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 anything fresh.
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 creativity too:
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 without fear.
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 mine.
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!