As creative people we repeatedly choose to stand before a blank canvas, a blank page, a blank computer screen; and we create. There is a very real vulnerability in that, which can lead to fear and panic. But there are some simple techniques and tools we can have in our back pocket that will alleviate the negative feeling. My number one go-to, the sketchbook is simple, doesn’t cost much, and has a ton of benefits. Wondering why you would or should? Here are some great reasons for why you should keep a sketchbook.
Here’s my big answer to why I keep a sketchbook for inspiration- I’ve found that depending on my level of panic it can offer the same reassurance as a life preserver being tossed to the drowning man. Mind a blank? Trying to recall that awesome idea you know you had? Need something awesome to work on but nothing’s there? Sketchbooks are a crutch that artists have depended on for centuries. It’s a fundamental tool that anyone would benefit from. Even if you shy away from the term “artists”, I’d love to have you realize that this is one of the number one practices successful creatives employ.
Sketchbooks Hack Inspiration
Picasso famously said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” What I think Picasso meant, was inspiration is always there for you, but you have to put in the effort to keep reaching for it. If you follow the well analogy that I’ve based this blog on; we all have a well of inspiration available to us. Keeping a sketchbook is an action that fills our well, it gives us a place to draw from, and it keeps our inspirations readily available for us so that they are there when we want it.
Inspiration doesn’t work on a timetable.
The moment you sit down to the canvas isn’t necessarily the same moment that inspiration strikes. Inspiration can wake you up from a dream at 3 am. It can slide into your head as you’re waiting to pick the kids up in carpool. It can distract you on your commute or in a business meeting. Keeping a sketchbook to quickly capture your ideas or the images that spark them prevents you losing those moments of inspiration in the distractions of life.
Sketchbooks are a place to assemble those things that spark you.
Whether you are visual or verbal, or both; sketchbooks give you a primary location to keep those 3am ideas together. Creatives are infamous for scribbling out song lyrics, book plots, and art thumbnails on the backs of napkins or dry cleaning tickets. You have to wonder how many of these bits of paper have gotten lost and how much more rich our culture would be if the artist had had a place to keep them all together. Making even just a note or quick sketch in your sketchbook gives you a memory trigger for later down the road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a glimmer of something only to re-discover it later in my sketchbook. This works!
Sketchbooks allow us to see our ideas as a collection.
When you have one place that you keep the ideas that flit through your head; then you have the opportunity to page through it as an entirety and see how an idea might be coming together in your subconscious. For instance, you might notice that different pieces to a puzzle are there, you just didn’t notice how they could all fit together until you saw them together in one place. With the ideas collected then you can see a natural progression in your thought process. It makes sense of what may seem arbitrary in the moment. As creatives, lets’ face it, our minds can be twisty, turning places, and our thoughts can seem capricious. Sketchbooks can help us to shine light on our unconscious.
Keeping a Sketchbook helps you realize what you like.
We often miss the big picture when we only see the parts. As an artist, you may think you don’t have a passion, but as you look through your sketchbook you may see recurring elements. Maybe you see the photos you took of tree branches, or rivers snaking across a valley. You might notice that when you look at others work you consistently find yourself attracted to high contrast paintings of natural elements. Or you might have collected quotes from John Muir or Ansel Adams. By putting all the inspirations together you can see that high contrast landscape art, with an emphasis on flowing organic lines, is a major interest for you.
Like journals, Sketchbooks are flexible in format.
Don’t let the blank pages scare you- or the concept that sketchbooks are just for artists. You can think of them as a visual journal. Or maybe you like the dot format, or the lined composition notebook. Maybe the idea of carrying around a book of any kind just isn’t practical for your life. You can use the notes app in your phone. Maybe you’re more verbal than visual. Collecting voice memos on a digital device is an awesome idea. I have several different sketchbooks going at any one time. A smaller one I carry in my purse, a larger one for home, a mini notebook by my bed, and I’ve been trying out the procreate app on my iPad Pro.
Take the time to try these suggestions out and find one that fits your personality and lifestyle. OR you can take my QUIZ- yup, that’s right. I created a quick quiz that’s fun and won’t take long. Its results will tell you what sketchbook would fit you best. Regardless of what you choose, keeping a journal, notebook, or sketchbook with you is easy.
Sketchbooks give you a place to plan and develop ideas.
I use my sketchbooks for visual notes, keeping track of sources, for collecting ideas, and for working through and solving problems. As a product designer I could project plan like nobody’s business. As long as I had a sketchbook with me. Through experience, I found I needed to be able to sketch things out to work through them. I’ll post a short little video on instagram that will demo how I record a product idea just to give you an idea. So maybe stop over there a little later and take a look. 🙂
Sometimes we just need a space to work things out and to collect our thoughts on supplies, possible problems, possible solutions etc. A pillar example of this are the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. He included everything from a detailed engineering plan for a ground water system, to his infamous flying machines. The man thought everything out whether it was immediately a need or not. He loved to work out the “how” of something that intrigued him in the moment and sketchbooks helped him to do that. I’d love to know how often he’d be asked a question and already have the answer worked out in a sketchbook.
Why should you keep a sketchbook? Why not?
I’m not going to mislead you, Creativity is Work. Sketchbooks are one tool that will help you do that work well and make it easier. Here are three more reasons why to keep a sketchbook.
The cost is minimal. In fact, you may have the supplies already tucked away in a closet or drawer. Some paper and a pencil. Or check the dollar section. I stock up during school supplies sales.
It doesn’t take large blocks of time. Just a few minutes whenever inspiration strikes can save you hours of brainstorming later.
And it can’t be done wrong. This is just for you. Some artists sketch all their thoughts, others mix writing with drawing, some write out their ideas with just a quick visual sketch as a reminder of the whole picture. You can make yours comic book style and record your day. It can be a scrapbook style collection of postcards and pictures. It truly can be anything you want. And it can change as you change.
I love my sketchbooks and have consistently kept them since I was introduced to them in a figure drawing class in college. They have been absolutely invaluable to my development as a creative. And they have changed over time, just as I have.
For More on How to Keep a Sketchbook for Inspiration
- I have 3 Tips for How to Be Creative EVERY DAY! That will help you look at your day differently so that you can be creative.
- Creative Hacks for Cultivating Inspiration will help you learn how to best use your own natural learning style to encourage your creativity.
For more ideas and Inspiration
I’d love to have you take a peek at my Sketchbook board on Pinterest! It’s filled with inspirational examples of peoples day to day and travel sketchbooks. I also recommend you check out Skillshare for an amazing selection of videos on keeping a sketchbook.
Love me a freebie… or two!
If the Picasso quote inspired you, I have a free printable of it in my Creative Resource Library that you can easily download and print out on your home printer. If you have a Cricut or Silhouette Cameo and would like a cut file I also have a .svg file for you as well. Enjoy!
I hope this post helped you if you’re considering starting a sketchbook practice. It really has been both a game changer and life saver in my own creative life. Which is why I can’t recommend highly enough that you try to keep a sketchbook for inspiration too. You really won’t regret giving it a try.