Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing well.

I am back for another top tip and this week I wanted to talk to you about sketchbooks, the benefits they bring, the different ways you can use them and how they can help you as an artist.

Framework

As you know, in the Hub I teach a seven-part framework that helps people to sell their artwork. Within this, one of the steps or ‘keys’, as I refer to them, is you need to find your why. Why are you making art? Why does your art matter to you? The more we understand of our ‘why’, the more it helps us to sell and make our artwork better. This is a difficult step to grasp but once you truly understand your why everything else becomes easier. 

Finding your why

I always remember this one lady who joined the Hub, and what she said to me has always stuck, as it made me feel really, really sad. She said, “I just feel like my artwork has no depth”. She was getting stuck on her why and she felt like she had no story to tell. She also said “I feel like I just make my work because I want to make it. I love textures, I’m drawn to textures, I like to play with textures and that’s the extent of my work. I feel like I’m never going to sell. I’m not cut out for selling.”

Now we all have our reason for making art. It might be therapeutic to some people, taking our brain away from all the chatter of day to day life. Sometimes we make art because we want to change a situation in the world or sometimes, we want to articulate something that is on our mind through art. There are so many reasons as to why we create, and all are personal to each artist.

But what I found with the lady I just mentioned was, she was giving up as she believed she didn’t have a story or any depth to her artwork. That simply wasn’t the case and never is the case. Every piece of art has a story and depth to it.

Unlock the mysteries with a sketchbook

You may wonder what relevance this has to keeping a sketchbook? But let me tell you, a sketchbook unlocks the mystery to many things as an artist. A sketchbook lets you dig into the meaning behind why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Types of sketchbooks

For the lady who felt like she had no depth, I would recommend keeping a sketchbook to help discover and understand yourself as an artist. So, let’s talk about different types of sketchbooks and what each one can be used for: 

The everyday sketchbook

An everyday sketchbook is for just wanting to draw and sketch ideas that you like. It’s a bit of fun, some relaxation and inspiration. Now, I split my everyday sketchbooks into two. I have an everyday sketchbook that I refer to as a ‘play sketchbook’ and another one as the ‘practical’ one. 

The play one – this one I carry around with me. I just capture things as I see them. I doodle away when I’m sitting on my sofa and I just sketch things in here. I relax and have a play around. This is the sketchbook when I don’t think about the outcome of what I’m drawing. I’m just letting go! 

The practical one – with this one I start to process my thoughts and feelings. I start to mind map things out so that I can see the connections. For example, if I am reading a book and I see a quote I like, I write it down in this sketchbook and mind map my thoughts and feelings around the quote. I then think, how does this relate to my experiences in life right now?

It’s more in depth and thinking about how I’m feeling. From this, I can start to see what’s triggering me, how I’m feeling and what I see in my art.

The Journal sketchbook 

Now this one allows you to look at your why in more detail. A journal sketchbook is all about capturing your thoughts, feelings and emotions to a certain object, texture and anything you love and that captures your attention.

For example, you may like rusty old skips, or you’ve found a texture on a walk that you really like, peeling paint on a house. It can be anything. Take close up pictures of these, you’ll be able to see amazing patterns. Print these off and add them into your sketchbook, then write down what you love about them, the feeling they give you. 

Simply talk about the ‘why’. Why do you like it? Get into the surface and you’ll be surprised that there is more to why you’re making art than you initially realised. 

When you do this on a regular basis you then start to question, why have I taken a picture of that skip? What does it mean? By capturing these feelings in some kind of journal, it allows you to make sense of it all. 

A recipe sketchbook

Now, this is a great one. I love this sketchbook as it’s all about experimenting. Finding out what colours you love, creating new textures.

What I like to do with this one is capture any kind of play, and the outcome, if I like it or not. I record it and how I did it. What mixture did I use to create a certain colour?

This is a great idea when you are in the midst of creating a collection or an important piece of work. You can note all ideas, colours you’ve used, textures you’ve created, things that have inspired you down in a book. I also like to note down what I like and don’t like on things and any thoughts I have related to what I’m creating. 

By doing this you can look back and recreate a piece that you love, a texture or colour you want to use again. Perhaps you need some more inspiration, look back and see what inspired you in previous work.

This also really helps when you come to writing your bio and statement to go with your artwork. You can go back and look at the process, things you like and any thoughts you have on the process of making. Buyers like to know all this as it gives them background on the piece they’re interested in and gives them insight into you as an artist. 

Looking back to relate

I’ve been creating sketchbooks for years and years and I never throw them away. They are great to refer back to in years to come and they can help you rediscover feelings, reasons and your why. 

I love to reflect and look back when things seem unrelated. When you start to reflect back you can start to see patterns of things that are reoccurring.

Let me explain. I shared this with my Hub members, and it just goes to show the power of a sketchbook and the importance of having time to reflect, and look back at older ones to understand your emotions and art today. 

Recently, I have been going through some personal things and my work seemed very separate and I have realised it’s down to what is going on in my personal life. It was only when going through my sketchbooks that I noticed this from what I’d been sketching and writing down. 

For years I have drawn leaves, 30 odd years now and it always seemed insignificant until a few days ago when I was looking back through these sketchbooks. I realised there is a lot of deep-rooted feeling towards the leaf I keep drawing. It was a motif that I used to draw at school when I used to have panic attacks. Drawing a leaf distracted my mind from being really scared and in a state of panic. It was only last week I started to see the importance of drawing a leaf and the calmness it gives me. 

All of this has come from my sketchbooks and reflecting on previous work. They are so amazing as they are almost like some form of therapy for our work and our personal lives. They help you process emotions as a person as well as an artist. 

Why are they useful? 
  • When applying for projects or grant applications and approaching galleries, sketchbooks can give people an insight to you as an artist. 
  • They are a great conversation starter and galleries love to see them. They have the potential to exhibit along with your collections too. 
  • A buyer loves to see the process and meaning of the piece of artwork they are buying. It allows them to form a deeper connection with your work. 
  • They help to prove the work is yours if someone tries to copy a piece – you’ve got all the research and your sketchbook can become a very useful piece of information. This doesn’t happen often, but useful if it does.
  • They act as a form of therapy and an outlet for your emotions and feelings. Not just as an artist but personally as well.

I could go on for hours about this and there are so many different types of sketchbooks. They are all so personal to us as an individual. What works for one person won’t work for the next and that is fine!

You can have one sketchbook for everything or, like me, you have separate ones with different purposes – do whatever works for you.

So to round up, they help you heal, they help you develop new ideas, you can re-evaluate older work and they allow you to understand your ‘why’ so much more! 

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