3 Ways to Fill A Sketchbook

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Are you stuck at home right now watching the news and getting frustrated? Or, have you found yourself scrolling through Facebook reading outlandish posts, getting yourself all tied up in knots? Then you need a break away from watching television and social media as much as I do. That makes me think now is the perfect time to fill that sketch book you have been wanting to start but never found the time for it.

Here is the thing, getting started with a blank sketchbook is HARD. I know I have stared at the first page of a sketchbook a million times - ok maybe not a million but I bet it was definitely a thousand - wondering where do I start. It seems like the first page is always a super scary page. So many crazy thoughts run through your mind. Where do I start? What if it is ugly? What if it turns out to be a mess? What if ... What if ... What if... Hey STOP!

Here is the secret about sketchbooks that no one ever talks about. Are you ready for it?

Sketchbooks can be and do whatever you want. There are no rules!

If you want to create a sketchbook full of doodles - then do it. If you want to make a sketchbook full of landscapes of the different countries you plan on visiting before you turn 80 - do it. If you want to just splatter paint on a page and jot down a phrase that expresses how you feel today - then do it.

I can tell you the most gratifying thing about every sketchbook I have ever started is looking back through it. I probably have 20 or so sketchbooks that I have never finished filling every page. Honestly, most of the sketchbooks I have are filled with scribbles or swatches where I have mixed colors or was practicing stroke lines--nothing I would ever show anyone. I can tell you now, looking back at each of my sketchbooks, they all tell the story of my artistic journey. So don't hesitate taking time now to start filling up a sketchbook. Take 30 minutes everyday and make it your artistic time to make a collection of your artistic expressions. Ok, I know you are willing, but are you still staring at that first page - let me encourage you with a few ideas that can get you going on starting your sketchbook.

1. Create a Doodle Sketchbook

This is exactly as it sounds, a sketchbook that you just doodle in. Some of us like to doodle words or funky shapes or even just simple circles. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a doodle, because doodles get your creative brain warmed up. Take a few minutes a day and flip to a blank page and start scribbling. Start making shapes. Then color in your shapes or shade your shapes or even stipple your shapes. It is fun to look at what you can create that started with a shape as simple as a triangle.

2. Create a Reference Sketchbook

This a great place to swatch out your mediums by using your sketchbook to document all of the colors you have in your pencils, your markers, your watercolors etc. You can use the sketchbook to document your favorite color combinations. Blend colors together and document what colors you used together to create that new color. This can be very useful when you are working on future projects to remind yourself of a color combination you loved.

3. Create a Technique Practice Sketchbook

Who says that sketchbooks need to only have perfect and/or beautiful things in them? Dedicate one sketchbook to simply practicing things. If you need to practice creating realistic shadows then fill a page by repeating a simple shape like a square several times on the page. Then practice how a shadow would look on each one of the square shapes. Make notes on what you liked and/or what didn’t work. Turn the page and practice a different technique. You will find this repetitious practice will help you gain confidence in your skills. Again, this sketchbook will be useful when looking back at these pages later when you feel stuck working with a technique you know you've practiced, but are now struggling with.

These are only a few tips to help you get started on the road to filling a sketchbook. Sketchbooks are not just for those that draw. You can fill a sketchbook with anything you find useful to your art and helps keep you actively exploring along your artistic journey.

Bonus tip: If you are intimidated by the size of the paper in the sketchbook, you don't feel you can fill the entire page, break it down by drawing boxes on the page. Divide the paper up in manageable sized sections (maybe 4 or 8 sections, or whatever you want). Treat each small section like it's its own page. These smaller sections will be less intimidating and therefore easier to create something in. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you finish two or three squares in one sitting.

I know you have a few journals laying around the house, so get started now. Don't go out looking for a fancy sketchbook or buy one on Amazon that won't get to you for a week or so. Start now with what you have in your house. You will thank me in 30 days when you can look through your sketchbook and marvel at your work with a sense of great accomplishment.

So why are you still reading this? Go grab that sketchbook that has been gathering dust on your bookshelf and get started today.

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