Last week I showed you a couple ways to get past that first scary page in your sketchbook.
This week I wanted to talk a bit about why I keep a sketchbook. The first sketchbook I
ever had was from high school art class. We had weekly sketchbook prompts and were also
encouraged to just play around. I filled that book to the brim with all sorts of things
from a little comic about a fly to random colourful doodles.
After I left high school, I didn't buy another sketchbook for about 8 years. I still loved
making art. I designed all the stationery for my own wedding, created things for many
friends and eventually started my own stationery business. I had a notebook where I would
rough out ideas but I only ever used it if I was working on a specific job. I completely
stopped creating art for myself. And I think as a result of that, I got burnt out with
stationery. It seemed like everything had already been done and I couldn't come up with
After shutting down my business, I started doodling fairly regularly in a cheap mixed media
sketchbook. It was all over the place. Everything from ink drawings of things in my apartment,
to watercolour flowers, to cartoon animals. Eventually, I started gravitating towards pattern
and abstract shapes.
My next sketchbook was a really beautiful Moleskine with thick, off-white pages. I dove head
first into patterns and filled many pages with random motifs and meditative patterns. There
are also some really personal pages in there too, like when I drew all the flowers I
received when my dad died. It's still one of my favourite books and I feel like I really
started to find my style in those pages.
Today I have about 3 sketchbooks of different sizes going at once. Keeping a regular sketchbook
practice has been so important in finding my style, strengthening my creative muscles and
experimenting with art. Looking back at each book, I can see how much I've grown. Sometimes
it's even embarassing! Here are a few reasons keeping a sketchbook can help you with your
Keeping Your Work Hidden
Since I blog and post regularly on Instagram it might
seem like I'm sharing everything I make. But the truth is, for every one piece I photograph
and share there are probably five that I keep to myself. While I do believe that sharing your
work is a really important part of the creative process, you shouldn't share everything. It's
so freeing to have a place where you can make art just for you and experiment without worrying
about someone else's opinion. Your sketchbook can be a private place where you experiment
Art Breeds More Art
When I got burnt out with my stationery business it was because the only time I sat down with a
pencil was to sketch out something a client wanted. I never played around with my own ideas
and drew just for fun. The only way to work through those creative blocks is get something
down on paper. Once you have something there, you can look at it and see what's working, what
isn't and try again. It's great practice to rework the same idea several times.
Create Your Own Inspiration
It's very easy these days to get caught up "inspiration hunting" on the internet. You could get
lost forever scrolling through Pinterest looking for something to kick start an idea. Most
of the time you'll leave feeling bad after comparing yourself to other artists. Once you have
a sketchbook or two under your belt, you can start looking at your own work for inspiration.
Now when I'm stuck on something, the best place for me to get ideas is in an old sketchbook of
I've put together a simple little exercise in colour and pattern to help you fill some pages in
your own sketchbook. It can be done with basically any art supplies too, so just use what you
have on hand. But if you're interested, I'll talk about what supplies I used. I've also
included a little pattern "cheat sheet" which will come in handy in a lot of projects. If you'd
like to get this exercise and pattern sheet, fill in your email address below and I'll send it
to you right away!
It's hard to pass up a sale at the art supply store right? So when I saw a large mixed
media sketchbook on sale at my local store for about $8 I obviously had to buy it... even
though I have 2 other sketchbooks on the go right now! But I love the size of this one
and the fact that the pages can really take a beating. It's a
Canson 9x12" Mixed Media
sketchbook, if you're interested. The paper on the
Strathmore Mixed Media
sketchbook is another one I really love.
But that got me thinking about the dreaded first page. Why is it so hard to fill that first
perfectly white page in a new sketchbook? You want to start the book out right with a fun
first page! A good start like that always motivates me to keep going. So here are some easy
ideas to help you fill that first page with something you'll love.
A Simple Pattern
It's no secret that I love a good pattern. There's something so meditative about taking a motif
and slowly filling the page. It's also a really simple way to ease into a sketchbook page when
you're not feeling the most creative. A "tossed" pattern is my favourite to play around with
since it takes absolutely no planning. Think of it like you're taking some shapes and just
tossing them on the page. So start with one scattered motif and build from there, taking it one
step at a time without thinking too much about what to draw next.
This is another one of my favourite ways to start a sketchbook. It's also useful for when you
want to look back at old sketchbooks. If you put the date you started and finished the book
in the front, you'll be able to see a progression in your work and that's really fun. I
usually start by just laying down some colour for a simple background. Then, since I'm terrible
at hand lettering I'll Google a hand lettered alphabet and try my best to copy the letters.
You can leave it as is or fill in the background with some doodles and mark-making. Make
sure you leave room for the end date!
A Quote to Motivate
If you can't think of anything to draw, why not just write out a favourite quote! Whenever
you open your sketchbook you'll get a little boost reading those words. I like to start with a
really simple background of one or two colours and then pencil my quote in over that. Once
you have the layout right, use some markers, pens or paint to add your quote. I like to add a
few simple doodles around the edge at the end.
I hope those tips will help you break in a new sketchbook. Once the first page is filled in, it
really gets a lot easier from there.
Would like a little more creative inspiration? I've made
these 2 device wallpapers for you to download for free! They should fit almost any phone
or tablet! Subscribe below and I'll email them to you right away.
I am the absolute queen of overworking a painting. I get the first layer down, really
loving it, then I start adding some more and before I know it the painting
is a busy mess and that beautiful first layer is completely lost. When you add too much to
an abstract, the painting ends up losing focus. When a painting really stands out, it's
usually because the artist has focused on one special feature. It could be a stroke of
constrasting colour, a bold shape, a few marks that stand out, or showcasing a simple
But why is it so hard to know when to stop? Why is keeping it simple one of the hardest
things to do? During my 100 Days Project (which really turned into more of a 50 days project)
one of the things I started to focus on was making simple paintings. The paper was only about
7 x 10 inches, so there really wasn't room to go crazy. And when I did get carried away, it
always looked overworked and boring.
If this is something you struggle with too, I've put together a few tips to help you
slow down, know when to stop and keep it simple.
Work on mulitple pieces at once
This is the best advice I ever got. If you're working on many pieces at once (I sometimes
work on 4 or 5 at the same time) you're less likely to get too obsessed with one painting.
Taking some time away, even if it's just a few minutes, can help you gain a new perspective.
Pick your colour palette first
Decide on a colour palette before you start painting and you'll be less likely to throw in
colours on a whim that don't work. Some people have a great instict for colour and
can work intuitively. But if you're like me and you sometimes toss a 'what-was-i-thinking'
colour into the mix, planning your colour scheme first can be really beneficial.
Look for special moments
While you're working, be on the lookout for special moments in your painting. If something
catches your eye and you love it, work on preserving that spot. Make the rest of the painting
more subdued to help the eye focus on the interesting stuff.
Take some time off
This helps me especially if I'm working on a big canvas. If I find myself standing there not
sure what to do next, I step away for a couple days. Keep the painting where you can see it
everyday and eventually you'll figure out what needs to be done.
It can always be saved
If you try your best and you still end up taking it too far, rest assured that it can always
be saved. Everything can be painted over and mistakes can be covered up. If it's
already too late, let everything dry and then go back in with some big swatches of a single
colour to simplify. When all else fails, grab some gesso and start with a clean slate!
If you've been following me on Instagram
or Twitter, it probably seemed like I
just dropped off the face of the earth in the middle of my 100 Days project. Do you
remember me? I'm Sara! Hello!
I did end up taking an huge unintended break from social
media but I'm still alive! Yay! (I hope you're yay-ing too!) So what have I been up
to? I've been growing a person! That's right, I'm pregnant. The first trimester was
really rough for me. I was constantly sick and couldn't even think about picking up
a paint brush or sitting at my desk. But I'm into my 5th month now and I'm
definitely feeling more like myself. I'm trying to get back into some art making and
I wanted to share a few pictures with you of some sketchbook patterns and a couple
WIP paintings that I've been working on.
If you're still sticking around, I just want to stay thank you so so much for following
my paint-splattery-messiness! I really appreciate that you're here and reading this.
Now I want to really focus on putting out some great content on my blog here and in my
newsletter. But I'd loooove to hear what you want! Fill out this tiny, micro survey
(one question, multiple choice) and let me know what kinds of stuff you want to see
here. I will love you forever. Answer the question!
I'm a quarter of the way done! Well techinically I was at envelope 25 over a week ago.
I had a rough week of being sick and turning 30. I don't know which was worse, feeling
like crap or having that scary milestone birthday. Birthdays always kind of bum me out
because I guess I feel like time is going by really quickly and I'm not getting enough
done or something. But I actually feel okay about turning 30. My life is for the most part
on track and I have a lot of things to be happy about. Ok, enough about birthdays and
thoughts of my mortality! Here are a few things I've learned so far in my first 25 days
of this challenge.
I'm learning to really look for inspiration everywhere. It's a little hard sometimes
to come up with a new idea everyday. So I always have my daily painting in the back
of my mind while browsing internet. I save images I like for when I need a little boost.
One thing I'm struggling with is making lots of paintings that I don't really like. The
worst part is sharing the crappy ones on Instagram. It helps to look at a painting
I hate and pick out one thing I actually like about it. If I can find a colour combo or
a tiny corner that I like, then I know I learned something new.
I thought doing a daily painting wouldn't leave much time for other things. But I was
surprised to find out it's the complete opposite. The daily envelope helps me to warm up
and experiment so after I'm done I often feel energized and ready for more.
I'm also very slowly discovering my style. When I look at all my favourite paintings lined
up, I start to see similarities. I like bright colours, patterns, messy brush strokes,
contrasting colours and a sense of motion.
If you want to follow along with me, definitely check out my
I'm starting a 100 days project! I've really been wanting to do this for a long time now
but I haven't been able to figure out what that works for me. For this to be something
I can actually do every day, I needed:
- something quick that's easy to do
- something I'm able to expand on if I have more time one day
- in my favourite medium - paint!
- on a material that's inexpensive so I don't worry about wasting it
The problem is, finding a material that's durable enough for layers of paint and cheap is
pretty much impossible. I thought about buying little tiny canvas boards for about 50 cents
each, but that still seemed like a lot. Then I remembered I have this big box of cardboard
envelopes in my closet that have been there for yeeeaars! I bought them in bluk when I sold
stationery on Etsy but never really used many of them since my wedding invites were the big
sellers. I tried selling the envelopes a couple times, but nobody wanted them!
So I went out a bought a big jug of gesso for about $5 and started covering the front of
the envelopes. Turns out they handle paint like a champ! I don't feel like I'm wasting them
since I was thinking about throwing them away anyways, so it works out perfectly. The envelopes
are about 7 x 10 inches so they're a great size to work with - not too big and not too small.
That was a bit of a rambling story just to say that I'm going to be painting 100 envelopes in
100 days. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the envelopes when I'm done though. Maybe
cover a wall with them...or send 100 letters!
There's my first one! The drippy paint didn't work out quite like I expected, but I have 99
more days to get it right. Follow me on Instgram to see updates on this project.