This is one of the most important of all artist’s tools. Whether you doodle in it just a little bit per day or draw elaborate pictures, you will see a difference in your paintings. Even if you do not have a style that requires drawing, a sketch book will still benefit you. Yet another personal item, the sketchbook will provide you an outlet at any time per day. Even at work! Nobody is going to be mad at you if you keep a data journal like the 80s Day Timer planner and you put some drawing paper into it! Keep one in your desk and write in it whenever you have an idea. A quick thumbnail sketch will remind you of your genius idea later on when you have time to elaborate on canvas.
Sketch books with themes can get very tedious, at least for this artist. If you have a great composition idea with a dog, and the only available sketchbook is about landscapes, it can get frustrating. I know from experience. It’s best to have three sketch books and a journal. Have one pocket or purse sketchbook to carry with you at all times (Moleskine are popular, but they are pricey. Even your phone or tablet could work if you want sketch digitally. Keep one larger sketchbook in the studio, and one favorite size book laying around the house. The writing journal can be used for writing down what you have learned, dreams, ideas for shows, and/or art business (which we’ll get into later on in my journal), and other art-related ideas.
If you want to keep tabs and such in a sketchbook that has many topics and themes, write at the top of each page: a title, date or whatever will remind you that this page goes with that series of pictures. My personal style is: Title, Date, Note Number and Theme. So, if I have a painting on The Big Dipper, I’d write: 01/29/06 “The Big Dipper: Constellation Rendering”, Note No. 5 of 6 (fill in the blank later and use a pencil or erasable ink). The note number refers to how many notes you’ve written about the same idea/painting. The Big Dipper is the topic and Constellation Rendering is the theme.
Do not be timid about messing up sketch books. A pretty journal is of no use unless you actually use it. So, when you get your shiny new, beautiful sketchbook, put your name in it and mess up one page- “There, it’s over, now I have to use it!” Be as great or as lousy an artist you want in these books, be silly, fun, doodle, be a kid. The sketchbook is just for your eyes only, unless you show it people. And remember, there are no rules for your sketch books!
If you cannot figure out what to sketch, here are some ideas:
What is your favorite animal? I know it is very unoriginal, unless it’s a wombat or something, haha. But at least it will get you started. Where do you want to travel? Remember that old saying “If you meditate on it, it will come?” Pretend you visited your favorite place, smell the food, walk the streets and sketch. Google Earth is helpful with this. Start with a bullet journal. Bullet Journals will be a whole other article.