Sketchbook Use Basics

by Lynda Lorraine

I have carried some form of this list around with my sketchbooks since I was at least 11 years old after taking a photocopy of the original my art teacher had pinned to the noticeboard in our drawing room at school. I have found it an invaluable reminder and inspiration of the use of a sketchbook through the years.

I carry a pocket sized sketchbook most of the time and swop it for a larger version for special trips (or any other time I don’t have my work or gym bag with me during the week!).

Points Regarding the Use of a Sketchbook

  • Carry a sketchbook with you at all times to enable you to record the unexpected and interesting, whenever and wherever encountered.
  • Also keep one or two larger sketchbooks for use in more planned ways.
  • Date your sketches to monitor and gauge your progress, and as an incentive to working regularly, every day if possible. Treat your sketchbook as a form of visual diary.
  • Sketching involves more than the purely visual. Be fully aware of sounds, smells, temperatures and all of your surroundings. Cultivate all the senses.
  • From time to time set down half a dozen or so themes or topics which interest you and to which you have access. Note down their particular characteristics, compositional potential etc.
  • Do not be afraid to explore your favourite theme in depth over a period of time, for as long as you are finding new features within it without just repeating yourself.
  • Work on a variety of topics if no theme particularly interests you; challenging subjects are likely to prove more stimulating than ‘easy’ ones.
  • A rectangular viewer can help with choice of viewpoint, but take account of angles and low and high levels. Formal ideas such as ‘Near and Far’, ‘Seeing Through’, ‘Dark and Light’, can help you see compositional possibilities.
  • Do not be afraid to brave the elements, but strike a balance between outdoor and indoor locations during the winter and inclement weather.
  • Build up a range of sketching materials and media to meet various needs. Train yourself to match media with content and experiment so as to be able to use a wide vocabulary of marks in order to record your observations better.
  • Adapt your sketching approach to the available time, weather or circumstances of light. General compositions feature the relationships between forms can be of more value than one or two objects drawn in isolation.
  • Examination/exhibition topics are best adapted as ongoing interests and concerns rather than being treated as ‘one off’ topics to be ‘answered’.
  • Share ideas and interests with your friends. Two or three like-thinking colleagues, constantly comparing notes, will often develop their work more fruitfully than when each of them is working in isolation.
  • There are many avid sketchbook practitioners, past and present, who are worthy of study and who can teach you a great deal about approach, exploration of subject matter, media and so on.

Source; Bruce Tompkinson, my school art teacher, original source unknown.

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