Exercise 1.0: What sort of sketchbook should I use?

I usually keep at least two or three different sketchbooks, one of which I carry around in my purse, one I use for ideas and planning, and a “sketchbook” which is basically a folder full of loose-leaf anatomy studies and gesture drawings. I am usually not very picky about size or shape or even paper thickness (I like the texture of wrinkled sketchbook pages when painted with watercolor). I do, however like the idea of having a digital sketchbook. I have never thought of this before, but it makes sense! I have struggled with using digital mediums even though I have done so for years, and I am just now realizing that it’s because I have never allowed myself to experiment and keep those experiments. I think not keeping them is the essential issue because then all the progress seems to disappear into the ether. From now on, I will make sure to treat the digital medium in the same way I treat the traditional one in this regard. I am honestly disappointed in myself for not thinking of this before.

Do I get intimidated by the blank pages o fan expensive sketchbook?

I think I do a little, but not enough to make me pause for long.

Do I need something on my page already? E.g. a grid, some faint lines.

Sometimes, but I do not need the paper to be marked by default. If I want some markings before I start I just draw them in pencil.

Do I prefer to work with heavy weight paper or something more flimsy?

I prefer flimsier paper. The heavyweight paper I tend to reserve for finished watercolors.

Do I prefer to work large or small?

Possibly smaller when it comes to sketching. I believe my largest sketchbook had been an A3. Though in general I am also used to working on 50cmx70cm and 100cmx70cm.

Am I a creature of habit that needs things to look the same?

Habit? Yes, very much so. But I would not say that I need everything to look the same.

Do I want variety that relates to whatever I am working on?

Yes, I like my sketchbooks to have a bit of interest.

Do I want a sketchbook that is like a hardback book so I can work across pages and treat them as double page spreads? In this way I could make larger images.

I have never done that before, but now I want to.

Do I want a spiral bound book so I can easily fold pages and cover over?

I really like spiral bound books for when I sketch outside because they are easier to hold.

Do I want to work secretively or publicly?

I had once wanted my sketchbooks to be a secret, but I have learned to enjoy sharing them.

Do I already have a favorite sort of sketchbook?


Do I produce digital sketchbook work/drawings already? If so how will I document this for my tutor? Will a digital device be one of my three sketchbooks that I choose?

I do produce digital work, but I rarely save what I don’t consider to be “finished pieces”. For myself, I think I would be fine with just saving everything in a folder, but for my tutor I could create a slideshow or a PDF document. Yes, I will certainly have a digital sketchbook as one of my three.

Zines and Bookmaking Activity

These were all really fun to make! Though I am not entirely sure how to incorporate them in a sketchbook. The larger zines and the “mini Sketchbook” I can imagine I could just draw in and stick inside the sketchbook with tape or glue, but I am not sure if I want to draw in the really small zines. It seems like an exercise in frustration.

Exercise 1.1: What is your relationship with your sketchbook?

I have kept sketchbooks for a few years now more or less faithfully. I cannot really say it is an extension of me or a best friend yet, but I hope that will change as I develop some new habits during this course. I have used sketchbooks to experiment with different mediums, to jot down ideas and for quick studies of gesture or value. Nowadays, my sketchbooks mostly contain thumbnails and preparatory sketches for a more definitive piece.

Previous Work

In my earliest days, I used to be nervous when using sketchbooks. I would always sketch in pencil, then erase the entire page a few times in a row. Sometimes I would even rip out pages. But after looking at other people’s sketchbooks, I realized that not every page needs to be perfect and that I should give myself the freedom to make mistakes. I had heard somewhere that sketching in pen instead of pencil would help with shifting this mindset, since pen cannot be erased. And it did help! At first it was a bit frustrating, but after I gained a lot of freedom with my lines and shapes.

The next big milestone was probably discovering ink. More accurately, discovering the diverse ways it can be used. I had been familiar with dip pens, but had never used brushes before, so after I started  using brushes with ink, I experimented with mark making in my sketchbooks for the first time. I am only showing just a few of my many scribbled, chaotic pages. At this stage, I was truly free of any presumption that my sketchbooks should look perfect.

Next comes the sketchbook  I used the most variety of mediums and techniques in, including the closest approximation to scrapbooking I am capable of. I had honestly not intended for this one to take literal years to fill out, but it did. I always keep at least two or three sketchbooks at one time, but this one ended up dragging on and on. It was not a very thick sketchbook, and I was not being too careful not to “ruin” it there are pages where I was obviously not trying too hard but I was… still being careful not to ruin it. Another factor that contributed was the fact that I had followed a recommendation I found on the internet to fill in sketchbook pages randomly. As in, not in consecutive order. Theoretically, this was a great idea because I could simply open the sketchbook at any page and start drawing instead of having to worry about the order my sketches appear in. But it turns out that this is not something that helps me in any way.

Though the fact that it took so long to fill out makes for an interesting flip through, especially since the sketches are not in chronological order. The sketchbook also contains scrapbooked pages of either pressed plants that I like (along with a tag with their scientific name and family), various trinkets like take-out cards, museum or bus tickets I thought looked funny, a new year’s note, two of my sister’s recital programs (one of which I designed myself), etc.

As you have probably noticed from all of the previous pages, I like drawing human faces and bodies (and trees!) a lot. I like studying them and making gesture drawings and sketches of people in public. I have many, many sketchbook pages and loose-leaf pages of studies and drawings featuring portraits, clothed studies and nude studies.

Recently; however, I have mostly used sketchbooks to jot down quick ideas or to plan out drawings and projects.

Exercise 1.1 What is your relationship with your sketchbook?

Can you visualize your relationship with your sketchbook?

Response to OCA Questionnaire Comments

The green color is for anything I relate to.

The red color is for anything I want to replicate.

(Click on images to enlarge.)

There is not much red in there, but the message is clear and in line with my thinking before I started this course. I want to create more communication with my sketchbook, both in quantity and quality of work and to be more consistent and prolific in the way I use my sketchbook.

Exercise 1.2: Making Mistakes – working fast and cutting work up

Mistakes are not something I particularly worry about. Which is a good thing to a certain extent, but I think that there is a limit to that which I have reached. Drawing- wise I do have a tendency to make thoughtless, redundant marks. This is something I am trying to eliminate from my repertoire.

The materials I chose for this exercise were watercolors, oil pastels, white acrylic paint and highlighters. For paper, I used two mixed media pieces of paper, a black piece of paper and a piece of printer paper. Afterwards, I followed the instructions exactly. The waterc0lor piece was of the desk in front of me, the marker piece was of the couch behind me, the oil pastels piece was of the window at my left and the white acrylic piece on black paper was of the door on my right.

After they were all finished and dried, I made all of them into zines as required in the manual. As a specific note, I had to make the marker couch piece zine folded most times since only the printer paper could fold that way, the rest of the papers were too thick.

Exercise 1.3: How personal do you want your sketchbook to be? To hide, or not to hide?

I do not know how personal I want my sketchbooks to be from now on. With previous ones I never really put very personal thoughts in there, it just isn’t the way I draw. If I had personal content it was written in horrible handwriting that I can barely understand myself, or if I ever had a story idea I felt to embarrassed to write down in words, I would design the main character and then I would have no issue remembering the story. I do not use sketchbooks as very personal diaries, I like to keep those as something separate.  But I might just change that if I start putting in secret notes and codes, or mirror-write like Da Vinci.

It is suggested by the book to use the zines from the previous exercise to hide things inside my sketchbook. That was not really possible in my case, since the zines were so thick that the sketchbook could barely close with just one of them stuck in there, let alone with four. I did try, but the result was rather ridiculous and very uncomfortable to draw in afterwards, so I ended up taking them out.

My tester zines from before making the four drawings did work, though.

The ideas I had for hiding things in my sketchbook which I first sketched out then mocked up in it later were first to use sticky notes to hide things or to correct a incorrect drawing, and second to make a extra pocket to put smaller pieces of paper in. The sticky note idea did not pan out in the long run. I did use it and it looked pretty good, but I ended up using glue to keep it on later because it would not stay. The idea does not work for partially covering up things, but it still works for fixing ugly sketches. My second idea worked out beautifully. I taped the pocket on and it stayed with no problems. The pocket is great for putting in little things like loose doodles or old business cards.