There is one cardinal rule in galleries: Don't touch anything. So when I heard about the nature of Sketchbook, opening tomorrow night at Beals & Co. Showroom (830 Canyon Road, 357-0441), I thought, "No way." Eight artists—most local, with one from LA and another from Arizona—show one complete work next to their sketchbook, inviting you to see the work in a new way as you thumb through the creative process. This breaks a tactile barrier, but it also gives the viewer access to the buildup and planning behind a work of art.

Carly Jones, project manager at Santa Fe Exports, wants to enhance the experience you have when you come and see this exhibit. "Working in galleries, you get to see the background by going to the artist's studios," she says, "I really wanted to have the public get the same opportunity we get as art dealers."

Asking artists to show their sketchbooks is a tall order. "It's just like looking at a journal," Jones tells SFR. "Talking with the artists, they have been very nervous. Their heart is out there with this." I can only imagine ... Letting the public get a peek into the process is a bit like a magician revealing their secrets, but it also shows something else—the birth of an idea and the formation of the work from it.

"I am pro-getting to know the artist, and pro-inspiring people," says Bobby Beals, owner and curator of Beals & Co. Showroom. "I think it's a great opportunity for collectors and viewers to connect with the artist. You can see the sketchbook from start to finish, including notes and dates." The vision behind Sketchbook extends beyond the moment you experience it in the showroom: Buyers have to purchase the completed work and the sketchbook as one with the intention that the two will live together, evermore.

The curators imagine potential conversations sparked around the finished work displayed in a collector's home "when they have dinner parties, or friends over and people compliment the piece." Beals suggests that this would be the perfect moment for the collector to reference the sketchbook, bringing a new level of conversation to the domestic moment. "We want to promote our artists well, and people see that sketchbook and they get to see what else that artist does," he says.

The artists in Sketchbook work in a variety of mediums and bring a diverse collection of sketchbooks. In some cases, there is a huge jump from the pages of their drafts to the completed work. "The sculptor's sketchbook—it's math, basically," says Jones. "Planning like 'I need to have this so high and so heavy not to topple over.' I am really interested to see how the photography will work out in the sketchbook," she says.

Sketchbook Opening Reception
5-8 pm Saturday Nov. 5. Free.
Beals & Co. Showroom, 830 Canyon Road, 357-0441