I have spent so many hours writing my blog and delivering tutorials etc. But this old chestnut keeps popping up. There is a fear and trepidation about committing things regularly in a sketchbook. Fear of ruining said book. Does it matter if you ruin it? Does it matter if your first page is rubbish? Who is your sketchbook for?
Most artists view their sketchbooks as a highly personal almost sacred object. It is! I show people mine during tutorials and I explain that some of what I write is pure nonsense. But it's my nonsense. Free thinking/writing/drawing is when I come up with some of my best ideas. Try it, it does really work.
I also know that the backs of envelopes and random pieces of paper etc can serve the same purpose. How do you keep track of them? A sketchbook keeps it all in one place and there is something to be said for knowing when you did what.
When I was teaching I had an almost daily battle with students about the use of their sketchbooks. They would say 'But Sharon, I already have an idea that I want to do'. Before anyone thinks well what do you expect from 16 year olds, I would just like to remind you that I have taught on Art Foundation and Degrees.
The conversations followed an all too familiar path;
Have you researched your idea?
Have you developed it in your sketchbook?
What do you think you starting point should be?
What materials do you think you're going to need?
Those questions were usually met with shrugs, 'I dunnos' and 'I can see it in my head'. My evil twin teacher wanted to encourage them to go right ahead. Just make, paint or construct whatever it is. Then I could revel in their imminent failure. Don't panic I never did that. No, I made them go away and develop the idea and work out the best way to do it, in their sketchbooks.
They invariably hated me for making them go away and come up with better, viable ideas until they made the final piece.
So why keep a sketchbook? Because it's good for you. It allows to play around with ideas that you never have to show anyone. You can explore themes and media through drawing etc. Yes, it is true that sometimes your first idea is the best idea....but what harm does it do to work out the practicalities.
Some Sketchbook Do's and and Don'ts.
- Don't be too precious, you are allowed to make a mess and use your worst handwriting.
- Do keep at least one sketchbook on the go at all times.
- Don't confuse a sketchbook with a scrapbook. Sticking in inspirational images when appropriate is fine.
- Do put the occasional date on drawings it helps when you look back through to know what happened when.
- Don't have too many on the go at the same time. It is strangely demotivating. If you worry about filling a sketchbook start at the back and front. One side for drawing, the other for ideas.
- Do experiment widely with mark making and different media, push yourself, abandon your creative safety net. Allow new things to happen.
- Don't tear pages out. (That was my mantra for 12 years). Why? Because if you force yourself to try and save it something good might happen. If nothing else it will be a reminder of how not to do something.
- Do use words, they can be as inspirational as images. They can also inspire images. Poetry is often within the creative remit of artists.
It is definitely one of your art muscles that needs a regular work out. There is something very satisfying about filling an entire sketchbook. The key thing to remember is that you do not have to show anybody.