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KRF:1 2013 Artist Notebook project

The fourth Kildare Readers Festival, organised by Kildare County Council Library and Arts Services takes place in Newbridge, Co Kildare 11th -13th October 2013.

To coincide with the festival, artists, at all stages of their development, are invited to participate in a KRF:1 2013 Artist Notebook project, whereby artists are invited to fill a notebook in a creative way. Each notebook is then donated to Kildare County Council Arts Service to become part of a permanent touring collection. To date, over  130 notebooks have been kindly donated to the project.

The Artist Notebook project is 'the most engaging exhibition I have ever visited. It is difficult for any exhibition to hold your attention. I was captivated for hours'

Readers Festival KRF1 visitor 2102

The collection has toured to Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda and Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.  It was profiled by writer and artist John Gayer in Visual Artists’ News Sheet January – February 2013 in the article 'I've Got a Notebook (and I know how to use it)'.  In 2012, Kildare County Council commissioned Mary Catherine Nolan to write a series of essays looking at diverse visual arts practice in Co Kildare.  The series include an essay analysing the KRF:1 Artist Notebook project (The 'essay' was also presented as an artist notebook).  The KRF:1 2013 Artist Notebook Project will be exhibited in Riverbank Arts Centre in October 2013


… it was good to feel part of a group working away  in those marvellous Moleskins”.

Australian sculptor, Carole Driver

How to participate

A5 Black Moleskine notebooks will be provided by Kildare County Council Arts Service at a charge of €5.00. Register your intention to participate and order your notebook from the Arts Service (contact details below)

You are invited to fill your notebook with writings, drawings, paintings, photographs, notes, collage, etc. Your book must remain within the dimensions of 5.5 x 8.5 inches. It can open up to something wonderful (of any size), but it must fold down to the original dimensions. You are welcome to unbind, rebind or alter the book in (almost) any other way. If you want to use a thicker stock of paper, please do.

Participants are free to alter, design and work on the cover of the notebook

... This is a very democratic project ...

Paul Woods, invigilator


Applications are welcome from artists of all creative disciplines, at all levels – student, amateur, emerging and professional.


Applications from artists living and working abroad are welcome

Once the completed notebooks are returned to the Arts Service, they shall become the property of Kildare County Council.

Kildare County Council, in a curating capacity, reserves the right to refuse submission of notebooks that are deemed incomplete. In this instance, the artist will be invited to complete the notebook and submit for inclusion in the collection at a later stage.

Notwithstanding this, the intellectual property/ copyright remains with the Artist.

Each notebook returned will be catalogued by Kildare County Council, with the artist name. An inventory of participants, including contact details will be created by Kildare County Council and treated confidentially.

Kildare County Council reserves the right to reproduce images and text from the notebooks for promotional purposes. All works that are reproduced will be credited to the artist.

Participants must register interest and purchase the notebook from the Arts Service

As notebooks tend to be personal items, it is worth noting that the donated notebooks will be available to the public for perusal. Therefore entries of a personal/ sensitive nature should be removed by the artist in advance of returning the notebook.

Completed notebooks must be returned to the Arts Service before 12 noon on Monday 7th October 2013 to allow for cataloguing and exhibition display.

Participants should register interest by Friday 17th May 2013. Late applications will be considered at the discretion of the Arts Service.

Participating artists will be invited to a launch event in Newbridge on Saturday 12th October, as part of the Kildare Readers Festival 2013


The registration fee of €5 includes the A5 Black Moleskine notebook. Cheques, postal orders and bank drafts should be made payable to Kildare County Council. Cash payments can be accepted when registering in person. Credit card and Laser payments are acceptable (please complete Authorization Form).

For further information or to register to participate in the KFR:1 project, contact Kildare County Council Arts Service, Riverbank, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Tel:045-448328, Email: arts@kildarecoco.ie.

You can call into the Arts Service in Riverbank Arts Centre to register, but please make an appointment before you call in.

KRF:1 Artist Notebook Project 2012  : an essay by Mary Catherine Nolan


In 2012, as part of the Kildare Readers Festival, artists at all stages of their development were invited to participate in the KRF: 1 Artist Notebook Project 2012. Each artist was given an A5 moleskine notebook which they were invited to fill in a creative way.

To date, one hundred and nine notebooks have been donated to the project, forming the basis of a permanent touring exhibition which has already visited Kildare and Limerick, and will travel to Drogheda in 2013.


At its most literal, an artist’s notebook is a book in which an artist makes notes. The hope of a project such as KRF: 1 Artist Notebook Project 2012 is that the participating artists will provide works which stretch that definition to its limits, and beyond.

The following ‘lexicon’ of types of artist’s notebook, based on this exhibition, aims to show the many ways in which artists can interpret the concept. For some, the conventions of the (note)book have shaped their approach – they have worked within the limits of a book. For others, it has been a starting point, a new way to explore their art.

For the viewer, it can be an insight into the mind, the life, the experience, the process, the techniques and the work of artists, amateur and professional, new and well-established.

I hope this artist’s notebook will enhance your enjoyment of all the others.

Mary Catherine Nolan 2012

The artist’s notebook – a lexicon

The artist’s notebook as personal exploration

To some degree, all art is an exploration of self and an artist’s notebook provides a handy way in which to record this. Cuttings, sayings, quotes, original writings, personal reflection, an intimate diary, a testimony to friendship – all these can be found in this type of notebook. Its interest is primarily for the creator – who can comment on another’s personal journey? – but it can invite the viewer to speculate as to the direction the artist may take as they develop.

The artist’s notebook as artistic exploration

Artists provide a different view of the world. To do so, they constantly need to explore that world, as well as their methods of presenting it. An artist’s notebook is an opportunity to take and make visual notes: rough sketches, technical reminders – what colours create a particular effect – or visual details such as shading experiments. These notebooks may also record artistic influences: quotes from favourite artists, details of their techniques, images of their work. For the artist, this notebook is a tool, a vade mecum of sorts. Its interest is primarily for the artist, therefore, but it can be a valuable insight for the viewer into technique and process.

The artist’s notebook as a book of illustrations

Some artists use the notebook as a professional calling card, an informal catalogue of their own work, presented in an organized way. Finished sketches or paintings, often grouped thematically, occasionally titled or given a brief line or two of explanation, fill the pages and provide the viewer with a glimpse of the artist’s themes, preferred media and personality.

The artist’s notebook as an illustrated book

Visual artists, by definition, communicate visually rather than verbally. The notebook offers a chance to explore a different side of their creativity; the artist introduces a narrative, a series of chronological events, either fictional or factual (eg, a diary). In this case, the artwork is a complement to the written word, it is driven by the story rather than existing independently of it. It lets the viewer see the artist in a new light.

The artist’s notebook as animation

The ‘flip’ book or ‘flick’ book, where flipping the pages very quickly creates an animated effect, is in a sense a combination of the book of illustrations and the illustrated book. The physical form and manipulation of the book are crucial, as are the illustrations. Together they create a narrative whose aim is to entertain the viewer.

The artist’s notebook as an ‘altered book’

In an ‘altered’ book the physical conventions and constrictions of a book have been challenged in some way. When an artist folds the pages using origami techniques or does delicate cutouts on the pages, they are subverting the expectations of the viewer. Here the interest lies not in what the book contains, but in how its form has been manipulated. The artist is asking the viewer to question their assumptions.

The artist’s notebook as art piece

The artist who sees the book as material for their creativity, rather than a repository for it, who takes it and works on it and with it, creates an art piece. The book no longer has a linear structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. In many cases, it no longer even looks like a book: the pages have been removed and reshaped, the cover has been taken off and remodelled. Here the interest lies in the techniques and media used (paint; stitch; ink; paste), the effect created, the reaction evoked. This is a direct, wordless, continual exchange between the artist and the viewer – pure visual art.

The artist’s notebook as – ?

See Fifi Smith’s piece!

Mary Catherine Nolan 2012



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