You work hard on every drawing on every page.

Each sketch is precise, the composition is thought-out, and the execution is intentional.

Every page is like a piece of your portfolio, and the sketchbook is like a sacred book.

You hold every page in high regard and love to show off your sketchbook to others, flipping through pages and pages of immaculate drawings.

On the off-chance you do make a mistake, the drawing is crossed out, the page is ripped out and discarded as though it never existed, or worse, you abandon the sketchbook altogether because “bad drawings mean that I’m a bad artist.” When you look back on old sketchbooks, you throw them away because “I’m much better now.”

If any one part of the above sounds familiar to you, you’re thinking about your sketchbook all wrong and it’s holding you back from being a better artist.

Your sketchbook is practice, not a finished portfolio.

Every page is an opportunity to explore, experiment, get messy, iterate, and practice. Every drawing you complete (or GASP! don’t complete) is a representation of something you learned- a tool, a technique, what NOT to do next time… the entire purpose of a sketchbook is to be imperfect. If there aren’t some “bad” drawings in there, you aren’t pushing yourself enough. You’re holding yourself back from learning new things because you might fail. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on one style or a character, but when you never experiment you miss out of learning new things that help you improve- even in the area you think you’ve mastered.

If you struggle with wanting to have a perfect sketchbook, here are some suggestions:

  1. Get a blank sketchbook and write on the cover in big letters “mistakes.” It’s important that it’s big and on the cover because you’re training yourself to think about your sketchbook differently. You’re declaring to yourself and everyone else who sees your sketchbook that it is not perfect.
  2. If you always finish every sketch, leave some drawings unfinished. You need to start learning to be okay with unfinished, imperfect work.
  3. If you never finish sketches because they start looking bad or you’re not happy with the direction anymore, finish it. Pushing through the resistance of doing something you’re not 100% happy with will help you grow! Who knows- you might surprise yourself!
  4. Get messy. Do sketches that are unrefined. Use charcoal and get your fingers dirty. Smudge the pages. Do gestural drawings. Try drawing fast if you’re naturally slow. Try drawing slow and intentional if you’re normally fast. Step outside of your comfort zone and draw in ways you normally wouldn’t choose to- like not lifting your pencil or using your non-dominant hand.
  5. Think of the things you don’t like drawing or have trouble drawing. Draw them. Draw them dozens of times!
  6. Think of the things you love drawing. Now draw them badly. Blow things out of proportion, add things that shouldn’t be there, subtract the things that should, and substitute things out.
  7. If it takes you forever to finish a sketchbook (or you have never finished a sketchbook, set a timeline. “I will draw on every page in this sketchbook by (date).”

 

Your sketchbook is exploration.

One final thought- my biggest drawing-related regret is that I threw away my old sketchbooks. I really wish I had them now so I could see how I’ve grown and revisit old ideas from when I was younger and didn’t care what the world thought. It’s all lost now.
Never throw away your sketchbooks. You don’t have to show them to anyone, but keep them. You may not want them now, but you (or a family member) probably will later on. I think it’d be really neat for a parent to pass down their old sketchbooks to their kids.

Takeaways

  • Your sketchbook is practice, not a finished portfolio.
  • Explore and iterate to become a better artist.

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