Developing a Habit – How to start a sketchbook

We’ve welcomed quite a few new students to our Creative Sketchbooks course over recent weeks and we know how popular the idea is that we should all be working in sketchbooks. If you’ve never done it before it can be daunting though, both that pristine new book and the idea of drawing into it! As children we all draw, it’s only as we grow that we become self-conscious and self-doubting. Maybe it was a bad teacher at school who said you couldn’t draw, or maybe it’s just been such a long time since you exercised those skills that they seem lost?

Naturally in our house there are art materials and the opportunity for creating is everywhere. I like to encourage Amelie as much as I can to draw, just as much as I’m encouraging her to read and spell and count. I think drawing is an essential life skill and one that we should all exercise. When you feel like you can draw, you feel as though you can record something, explain an idea. I’ll hear nothing of that ‘I can’t draw’ nonsense, if you can write, then you can draw to a certain degree. If you hardly ever draw the results might be quite average, if you draw lots, you’ll become accomplished. It’s like any skill, do more – get better.

So if drawing often is the key, then it’s necessary to fit that into daily life. Finding a few minutes here and there to draw isn’t as hard as it seems. Get your supplies at the ready: a modestly sized sketchbook with good paper and a pencil case of essentials such as quality pencils, a sharpener and eraser, permanent markers and fine pens. Keep them at hand, in your bag, in the kitchen, by the side of your chair in the lounge, wherever you think you’ll have time to pick them up and draw.

Have you noticed a theme with the photos in this post? Amelie’s been drawing while she waits for her food to arrive! Colouring sheets and crayons are often provided by savvy restaurants who know it’s wise to keep kids occupied. But why limit that to the kids? If your sketchbook is in your bag you could draw your dinner too, or maybe your glass of wine or your fellow diners, or if you’re home, the saucepan while it boils on the hob.

Quick, simple observational drawings and sketches are great for recording inspiration from everyday life. Team it with photos and you’ve got a lovely record of events. We’ve been sticking photos into Amelie’s book with colourful washi tapes and it’s becoming full of colour and memories. But more than that, the process of drawing in her sketchbook has become a habit for her and one that’s only taken a couple of weeks to establish. Now it seems natural to her to draw in her book, to take it with her on an outing. Of course she has none of the self consciousness that we might have as adults when drawing in public.

So my top tips for starting a sketchbook habit are:

  • Choose a modest size sketchbook that’ll fit easily into your bag.
  • Select a limited range of media to use, just some pens might be all you need.
  • Take photos as well as sketching, that’ll help supplement your drawing and you can always work from the photos later too.
  • Work little and often.
  • Try to draw each day or at least a few times a week to establish the habit.

And most importantly?

  • Draw like a child, without concern for the outcome and without worry about whether it’s ‘good enough’.

Good luck with your sketchbook!

Love Laura