What began as an art student's innocent sketching has grown to be a serious body of work.

What began as an art student's innocent sketching has grown to be a serious body of work.

In art school, Lambertus "Berry" van Boekel, a native of Holland, began making weekly lists of the 10 songs he enjoyed most. At the end of the year, he would compile those lists into his personal top 100, sketching the musicians along the way.

"They were the illustrations on the side that I didn't show," van Boekel said. "Little by little, they started growing, and they started to inform each other."

In 1991, van Boekel drew each artist on his top 100 list by hand. He's continued to do so each year since, and for the first time in 1999, van Boekel showed his annual "Top 100" at Skylab in Columbus.

This year, a celebration of the Clintonville artist's two-decade-long project is on display at The Art Exchange in the Short North. Through the Oct. 4 Galley Hop, 370 of van Boekel's portraits of musicians will be on display.

"It's kind of a celebration of doing this over so many years," van Boekel said. "It's not a concept that was thought up. It has grown organically over the years."

With a large body of van Boekel's "Top 100" being shown together for the first time, van Boekel said it's possible to see the progression of his work over time.

"There's somewhat of a chronology to it," he said. "Every year, there's a certain format or technique that I use."

Generally, van Boekel only shows paintings from one year at a time, as he has done each year since 1999 at Skylab Gallery.

Even though van Boekel said each year he tells himself that he won't devote so much time to his "Top 100" collection, the addiction wins out.

The 2008 series is already in progress, van Boekel said, and he hopes to show it again in March, but he is yet to arrange a location.

Though van Boekel fights what he calls a "boyhood obsession" to paint his musical heroes, his portraits have earned him some success.

The show recently appeared in New York City and also in Cincinnati. Following the show at The Art Exchange, van Boekel's work will be shown during the NADA Art Fair in Miami.

Also later this year, van Boekel will publish a book of his work, which will include a description, written by van Boekel, of each piece.

The works contained in the book are diverse, as are the musicians van Boekel includes in his "Top 100" each year. The works currently on display include Foxy Brown and Bob Dylan, as well as Brazilian artist Hermeto Pascoal and a Colombian shaman curing a girl.

"It's a reflection of my musical taste, and that fluctuates," van Boekel said.

Van Boekel also spends time each year working on pieces unrelated to his "Top 100," and also lectures occasionally at Ohio State.

Nevertheless, working on his largest collection is a nonstop process for van Boekel.

"The making of that list, that goes on all year, from January to January," van Boekel said.

With such a large body of work covering nearly a decade of work on display, van Boekel said a few of his portraits still stand out in his mind.

"Of course, I have my personal favorites," van Boekel said. "Every year, I make 100, and there are maybe five that fall into that category."

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com