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: My 9 year-old daughter found the accordion holder while poking around a bookstore with her dad. I keep it in a clutch in my purse with a trove of pens. You never can tell when they’ll run out of ink.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 4 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: How do you use them?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: When I started Mollusk clothing line with my husband, I had to take a break from painting. I love the work that I do designing, developing, and producing clothing, but it felt wasteful not to capture the flashes of inspiration that I was still having. This has been a way that I can record my experiences and ideas in the margins of a busy life. I just draw and then post the better ones on my Instagram feed. I love how simple a direct the whole process is.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 7 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: What do you do with them when you’re done?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: I keep them in a pile! Sometimes I give them away to the subjects if they aren’t too unflattering. It’s always fun to surprise people with a sketch because they’re never aware of being drawn. I can’t imagine how I could show them in a gallery—they’re too small. But I’ve definitely thought about putting out a book, maybe when I have 1,000 of them. Or at least a zine.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 13 - Plumb Blog

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

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: I’ve given plenty away and I’m sure I lost some. I stick them in my pocket instead of putting them away—and these are drawings that you could accidentally put through the wash! And no, I don’t think it matters. I’m always making more.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 3 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: How do they work in relation to your more finished work? Do you use these as starting points for bigger things or are these standalone drawings?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: I think the consistent, quick drawing has changed me for the better. I’m less fussy and stiff. Lately, I’ve started making bigger drawings with brush and ink, out in the field, and it’s very fun. They’re just as direct as these but much more complex.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 6 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: What are your ideal work conditions?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: Travel! It’s so inspiring! We go to Mexico every year and that’s the best. But even if it’s just an industrial neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, or a New York hotel, I see more if I’m out of my usual environment. And it’s very fun to draw musicians. And my family. My husband, John, is my favorite subject.Johanna St. Clair Notebook 8 - Plumb BlogJohanna St. Clair Notebook 11 - Plumb BlogJohanna St. Clair Notebook 12 - Plumb Blog

PLUMB: Why do you draw?

JOHANNA ST. CLAIR: For fun! Johanna St. Clair Notebook 5 - Plumb Blog  Johanna St. Clair Notebook 9 - Plumb Blog Johanna St. Clair Notebook 10 - Plumb Blog