Karen's Studio Blog

© Karen Lynn Link, Photo of sketchbooks from the Artist's Collection

Greetings and Salutations,

Congratulations on your new sketchbook and journal. Now it’s time to start filling it up.

A Diary
Ultimately, a sketchbook, journal, or diary are essentially the same thing. A daily capture of your ideas whether it’s a drawing, written text or collection of clippings. If done properly and consistently, a sketchbook or journal can transport you to a very specific time and place much like a diary. Trends and motifs may be discovered through repetition of words and images. You might notice good and bad habits such as overuse of a particular word or relying on similar compositions in generating thumbnails.

Form and Function
In general, the information that’s being collected determines how use a sketchbook is used. You may want a sketchbook for drawing and a separate journal for keeping a diary. You may have one sketchbook for both drawing and a journal with the ultimate goal of capturing a specific period of time in one place such as a year in your life.

Take into account your personality and preferences for working with your sketchbook. This type of self-discovery, and many others, will happen automatically just by working in the sketchbook. If you are working against yourself, it will take longer and require more effort to make it a habit. For example, if you are not confident in your drawing skills, working in public to start might feel uncomfortable. Not that it’s undoable, but might take more psychic energy to work like that and could cause feelings of avoidance.

Keep in mind to start simply. Focus on things that interest you and with quantity over quality. If you are interested in drawing horses, drawing flowers won’t feel as satisfying. Plus the more often you draw horses, the better the drawings will be over time. Same goes for keeping a journal or diary. The more you write, the better the writing becomes. Sketchbooks and journals are for collecting and experimenting with ideas, not necessarily completed works. Reserve judgement for when you are reviewing or wanting to use an idea for a larger, finished piece.

It’s also important to establish a routine and rhythm for using your sketchbook. For my art classes, I would assign 5 sketches per week or 70 sketches total for a 15 week semester. Each sketch must be worked on for at least 5-10 minutes each. Early on, scheduling a time and place to work will help make it a habit. One of my students worked in their sketchbook just before bed every night. Another student worked in their sketchbook immediately upon waking with their first cup of coffee. When I was a student, I would work on my sketchbook assignments during my lunch hour at work. When and where will largely be determined by the purpose of your sketchbook.

Next month I would like to start exploring the various types of reference materials from traditional ones like thumbnails to more outside the box ideas like Keri Smith’s “Wreck This Journal.”

Do you keep a sketchbook or a journal? What are your favorite styles of sketchbooks or journals? Please share in the comments below.

Take care and have a beautiful day,


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