Why keep a Sketchbook?
This is a very good question. At the moment I keep 3 different sketchbooks – each for a different reason. Way back at art school I was always told to keep a sketchbook and you will find virtually all art teachers will tell you the same. So there must be a reason – but what is it?
Horses for courses
Sketchbooks are your place to explore, play and experiment. They’re yours and should look like yours – not someone else’s. To be of value they need to be unremittingly selfish, about your ideas, your thoughts, your likes and dislikes. Sketchbooks are about your ideas, creativity, and inspiration. No matter what art course or drawing class you’re attending I would advise you to keep a sketchbook, or 3, even if it’s not expected of you.
- The sketchbook at the back of the image is one I keep for my pencil sketches. At the moment it is being filled with all my #draw4joy pencil sketches. I like to keep this one clean and crisp which reflects the kind of drawings inside – careful closely observed objects – simple and straight foreword
- The middle sketchbook is messy and experimental. It’s what happens when I start to explore and develop ideas around a specific subject matter. This one just happens to be about Hope Mill, which is from where I teach my own art courses. It a play space of techniques and mixed media.
- The foreground sketchbook is recycling an old diary. I tend to use this to make more personal images and write my own thoughts about artistic processes and reflections about my own work. I never know what’s going to happen in this sketchbook. I like to keep it small so I can take it anywhere. I usually sketch in pen, which I often prefer to pencil.
The value of sketchbooking
Keeping a sketchbook is very different from keeping a scrapbook or journal. The digital equivalent would be a Pinterest board. Here you are simply collecting a load of things you like. The big difference is – for artists a sketchbook is primarily about critical thinking and image making, developing ideas and imagery to discover a subject’s unique connection to you. It’s how artists connect the dots, find and make visible the hidden connections between seemingly random thoughts and images to arrive at a unique piece of artwork. It puts you, the artist, at the centre.
Sketchbooks are a chronicle
Sketchbooks are a dialogue
Sketchbooks are a precious jewel
- It’s a place for trial and error away from the scary big blank canvas.
- It’s a place to experiment on a small scale.
- It’s a place to try new techniques – be playful
- It’s a place that will become the focus of your attention and development as an artist.
- It’s for happy accidents.
- It’s for recognising the value of happy accidents.
- It’s for developing and exploring ideas – one linking to the next.
- It’s a place for hindsight – keeping it all in one place means you can go back and look with an objective eye after the frenzy of creativity has died. This is when you learn.
- It’s for finding new original ideas for your paintings, your craft object, sculpture, or whatever your discipline is.
- It’s where you can articulate and express your thoughts.
- It’s where you can note how your work is reflected in other artists work.
- It’s where you can note down how other artists have influenced you.
- It’s where you can note down how world politics or your great aunt’s pearls of wisdom have inspired you.
- It’s where you can note down the conextuality of your work (sorry – how it fits in with what’s happening in your life!)
Critique and Outcomes
- It’s a safe place to make the imagined real.
- It’s a safe place to be critical of your work now that you can see it.
- It’s a safe place to reach dead-ends.
- It’s a safe place to discover new leads.
- It’s a safe place to set down foundations for new projects.
Sketchbooks will unlock your creativity if you use them correctly.
Sketchbooks will enhance whatever project you are working on – whether at home on your own, enrolled on an art course or simply attending your local drawing class. Starting one will make the world of difference.