Arts·Sketchbook

Gracey Zhang's sketchbook is full of people-watching scenes, but these days she has to dream them up

Her illustrations of people's interactions and body language are a romantic reminiscence of pre-pandemic life.

Her illustrations of people's interactions and body language are a romantic reminiscence of pre-pandemic life

Gracey Zhang's sketchbook is full of people-watching scenes, but these days she has to dream them up

6 months ago
4:08
Her illustrations of people's interactions and body language are a romantic reminiscence of pre-pandemic life. 4:08

What can you learn about an artist from paging through their sketchbooks? See the rough drafts, tossed-off ideas and intimate musings of some of Canada's most interesting artists in our self-shot series Sketchbook.

Hometown: Coquitlam, BC

Current location: Brooklyn, NY

Primary art medium: Inks and scrap paper

Something unusual from your sketchbook: Notes from strangers glued in 

Tool of choice for sketchbook: Ink pens

Three words to describe your art: Chaotic, touch, human

Fun factoid about you or your art: It's a till death do us part arrangement.

Strangest place you have used your sketchbook: Maybe a baptism in Cuba? Not strange as much as memorable for the most polite and inquisitive audience of children.

Gracey Zhang's sketchbook. (Gracey Zhang/CBC Arts)

Gracey Zhang's sketchbooks are a visual journal of her life. Over the past few years, she has travelled across the globe and sketched wherever she went — a restaurant, airport, subway, park, you name it. She describes her work as "focusing on people and interactions; commonality of body language and human rituals; messy but hopefully understandable." These sketches have a heightened romantic nature to them right now because for most of us, travel is not currently an option. 

In this video, Zhang flips through some of her recent books and shares drawings with us that capture the unexplainable magic of human interaction. We also watch her sketch herself into a bustling coffee shop scene from her imagination, since she can't physically go to one.

During quarantine, Zhang's sketches have had a deeper focus on the body. Some of these drawings are painfully relatable to the isolation experience, like this one:

Artwork by Gracey Zhang (Gracey Zhang/CBC Arts)

Currently, she is working on a children's book. "I'm in the fortunate position where I can create the stories I'm drawing, so it's causing me to be more considerate and tempered in writing."

Follow Gracey Zhang's work here.

Gracey Zhang's sketchbook. (Gracey Zhang/CBC Arts)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling stories...to himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.

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