Artist Tips Using the Versatile Sketchbook

Today I am offering an artist tip for beginners as well as experienced artists.  I have been keeping a sketchbook daily for over a year now.  If you’re an artist who doesn’t and aren’t seeing the improvement you want or find yourself getting into slumps,I recommend that you start sketching daily. All artists go through times when they are just not feeling creative or what they have in mind just isn’t going well.  Sketchbooks are very versatile and be a great way to push yourself to make art, even when you don’t think you feel like it.

Below is a page from the first sketchbook I filled well over a year ago. I like cat and enjoy drawing cats but, as you can see, they didn’t always use to look particularly like cats and the ones that did were rare and a unique achievement.  The page is filled with experiments, partial sketches, and shapes.  To me, this is the point of a sketchbook.  A safe place to experiment and learn without the pressure of creating a finished piece of art.

Now here is a page I filled not so long ago, and hopefully you can see the improvement. I haven’t been drawing cats every day, but I have worked at it, practiced, and learned how to draw them.  Their muscle structure, ears, and expressions are coming together through my sketches.  In a previous blog post we talked about learning how to learn to draw (animals, specifically) if you are in need of some inspiration .

I have experimented quite a lot with different ways to fill a sketchbook, particularly with the method and approach in which I go into a new sketchbook. I have never gotten the “first page anxiety” that a lot of artists get, where you feel pressure to make the first page really great and so you maybe freeze up and put off working on it until later. I can understand where that feeling comes from, but I mostly feel excited about starting new sketchbooks and I usually build up ideas in my head about goals to set for myself in it and visualize how much I’m going to improve while working in it.

This method of creating expectations is both good and bad.  When I make a list of areas I want to improve in, I chip away at those especially in the beginning, but I find that my attention is more often than not drawn in a different direction partway through and I don’t return to the list again. And I don’t try to curb that tendency because I’m still working and learning something, just not the something that I thought I wanted to learn. By nature, I am fairly single-minded and once I feel locked into something and excited about something, I just stick with it. If this is you, I’d keep in mind that these types of lists and goals may not be helpful.  If you are comfortable with changing plans and being more flexible though, making a list can get you motivated to start a sketchbook.


In the past, I have also set goals for myself about how I fill a sketchbook.  For example, in this sketchbook I didn’t want to use any media I could erase, in another I wanted to use more color, I wanted to set themes for myself (this week I’m drawing x, the next I’m drawing y) and let me tell you, I don’t advise this at all. Never have I been less inclined to work in my sketchbook than after the initial enthusiasm wore off and I really wanted to work in pencil or I was drawn to something other than the theme but I didn’t let myself work on it because it wasn’t the right time. I gave up the theme idea at some point when I discovered that plans were hurting instead of helping my art journey.

What works for me might not work for you.  Everyone has a different personality.  So my number one tip from my sketchbook experiences has got to be to be flexible in your expectations of yourself and when something isn’t working, make adjustments rather than thinking it’ll become beneficial soon.  I highly recommend keeping a sketchbook though how you keep that sketchbook is entirely up to you.  Sketchbooks come in all sizes and paper quality.  Find one that you are comfortable with.  Experiment, learn, record ideas, and most important make it fun for yourself.

I hope I was able to help and inspire the artist in you a little bit with today’s post. If you have any tips to share, about sketchbooks or about anything art related, please leave a comment below. Until next time, goodbye!

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