Memories can be captured in art as well as words. Sophie Binder is a freelance designer/illustrator who left her job and home in St. Louis, Missouri, to go on a solo bicycle trip around the world. Fourteen months and 14,000 miles later, she returned, having pedaled through sixteen countries, including her birth country France, and Turkey, Syria, Egypt, India, Nepal, and Vietnam. Traveling by bicycle at her own pace allowed her to spend time sketching and to be led by curiosity instead of schedule. She kept a journal and filled seven sketchbooks. “The memories for me are physical. I look at the paintings and sketches and remember the weather, what was going on, the old man who sat down next to me. The sketches retain memories.”
Years later, Sophie published The World, Two Wheels and a Sketchbook, documenting her epic journey in words and more than 600 in situ works of art. A few weeks ago, she spoke about her trip to a full house audience at a local library. A natural storyteller, Sophie, had everyone laughing at the anecdotes she told about the people she met and the difficulties she encountered. While she saw impressive sights, she was most interested in the people she met. “It is very easy to judge from the background you have, from what you were born to, what you are used to. You don’t have the whole story,” she says. “I learned to step back and refrain from judging too much.”
Since no publisher would take on a big, full color book by a non-famous person, Sophie published the book herself. Using her graphic design talents, she laid out the interior and created the cover. The 280-page plus book combines stories and commentary using typed text and copies of handwritten journal notes, and is full of sketches, watercolor paintings, photos, and ephemera. Sophie’s art (and layout) is beautiful – I will let the photos here do the talking. Because of the cost of printing, she does not make much money from the book, but it is her labor of love and I think the book is gorgeous, well-written, fascinating and amusing, and worth every penny. I and many others at the library event could not resist buying a copy.
Buy The World, Two Wheels, and a Sketchbook or learn more about it on Sophie Binder’s website.
While I don’t recommend the average person try to create a masterpiece like Sophie’s, I do encourage anyone with artistic talents to include copies of sketches or paintings in their memoir. My mother sketched as she told me her stories, and I included those in the print copy of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight about WWII Japan. Poems That Come to Mind about dementia caregiving has some of my own sumi-ink art. These are in black and white, but full color printing is now an affordable possibility IF the book is not too long and IF coffee-table-book art quality is not required. Lulu.com actually does a good job with color interior, but I don’t generally recommend them for public sales (see my article on publishing with Lulu and color printing with Lulu). Amazon CreateSpace and Ingram Spark both do a decent job with color interior, but always get a print copy color proof before giving the green light to publish. If the color is off, ask your interior or graphic designer for help tweaking the colors (greens and blues in particular may cause trouble).
PS: Sophie had many funny stories about her trip, but as so many people were curious how she survived, I will tell you that she said vultures followed her, probably wondering “When will she drop.”
Here’s another post about using art: Using artwork and photos in memoir
Great post Linda. Thanks for letting us know about this gorgeous book. It does look like compelling reading, with or without the art. I wish I were artistic enough to make sketches of childhood scenes from memory! Alas, my talents are limited to digital art.
Ian Mathie is another person who made sketches, drew maps, and kept voluminous journals during his years in Africa. He does include some of this art in his five volumes of African memoir. Fortunately for the purposes of affordable printing for the general public, his work was all rendered in monochrome. Even the occasional photo was black and white.