Is your Sketch Book Holding You Back?

I’m reading ‘Think Sketchbook’ just now,  and it occurred to me that our humble Sketchbook is the key to our creative potential. If you’re thinking, “well, duh!” here me out… When we were in art class, our teachers all said their own thing when they explained sketchbooks to us. We were told to use them,  but were we all told how to use them?  Really use them, and why?

I remember hearing about exploring ideas, practice sketches and gathering reference drawings. But not the nitty gritty of recording your thoughts and random ideas as they occurred. It felt more like we were to decide what we should draw and draw it. I don’t really remember play and fun. I do remember being told my books were important for art course entry and employers.  Which landed a critic parrot right onto my shoulder!  Instead of unleashing creative mayhem in there, half my mind was thinking what I could do that was impressive. The last thing an artist needs is an intimidating sketchbook.

So I’m reading this book and it’s obvious why I feel I’m not a full member of the artist club, why I see other artists and wonder how they seem so creative and where those wild ideas come from. It’s all in the sketch books. They’re having a blast in theirs, mine feels like a job interview waiting room…

In the last few years I’ve set the goal of building a portfolio, painting a range of things till I’m comfy with that subject and aiming to draw on those experiences to work on more creative pieces. But this has been like saying, “you can get pudding once you eat your greens,” then eating greens for years. No wonder I frequently lack enthusiasm! I worried maybe I wasn’t cut out for art because every other artist seems much more enthusiastic than I feel. I had all sorts of theories for my reluctance, when obviously I’m fine, just missing the bleeding obvious as usual.

I think it’s good having goals etc, but we must allow play, sketching, doodling and recording our thoughts too. To reach the point of wild creative art we need to record thoughts as they come, not only those that match our goals or to do list. Keep paper and pencil with us always to make notes or doodle as things pop in out heads and effectively diary our thoughts.

When I was reading Julia Cameron’s ‘Artist’s Way’ I got a tiny pocket notebook and it went everywhere with me. I’d be checking my sheep and a phrase or idea would come to mind. I just had to know I had my book and ideas arrived and went in it. It filled up, as did my big notebooks indoors. All I needed was the book and an open mind. Which is exactly what I need for my art. No critic or thinking, just spill my head onto paper and see what ideas come. It might be ugly, bizarre, disjointed and seem useless. But I’ve had story ideas like that which later fitted a subsequent story. Ideas also develop, and getting them down helps me remember and ruminate on them. Every idea is worth recording, just for that.

The really daft thing is that I had a taste of this at a temp job where I had nothing to do most of the time. My boss actively encouraged me to draw because we got along so well she enjoyed my company. In between sporadic admin jobs, I had a pad and filled it with doodles, ideas, designs. One after another all day. And it was fun! That is how I need to Sketchbook!

More sketchbook scans will follow…

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