Let’s Talk About Sketchbooks

We all have a sketchbook, had one or will have one at some point. It is part of the artist’s arsenal of tools. Professionals in fashion, architecture, design, or anything related to grabbing a pencil and jotting down ideas also have a sketchbook in hand.

Here I am going to talk about my approach to sketching in my sketchbook and how I believe are some of the best ways to use it to grow as an artist.

A Plain sketchbook, where many ideas can and should live inside. Think of it as an inviting home for your thoughts, especially the ones your not sure about. Image: Messala Ciulla

A Plain sketchbook, where many ideas can and should live inside. Think of it as an inviting home for your thoughts, especially the ones your not sure about. Image: Messala Ciulla

Is there a right way to sketch?

Art doesn’t really have many boundaries, you can start a drawing and finish it in any way you want. You feel like using your fingers to paint? Want to make drawings using fire? Go for it! Nobody is going to stop you, anything goes.

Although there are not many boundaries to making art, I do think there are better and more efficient ways to go about creating it. For example, making hundreds of thumbnails for the same painting for no apparent reason is very inefficient. It is not really wrong per se, but if you look at it critically I think you will find that it doesn’t make that much sense to do.

Finding the right to way sketch is somewhat of a search. You try different things, different pens, pencils, ideas, themes, workflows. You sketch from life, from imagination and from mixing both. The main point should be that the best way to sketch is one that doesn’t hinder your growth.

Treat your sketchbook as a dump for your ideas!

The more sketchbooks you go through the better! Use and abuse of them and put all your ideas and thoughts into them. This is a for sure way to improve as an artist. Image: John-Mark Kuznietsov

The more sketchbooks you go through the better! Use and abuse of them and put all your ideas and thoughts into them. This is a for sure way to improve as an artist. Image: John-Mark Kuznietsov

That is right, your sketchbook should be a place where even your worst ideas can live in. I have seen countless artists sketching on their precious sketchbooks like they are about to put it in a museum. Sometimes they don’t even really sketch on it since they become afraid to make mistakes on the page. That is a waste of time and you’ll end up putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on yourself at the same time. You might even end up thinking you are only allowed to make amazing drawings on every page. Why? For who!? Nobody else cares about your sketchbook. That’s how it is and how it should be. You are the only one that should care about it! The sketches you make in it are for you to get ready, find ideas, develop them and then make artwork for other people to see.

Part of the problem is that you might see fantastic sketchbook pages from amazing artists all across the internet. They most likely have only shown you the best of their work, the huge pile of crappy sketchbooks is hidden in a closet somewhere and no one will ever see them. That is something you have to realize. Your sketchbook is, first and foremost, a place for you to develop who you want to be and what you want to create. It is not a showcase of prowess and skill, even if your sketches end up looking amazing, their main point is to get an idea on paper. The visual beauty, tidiness and rendering of it is secondary or even tertiary.

How I develop an idea from a sketch

Now I will get a bit more technical. How do you develop an idea from a sketch? Well, I believe there a million possibilities to do so. You probably have many ways to do it yourself. Here in this video below I will share one process I like to do when I work from a pencil sketch in my sketchbook to Photoshop!

Good sketchbook habits and tips


Ever since I had a class with the godfather of digital painting Craig Mullins a few years ago, he made me change my approach to sketching quite a lot. For once he told me that he uses cheap copy paper and a cheap plastic clipboard to sketch on. That opened my eyes and made me ditch the expensive art store sketchbooks for more simple and cheap materials!

Now, If you go to a office department store, such as Staples, this is what you can get:

For basically $30 combined. Probably less if you don’t care for the storage part of the clipboard,

Having something cheap to work on also relieves some of the pressure for perfection on your drawings by a lot. So then you are sketching and you made a mistake? Whatever! It is just printer paper and there are 499 more in a pile that you spent $7.60 on. Go crazy!

Keep the habits that ease your mind and help the flow of ideas come out!

Bruno Galuzzi CorsiniComment