I use a sketchbook pretty much every day of my life. This might sound odd, but I've been thinking a lot about them lately. This started when I visited my parents in my childhood home. My mum asked if I could go through the abandoned stuff in my old bedroom. This was when I found about 50 old and mostly full sketchbooks. They ranged from young childhood to around the end of my Illustration Degree. They were like a time capsule of my life in creativity. Each cringeworthy drawing or ridiculous idea brought back a memory. I'm usually pretty good at chucking stuff away, but I can't help but to feel sentimental about sketchbooks!
New sketchbooks - intimidating blank pages or a freeing opportunity for creativity?
Almost every time I start a new sketchbook I have that panicky feeling. I like to call it the 'Judgy First Page Feeling'.
Things that first blank page will say to you- "Don't screw up." "Woah, careful with that pen!" "Really?! That's what you're going to use me for?!" 'I'm expensive, don't you dare ruin me!" "Put the pencil down you plonker."
But as soon as that first page is filled with interesting squiggles, genius ideas or random doodles, you can breathe a sigh of relief. That judgy first page feeling disappears. And that's where your adventure begins.
I know it's cheesy but the possibilities really are endless.
What can sketchbooks be used for?
Things to think about when you're buying a new sketchbook-
Do you like to work on a teeny-tiny scale, or is bigger better? Do you want lots of pages to use as an on-going creative journal, or less pages for a small project? There are a huge range of sketchbook shapes and sizes available.
Portrait, Landscape, Square, Rectangular?
Do you like to use double page spreads? Or do you prefer a ring binder that you can flip open to one page?
What materials will you be using in the sketchbook? Does the paper need to have a high GSM? Smooth or rough surface?
To share or not to share- that is the question.
The game-changer for me was the moment I realised that the sketchbook can be just for me. I didn't have to show ANYONE, ANYTHING. There's something very freeing about realising this, you stop caring about what anyone else thinks, and start getting to the good stuff. Between those pages is a safe place to gather your ideas, without the judgement or opinion of others getting in the way.
Obviously there are times where sharing your ideas is a good idea. When I was at university we did group 'critiques', where you would share your sketchbook with others in order to get constructive criticism. Listening to other peoples opinions on your ideas often sparks new ideas and can be a massive help to the end result of the project. Get yourself a sketchbook buddy you can trust!
If you are interested in sharing your work, then consider sharing on a platform like Instagram. It can be a brilliant way of showing others your creative process, meeting people with similar creative interests & if you are a freelancer, it's great self-promo! However, be aware of over-sharing, if your ideas are in the very early days and you are worried that someone could steal the idea, then exercise caution.
Sketchbooks may not be for everyone!
I'm obsessed with them so I'm massively biased. But I know plenty of people who prefer other ways of work rather than sketchbooks.
A tablet, notebook, camera, or collection of objects might be the perfect way of you gathering your ideas into one place. Creativity is different for everyone, so try out lots of ways of working, then choose your favourite!
I've heard a lot of people don't use sketchbooks because of the judgy first page feeling, but instead opt to use cheap printer paper to relieve the pressure. This is a great idea if you still want to use paper, but you don't feel like sketchbooks are for you.
My Favourite Sketchbooks
For a while now I've found that I work best when I have a few sketchbooks on the go at one time, each for a different project or purpose. For the last few years I've filled around 5 of these chunky square sketchbooks which I find the perfect size and shape for what I need. I use sketchbooks primarily to come up with ideas, then I develop on them using small thumbnail drawings, finally, I sketch out my final ideas before taking them onto the computer.
I also like to use mini sketchbooks when I do daily drawing projects as they are a perfect size for a quick drawing, and they are small enough to carry with you wherever you go.