Recently, I had an opportunity to talk to Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, whom many of you know as a driving force behind the Totoro Forest Project  and most recently, the Sketchtravel charity art project . An accomplished artist who spends his days applying his formidable skills as an art director at Pixar Animation Studios, Dice gave me an inside look at the unprecedented Sketchtravel sketch book, a historic collection of sketches being auctioned off this coming October 17th.
Dan: Can you explain the idea behind the Sketchtravel sketch book, how it started, who started it and how you came to be involved?
Dice: Sketchtravel is a unique international charity art project. It started simply. French illustrator Gerald Guerlais and I said, "Let's pass around a sketchbook among our friends." At that point, it was just another sketchbook sharing concept. Soon after that, we said, "We might as well make it more challenging, inviting all the artists we love but don't know how to reach and the rule must be that it is handed off in person." It was our way of potentially meeting our heroes in a very fan boy way.
It turned out that this red sketchbook was passed from one artist's hand to another like an Olympic torch in an artistic relay through 12 countries over 4 and half years. We never thought passing it around in person would take that long but it was all worth it because it created many, many stories around the personal encounters between artists.
Dan: How did you come up with such an incredible group of contributors? How did you manage the process?
Dice: First we came up with our dream list. Of course we started with our friends who are top industry artists such as Peter de Seve and Pixar's Ronnie del Carmen. But we also started knocking on the doors of our favorite artists such as French illustrator Rebecca Dautremer and Bill Plympton.
Some, we had to pursue diligently such as Carter Goodrich, Nico Marlet, Glen Keane, Frederic Back and Hayao Miyazaki. There are many artists who couldn't do it because they were too busy or their geographical location couldn't work out. But to our surprise, many artists found this project special enough to find time in their busy schedule. As you can see, work done in this book is full on illustrations. Every artist poured their time and passion into this.
I must say that it wasn't so easy to manage the traveling of the book. We had to be very efficient with the schedule and somehow remind our artists that there is a deadline to this fun personal project too.
Dan: How is the auction going to be handled? How can people participate?
Dice: The big auction event will be conducted by the reputable auction house Pierre Berge & Associes in Brussels on October 17th. They will host the online auction as well as phone auction so people who cannot participate in the live auction event can still take part in the auction.
Dan: How much money are you hoping to raise? Can you tell us a bit about the charity cause behind this project?
Dice: Since our 71 contributors are coming all from different parts of the world and cultures, we needed to pick a global cause. Also given the contributing artist's backgrounds in illustration, animation, and comic books, a charity focused on child literacy was a fitting choice. The non-profit, Room to Read, focuses on literacy and gender equality in education for children in developing countries. They build libraries around the third world and what we particularly loved was that they sponsor children's book publishing in the struggling areas where there is no children's book market otherwise. They train local artists and writers to make a book about their own native culture and in their own native language.
Our goal is to raise at least $35,000 to build one library and sponsor one children's book publishing in Laos where we picked to fund as our first round of the project. We hope to expand our project outside of Laos if we get more funding.
You can help not just by bidding on the original sketchbook but also by buying our published Sketchtravel book that will be available in France this week. All the artists' royalty will be donated to the same cause.
You can find more about the Sketchtravel charity project, the auction, which artists have participated and other details by visiting http://www.sketchtravel.com/ . Check out their Facebook page, complete with postings by many of the participating artists, who discuss their work and the enjoyment they experienced being part of the project. Dice’s own website , showcasing his exceptional artistic talents and feature film work, can be found here.