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5 Sketchbook Ideas for Getting Artsy

Lorelie is an up-and-coming artist who has developed a new obsession with her sketchbook.

Unique Sketchbook Ideas for Getting Artsy

Unique Sketchbook Ideas for Getting Artsy

Sketchbooks Are for Experimenting!

Do the blank pages of a sketchbook freak you out? They shouldn't. The art in your sketchbook is there for you and you alone (unless you decide to show it to someone because you think it's just so darn good).

A sketchbook is a perfect place to try out a new style, challenge yourself to draw something new, and even just be silly (a caricature of Tom Cruise, anyone?).

You're not going to be graded on this stuff! A sketchbook is simply a wonderful tool for you to exercise your artistically creative muscles. Grab yourself a blank book—they run from about five bucks to twenty, depending on size and paper quality. You can even buy a sketchbook with larger paper and then, if you really like a piece of artwork, you're ready to mat it, frame it, and hang it up!

Experiment with mediums:

  • What sort of sketching implements are you planning to use, because you don't need to stick to just a plain pencil, you know. There are colored pencils, as well!
  • Maybe you plan to use a Micron pen, markers, watercolor markers, or dual-tip watercolor markers (Tombow is an excellent brand, with a regular marker on one end and a brush on the other) to create a cool watercolor effect. Tombow has some vibrant color choices and also packages for specific purposes such as portraits.
  • Arteza watercolor markers are also worth trying, for a more realistic watercolor appearance. Color pencils that turn to watercolor with the help of water are also a good choice. Then you will need thicker paper, of course, such as a small watercolor pad.
  • Do you want to use gray or black tinted paper with a white gel pen? Go for it! Sakura makes an amazing gelly-roll white pen (size 10 works best, in my opinion). Or you can use acrylic paint "markers" such as those made by "Inklab." I always have some of these lying around in silver, gold, and white for finishing touches.
  • You can even glue bits of fabric or magazine cut-outs to your pages while adding some acrylic paint. Perhaps then, a "mixed-media" sketchbook is for you.
  • I would, however, suggest not using permanent ink, which will bleed through the pages.

Experiment with styles:

Sketchbooks aren't just for traditional "sketching." Can't draw realistically? No problem. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to draw in a more realistic style, and that's fine. However, it's certainly NOT necessary!

Experiment with different styles: modern, art nouveau, impressionism, abstract, cartoon . . . or create your very own!


5 Ideas of Things to Do In Your Artist's Sketchbook

Here are five ideas to get your creative juices flowing right into the pages of that sketchbook.

1. Experiment With Faces: Portraits, Self-Portraits, Celebrities, Realism, Caricatures, and Profiles

Or create some fan art from your favorite show. Old-timey celebs such as Marilyn Monroe and Paul Newman are fun to draw, or perhaps you feel like sketching Daryl from The Walking Dead, bow and arrow poised in mid-air, ready to zap a "walker."

These portraits don't need to be good. In fact, you'll probably find yourself having a good belly laugh over them. But hey, laughing is healthy for your heart and blood pressure, right?

And you can always make an effort to improve. Watch some how-to videos about portrait drawing, learn about proper shading, and try to capture the "essence" of the person—the shape of their eyes or eyebrows, the width of their nose, the tilt of their chin or mouth, the style of their hair. Give your sketch personality as you make it "come to life."

If you usually draw women, try drawing a man. If you always draw people staring straight ahead (like a mug shot), experiment with profiles and different positions of the head.

Here's another thought: Try drawing a portrait of yourself! (Just be sure to make it complimentary)!


2. Copy a Famous Piece of Artwork

Copy? Whaaaaat? Yes, I just said the "C" word, the dreaded naughty four-letter word that makes all artists cringe with disgust. But I'm not talking about copying for resale. I'm talking about copying just for fun. For your sketchbook, that personal creative cubbyhole that's just for you and you alone.

In the past, fledgling artists always copied the works of old masters, so who says you can't do the same? It's also a great way to educate yourself on art history and famous artists and works of art.

Here's an idea: copy a famous painting, such as Van Goh's Starry Night, and add your own twist, like a pink sky instead of a blue one! Or just copy a portion of a famous piece of artwork, such as the lady with the pet monkey in Seurat's A Sunday on the Grande Jatte. Drawing people from different timeframes is always a fun challenge.


3. Draw Something You Usually Avoid Drawing

Try something you usually avoid, either because you always make it look so ridiculous or you're sure you can't possibly make it look halfway decent.

Which are challenging subjects? A bicycle immediately comes to mind. Very technical. Here are some more: Car. Musical instrument. Someone actually playing a musical instrument. Horse. Computer. Furniture. Reflection of a house or person in a body of water. A sailboat. A cruise ship. An alien. A pair of binoculars. A skeleton. A pirate. You get the idea.

Maybe you always draw birds and ducks and you've gotten pretty good at your "foul" renditions that aren't very foul anymore. So get ready to jump out of your comfort zone! This is a great challenge for your brain. Plus, you may surprise yourself.

Or, let's say you always draw just a certain kind of duck, like a mallard. Why not try a wood duck? Or how about a swan or a loon? Always cardinals? Now is the time for a red-tail hawk! And owls . . . yea . . . owls are always good.

I thought I could never in a million years draw a decent bicycle. Then I followed a tutorial in one of those "You can Draw" books for kids which basically suggests thinking of every part of an item simply as a "shape," and I did it! I created a somewhat logical bicycle instead of my usual two-wheeled contraption that looks like something the Whos get for Christmas that has a name like zoo-zither-zum-zwee.


4. Draw Animals! Lots and Lots of Animals!

And maybe some birds. Definitely hummingbirds and sea creatures and reptiles, and yeah, even bugs. Maybe a worm or two. But don't simply focus on getting "everything just right." As with the portraits, give your creatures personality. Also, add movement. Don't make them just sit there looking bored. Maybe they're walking through the forest (a good way to practice drawing trees) or fluttering by some flowers (ditto the flowers) or swimming through a lake, with the movement of water all around them.

Experiment with texture, hair, hooves, and fur blowing in the wind. You can draw a cat looking out the window, spotting a chickadee, or maybe staring pensively into the fishbowl. Draw a pet portrait of your own dog or cat (or lizard/bunny/hamster/etc.). Draw a sloth hanging onto a branch with a baby sloth.

Why not throw caution to the wind and go for a horse? Yes, I know. Horses are hard. Study pictures of horses. Note how the muscles in the legs go . . . how long the face should be. Practice your proportions. Try different styles of horses, like folk-art style, which doesn't have to be realistic. (For instance, maybe you want to make the legs super long and skinny on purpose, or just the silhouette of a horse in front of a full moon). How about a hyena? A cute hyena? Anything's possible.


5. Experiment With Still Life

We all have plenty of junk lying around. Mermaid-shaped knick-knacks, books, vases, bowls of fruit (we can assemble), wooden ducks, flower arrangements after Mother's Day, Christmas decor on the mantle, fake miniature pumpkins on Halloween, etc.

You might think bleh, a still-life is so boring! So cliche! Not so. The amazing thing about a still-life is that a whole room full of people can draw the exact same group of items, and each one will come out looking unique.

A still-life will challenge you to draw different shapes and items, and items-behind-items, and often creates a very pleasing finished result. Observe how the light hits the different items. Where are the shadows? Think of ways to give your still-life a distinct personality, such as adding a twisty stem on a pumpkin.