Sketchbook Scares, Be Gone!
Updated: Aug 30
New Sketchbooks. They are just clusters of blank pages, bound together, and yet - for some - they hold SO MUCH POWER.
Do you have Sketchbook Fear? It’s ok if you do, as it’s more common than you think, but it doesn’t have to be a forever-fear.
Maybe it’s the very blankness of the pages that is the freakiest for you. When faced with an empty page, the void of nothingness which is begging to be filled can be overwhelming. Or, perhaps, it’s the idea that your sketchbook should be perfect which holds you back. The thought of messing up and ruining the whole book aesthetic with one ugly page can feel frustrating.
If you’re anything like me, you often just forget about them. In capturing ideas and sketches, I often doodle onto whatever paper is to hand, rather than go find my sketchbook. In going back to art college, it was very much pushed upon us that sketchbooks were important, and because it was part of the course, I kept one - but it felt very unnatural for me. As soon as I was out of the academic environment I found I returned to my more relaxed ways.
However, even though I don’t reach for them instinctively, I do recognise their value and I definitely use them more now than I once did - just, in my own way, and at my own speed.
The point is to make your sketchbook work for you - don’t let someone else tell you how your art workflow should be.
If you are wanting to start being more sketchbooky, but have some worries, here are a few reasons why you should give them a try:
Sketchbooks are Private and Portable
Sure, you can share your sketchbook in videos or photos if you want - totally your call - but the nicest thing about sketchbooks is that they can be only for you. Much like a diary, no one else needs to see the inside of your sketchbook. You can use the pages to record feelings and thoughts, splashing colours or scribbling biros - or simply enjoying the safety of trying to draw something you’re not confident about, with the knowledge that no one else will see it.
They are also canvases that can travel with you. Stashing a small sketchbook into your bag, with a pencil and pen, means you can have a doodle whenever the mood might strike you - sitting in a park at lunchtime or passing the time on a train journey. Spontaneous sketch-booking often creates results that you look back on with interest and pride, because you captured a moment that found you - you didn’t force anything.
Sketchbooks are No-Judgement Zones
With the privacy of sketchbooks comes safety. Inside these pages, which are yours and yours alone, there is no judgement (apart from your own!). You can test out new doodles, and try out wide ranging styles, without the fear of anyone else’s opinion cluttering up your thoughts. You can be vulnerable because you’re in a safe space and the loudness of the outside world can be muted for a while.
It’s important to say here however, that your own judgement may often be the most critical. Part of letting go and enjoying sketchbooks, is letting yourself have space from your own critiques. As much as you seek perfection in your art, give yourself permission to have some areas of your practise where you’re allowed to make mistakes. Practise takes practice, and being kind to yourself shouldn’t be forgotten.
Sketchbooks are Playgrounds
Now, listen up, because this is important… Sketchbooks don’t have to be pretty. They really don’t! Sure, you may see folks sharing their aesthetically stunning sketchbooks on YouTube, where every page seems to be a masterpiece… but that’s not the baseline standard of sketch-booking. There IS no baseline standard. (You can also be sure, those folks have just as much “ugly” art lurking in their other sketchbooks or folders, they’re just not showing you.)
The whole point of sketchbooks is to allow for play. They are breathing rooms, places where you can spread your wings and stretch out. They are where experiments can exist, where you can dip a toe into new waters, and wiggle free from the expectations of what “art” should look like.
If we only allow for “beautiful” art in our sketchbooks, we are censoring ourselves from the start - and constricting our scopes, making it harder to discover new beauty elsewhere. “Ugly” pages are just as important as the ones you are happier with - they are part of the learning that gets you to your end goal.
If sketchbooks aren’t for you - that’s totally ok! Not using sketchbooks doesn’t make you less of an artist. Sketchbooks are tools - that’s all. Just like pens, pencils, charcoal and paint. Some folks like them, some folks don’t. No one’s right or wrong - just don’t be put off, or be intimidated by, other people’s outcomes. If you’ve never tried using one, and fancy giving them a go, then do it! You might just find they help you to soar.
Thanks for reading!
Keep making to make happy!
Love Gem x