Written By SFC
Do you put an elephant’s worth of pressure on yourself to only fill your sketchbook with beautiful drawings or paintings?
Yup, I used to do that too and because of it, I was a card-carrying member of the Sketchbook Avoiders Club. It’s tough when you’re inundated with beautiful sketchbook tours on Instagram and YouTube. You start to feel like you’re not a good artist if you can’t also create a flawless sketchbook.
Here’s your reminder: That’s not true!
Sketchbooks are as varied as the artists who draw and paint in them. Yes, some artists set out to create flawless sketchbook spreads. But guess what? Other artists, me included, approach their sketchbook practice from a more playful perspective.
I’d even put on my imaginary lawyer pants and argue that an artist will learn more about their art making process from taking a playful approach and just filling up sketchbook pages instead of worrying about perfection (which does not exist anyway!).
Easier said than done, I know, but like most things, you just need to take one small step to get started with your playful sketchbooking approach.
Here are a few low pressure, and even pretty darn calming, ways to fill up those sketchbook pages.
One of my favorite ways to start a new sketchbook or to loosen up when I’m feeling uptight in a sketchbook is texture and mark making. Also see: Ways to fill pages when you aren’t feeling creative but still want to show up for your sketchbook practice.
Grab your favorite art materials and see what kind of marks and textures you can create! Or grab long-neglected art materials and try mark making with them. Got a new brush or new markers? Your sketchbook is the perfect place to test them. Curious about a new color combination or a new way of layering paint? A sketchbook spread is inviting you to explore those too.
I make plenty of unsightly messes exploring texture and mark making in my sketchbook, but I uncover plenty of “hey I wouldn’t have thought of that before” goodness too.
If there’s one thing I’m gold-star good at (other than helping artists grow and explore, obviously) it’s overthinking exactly everything, including my sketchbook practice.For me, a gentle way to flow past my overthinking and get some paint on a page is to start with simple shapes. The simpler the better. This is essentially one step up from mark making and texture play.
My go-to simple shapes are fruits and veggies, especially those that I grow in my garden.
Take a look at these tomatoes. I’ve just painted lots of loose and wonky circle shapes in pretty tomato-esque colors and then added tiny leaves and stems. Simple. Easy. Satisfying as heck.
I also love drawing and painting pears in my sketchbook.
The simple shapes make the whole experience low pressure and lend themselves to playful sketchbook experiments with texture, mark making, color, and layering.
Leaves represent another lovely way to fill a sketchbook page while exploring color, texture, and layering. The shapes are a tidbit more complex than our friendly fruits and veg but they’re still approachable and provide room for experimentation.
I find that it’s fun to start by painting foliage from reference photos and then continue painting foliage however I want, totally disregarding what nature says about how leaves are shaped and colored.
From foliage, flowers are the next logical step. We’re getting a tidbit more complex again, but we can still rely on simple, fun-to-draw shapes. Use your trusty BFF art materials, but you can also feel confident that these simple shapes provide the perfect playground for new art materials or techniques too.
I’m constantly capturing snaps of the flowers in my garden and in any garden I visit so I’ve always got stacks of floral inspiration for my sketchbook sessions. You can also pick a few flowers and bring them into your studio for reference or even grab a bouquet on that grocery store trip to pick up the 5 things you forgot to pick up two days ago.
Flowers are endlessly inspiring for artists and once you’ve drawn or painted a few of them, you can start letting your imagination do loop-de-loops.
Even if you aren’t bird-obsessed like me, I submit that birds are the perfect sketchbook subject matter.
Bird shapes invite simplification and characterization. There are nearly endless color combinations to explore. You can capture so much movement if you try drawing birds from video or from life. And if you look closely, you’ll find so much mark making inspiration in their feather patterns.
So many ways to explore drawing and painting birds!
But just in case birds aren’t your jam…
Sketch Your Favorites
It’s helpful to have your own list of go-to sketchbook subject matter so you’ll never have another “but what do I draw???” moment again.
What subject matter do you find most relaxing or fascinating to draw or paint in your sketchbook? You’re invited to return to that subject matter over and over again, artist.
Embrace everything you love about making art and you’ll find it easy to fill up sketchbook after sketchbook.
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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in sketchbook practice, I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in this article. The article discusses various approaches to filling up sketchbook pages in a low-pressure and playful manner. Let's explore each concept in more detail:
Texture and Mark Making:
One way to start a new sketchbook or loosen up when feeling uptight is to experiment with texture and mark making. This involves using different art materials to create interesting marks and textures on the page. You can try using your favorite art supplies or even long-neglected materials to see what kind of effects you can achieve. This approach allows for exploration and discovery, even if the results are not perfect.
Starting with simple shapes is a gentle way to overcome overthinking and get paint on the page. By focusing on simple shapes like fruits, vegetables, or other objects, you can create satisfying and easy sketches. This approach helps to reduce pressure and encourages playful experimentation with texture, mark making, color, and layering.
Exploring foliage in your sketchbook allows you to experiment with color, texture, and layering. You can start by painting foliage from reference photos and then continue to paint foliage in your own unique style, disregarding the traditional shapes and colors of leaves. This approach encourages creativity and provides room for experimentation.
Drawing and painting flowers in your sketchbook can be endlessly inspiring. Similar to foliage, flowers offer a variety of shapes and colors to explore. You can use reference photos or even pick a few flowers to bring into your studio for observation. Once you've captured the essence of real flowers, you can let your imagination take over and create imaginative floral compositions.
Birds are another great subject matter for sketchbooks. Their shapes invite simplification and characterization, and their feather patterns provide inspiration for mark making. You can draw birds from videos, life, or even reference photos. Exploring different bird species and capturing their movement can be a rewarding and playful experience.
Sketch Your Favorites:
To ensure you never run out of ideas for your sketchbook, it's helpful to have a list of go-to subject matters that you find relaxing or fascinating to draw or paint. By returning to these favorite subjects, you can embrace what you love about making art and easily fill up sketchbook after sketchbook.
Taking a Class:
If you're looking to further enhance your sketchbook practice, consider taking a class. There are various online and in-person classes available that can provide guidance, techniques, and inspiration for your sketchbook journey. Learning from experienced artists and engaging with a community of fellow artists can greatly enrich your artistic growth.
Remember, the most important aspect of sketchbook practice is to enjoy the process and allow yourself to explore and experiment without the pressure of creating perfect artworks. Sketchbooks are personal spaces for artistic expression and growth. Embrace your unique style and have fun filling up those pages!
I hope this information helps you in your sketchbook practice. If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to ask!