Hi all! So I've been wanting to talk about sketchbooks, which is my favourite thing in the world. Over the three years I have been drawing I have been filling out the pages of an impressive pile of sketchbooks - so big that in fact when I returned from Singapore I brought back about seven books that I filled out during my year there. I'm notoriously bad when it comes to uploading and sharing so the only people who have ever seen those pages are my close friends. Currently I don't have those books, I've been living a bohemian lifestyle over the last year and so I only keep my active sketchbook with me, and stored the rest of them safely at my grandparents. As I will finally move to a more permanent residence in two weeks from now I plan to reunite with them and showcase parts that I like in future bi-weeklies. For this initial sketchbook journal I want to talk about sketchbooks, sketches and the elusive idea of 'thinking on paper'. I hope you will find it enjoyable.
How to use a Sketchbook
While I wouldn't say that there's any one right way to use a sketchbook, I would certainly say that there are wrong ways to use one. However, I hate to focus on negative stuff, so in this section I will talk mostly about how I like to use my sketchbook, and some of the major pitfalls I've ended up in and now do my best to avoid.
The way I like to think about my sketchbook is that it is my log book for my artistic journey, my Captain's Log. I'm very bad at dating my pages but I think it would be fun to date my entries from now on in order to keep track and also to write in it a bit more like a daily journal, about life in general. For me this is exactly what my sketchbook is, it's the anchor point between my work and my personal life and drawing as my hobby. As such I never really discriminate between making personal notes and sketches - bad sketches to beautiful ones, shopping lists to project notes and studies to purely abstract sketches and crazy experiments. I find them all throughout my sketchbook.Sketches from life and imagination, shopping lists and game design notes forms the mishmash of my sketchbook pages
It wasn't always like this though, one of the early struggles I had with my sketchbook was the fear of messing up, the idea that if ever someone asked to look through it some of the pages would be embarrassing and ruin the beauty. I wanted my sketchbooks to be filled with perfect drawings and this killed my motivation to draw in them! It took me a long while, but in the end I learned to simply not give a fuck, and I think my sketchbooks are even more interesting because of it. These days I never hesitate to showcase my sketchbook if someone asks me to see it.
My sketchbook is filled with things that I love! Some of it is really weird and badly draw ideas straight from my imagination, some of it is stuff I saw and wanted to draw because it's just so cool. I used to try to draw everything, anything, just because it would be good practice but I don't anymore. I find that it's far more useful to use your sketchbook only for the things that you really like - but of course I have the benefit of having a wide range of interests. The idea however, is that if you want to draw something from real life, start to look around you and try to find something that interests you, don't just draw the first thing you se. Learn to be aware of the world around you, there most certainly is something you like visible to you. (It could just be perspective you draw it from sometimes)
Thinking on Paper, an Introduction
One thing people will tell you is, if you want to become a designer, you need the ability to think on paper. Visual problem solving etc. When I first heard it I of course had no idea what it meant. I don't know if I know it now or not even, but at least now I can make a qualified guess. We all have ideas, the issue is if they will work in reality or not. For a designer, this means if they will work visually. Actually, any idea can be made to be cool, it just depends on the skill of the designer. And this is where thinking on paper comes in handy, unless you have tried an idea on paper you should never dismiss it as a possibility (that said, if you have a lot of ideas you will have to prioritise hahaha).Parts of notes and sketches I did for a project I never started - I fell in love with my Spirit Project instead
The first step in getting used to think on paper is get used to use paper. A sketch in this stage has the value of the idea, not much value in terms of execution. So if you haven't, you really have to get over any fears of messing up - as a designer you need to get through the bad ideas in order to find the good ones. Good execution is good for presentation purposes, but if a sketch looks bad at this stage it should be because the idea was bad, not because the rendering is bad (if the expression 'polished turd' isn't familiar to you this is a good opportunity to look it up ;] ).
The second step is to understand how 'having an idea' really works if you are a designer. I once read a claim (which I'm sceptical towards in reality, but I like for it's entertainment purposes) that said that asian monks and nuns through meditation concentrated chi in their bodies. At a low level of spirituality the chi's substance was very ethereal, more like a gas than anything else. For higher levels the chi would be represented as a liquid, reaching more and more viscosity until finally in the sages it would actually become crystals (and the claim said that crystals like these could be found in deceased nuns and monks, but this I have yet to see any proof of). I think this story is quite analogous to how I'm thinking about 'ideas'. They start out ethereal in our heads, and we start to put them down on paper (I usually begin with a few notes) and then goes through iterations, solidifying more and more until they eventually might turn out to be crystals =]. This process of solidification is what in this case would be called 'thinking on paper'. There's really no set process to achieve this, every unique idea requires it's own unique approach.
Thinking on paper is never meant to be a showcase of your process, but I find it very useful to reverse engineer my process after I'm done. To think about and analyse my own thinking seems to have helped a lot in my development of the 'thinking on paper' skill set. I can greatly recommend to try this out.
Good Sketchbook Routines
- Keep it with you, but don't always carry it with you when you go out. It's better to designate time to sit down and draw then it is to constantly carry it but never actually using it. Only bring it when you have decide to go and find something to draw.
- Don't ever draw in it to show it off. This is your happy place as an artist, where it's perfectly all right, even preferred, to screw up.
- Draw what you like, the way you like it
- Buy a cheap sketchbook - a sketchbook is to be used, and spending more than necessary is ridiculous.
Thanks for reading! I will begin school the coming week, and will not be back until I have made the move to my very own apartment in the beginning of September! Have a great time, and don't forget to follow me on twitter =] @Caconymdraws
Please let me know what you think of entries like this, and I also would love to see other people showcasing their sketchbooks as well, o if you have or if you do, please drop a link in the comments!
Real location sketches turned into imaginary worlds, and abstract graphic designs to try to emulate a fantasy written language. A good sketchbook session in other words~