Sketchbooks are a window into our personalities, thought processes and inventions. They allow us to showcase a representation of who we are as an artist, regardless of skill level. Moreover, sketchbooks contain a particularly personal nature to them. Perhaps it’s the fact that all of our drawings and sketches are able to be kept more personal by having the ability to display them whenever we feel like doing so by using the sketchbook’s cover. We only allow others and ourselves to see these creations in specific moments in time rather than having them in constant display, which might make them feel more sacred. But also, we can carry sketchbooks around with us anywhere we want. It’s as though our sketchbook is our loyal companion on which we can lean on to be ourselves without judgement, and that’s a wonderful tool to have.
Now, let’s look at some ways in which we can approach this incredible tool we call a sketchbook. Note that while it all comes down to personal preference on how to utilize this tool, these tips and approaches are simply a suggestion of ideas on how to dive into the endless possibilities on how we can interact with our sketchbook.
One great way to make the most of this liberating and personal tool is that it can help us in goal setting in regard to our artwork and skills. Perhaps we’re looking to become more knowledgeable in the use of a certain medium. Thus, sketchbooks are great gateways for practicing and refining our methods. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to explore ink drawing or watercolours but felt like you weren’t quite sure where to start or how to interact with such a medium. Sketchbooks provide us a safe space to experiment and try out different methods as we gain more experience with them. You can either use multiple sketchbooks to try out different materials or you could dedicate an entire sketchbook to your medium of choice.
This brings me to another potential approach to using a sketchbook, which is to put a date on drawings. While it’s totally a personal preference whether to write the date on your artwork, it can be a great tool for documenting your progress through time. This could give you an idea of how you have modified your original approach to certain materials or ideas. The dates on your drawings can allow you to have a chronological look at your techniques and artistic progress and journey throughout time, all in one place.
Another way in which we can approach a sketchbook is to divide its pages into various sections in various ways. Whether we feel like creating smaller drawings within a different set frame than the one that the sketchbook’s pages provide, or whether we feel like creating two side-by-side opposite drawings sort of like in a ‘Yin and Yang’ style, dividing the pages into different sections can be a fun and challenging new way to use the space in your sketchbook’s pages.
Talking about challenges, sometimes we might not know what to draw next in our sketchbook, which can make us step back from drawing. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle this such as by challenging ourselves to focus on one specific subject for a set time with our sketchbook. You might have heard of weekly drawing challenges, but the great thing is, you don’t have to limit yourself to only drawing a subject for a week. You could focus on and practice drawing a specific subject throughout the weekend, for a whole month, do 30-minute intervals on different subjects, or whichever time you feel like you’d like to dedicate to it. For example, exploring an animal’s movement and doing various sketches of that specific animal’s poses throughout the weekend could be a fun and challenging way to learn about animal drawing. Whatever your subject of interest may be, giving yourself a set time to observe, study and draw a specific topic can help give you direction to what you could potentially draw next, which can be very useful in providing some excitement and motivation for getting drawing!
Remember that drawing and sketching in a sketchbook doesn’t have to be about drawing the perfect artwork on every single page. Sketchbooks are a magnificent place to experiment and make mistakes along the way while you’re learning, and it’s great to use that blank space for this reason. Sometimes we might feel pressure to put out a great idea or draw onto paper but are struggling to do so due to the pressure we put on ourselves. One potential way in which we can tackle this pressure is to get involved in some scribbling and drawing without any direction, just to let the artistic energy come through, and then we can focus on a more precise or detailed drawing. We could compare this to approaching the first sketch or drawing of the day as if we were kids playing in a ball pit. Letting out all of our inhibitions and seriousness by throwing colours, shapes and ideas all over the place, before engaging in a more precise and detailed sketch or drawing. Perhaps one of the greatest powers that a sketchbook provides us with, anytime and anywhere, is the ability to learn and experiment through play regardless of age.