How I’m keeping up with my daily sketchbook practice

I’ve been keeping a sketchbook off and on for over 20 years. In that time my sketchbook has been home to working through ideas for my former clothing line, too many to-do and bucket lists to count, whole sections of collages of images I tore from magazines, the repository of hundreds of inspiring quotes I jotted down from books and songs, overhead bits of conversations, doodles, future business ideas and art projects and of course actual sketches, drawings and artwork. For years I berated myself for using my sketchbook for anything other than art – Ie: those to-do lists, business ideas etc. but at some point I realized that it was MY sketchbook after all and what I did or didn’t put in it was totally up to me. It wasn’t something that I had to turn into a teacher for a grade or try to sell or even give an ounce of thought to what anyone else would think about what I did in there. It was and continues to be one of the only places that I can feel totally free to explore not only my artistic impulses but my thoughts, feelings and ideas without fear of how the world will receive what I share.

The past five years have sadly been a time where I didn’t use my sketchbook as often as I wanted to. I found myself buying a new sketchbook before I would go on trip (a time when I knew I’d have downtime) and then furiously filling the first 10 pages only to come home and have it sit unused until my next trip. This pattern became the norm and no matter how many times I swore that when I got home I’d make time for my sketchbook, I rarely did.

Last year I created an online workshop: Sketchbook Adventures that shares several of my go-to sketchbook techniques like watercolors, drawing, lettering, collage, etc. as well as over 30 prompts designed to help answer the question “where do I start?” I loved putting this workshop together and while I was doing it I was working in my sketchbook everyday creating examples for the exercises. Then when I finished the workshop my sketchbook returned to the shelf on my studio where it sat until… you guessed it… my next vacation.

Just over a month ago I returned home from Craftcation 2016 inspired and determined not to continue my pattern of ignoring my sketchbook because I “was too busy with work” or “didn’t want to pull all my supplies out and make a mess” or “only have 20 minutes and that’s not enough time to really get anything done”. I had a million excuses for not setting aside the time to do one of the things that always makes me feel joyous, connected and grateful. I thought back to how determined and motivated I was to keep up with a daily sketchbook practice when I was preparing my workshop and committed to taking an online sketchbook class. I decided to commit to one lesson a week but once I got started I found myself finding a way to make time to do an exercise almost everyday!

I was already familiar with Creativebug since they sponsored Craftcation in the past but I hadn’t ever taken a Creativebug class. I signed up for a Creativebug account which was $4.95 a month! That’s right! For less than $5.00 a month I had access to over 700 classes taught by amazing instructors (several of which are friends/Craftcation presenters).

This first class I took was past Craftcation presenter Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations then I took Creative Sketchbooking with Pam Garrison and Dawn DeVries Sokol’s Art Journaling. I absolutely loved all three of these classes. Each one started simply with an introduction to materials and basic techniques and then helped you build your skills to create more complex layouts. Each of the artists that taught them also shared inspiring pages from their own personal sketchbooks. Although I’ve been keeping a sketchbook and creating art for nearly two decades these classes had so much to offer me but I also felt like a beginner wouldn’t be intimidated.

Below are some pages from my sketchbook that I did during the classes. I got this awesome fluorescent paint but sadly when I scanned my pages it didn’t show up as vivid as it is in real life. Although I feel a bit “naked” showing off unfinished work from my sketchbook I really wanted to share how each class tapped into a different area of my creativity and show the variety of types of layouts I came up with from the prompts.

My sketchbook pages from Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations:

*This class helped me let go of my go-to style which mixes several genres and instead focus on pattern and geometric shapes.

creativebug sketchbook class dear handmade life

My sketchbook pages from Creative Sketchbooking with Pam Garrison:

*This class really pushed me outside of my comfort zone by forcing me to let go and draw without looking. It was such a great feeling to not know how the page would turn out.

4 creativebug sketchbook class dear handmade life

My sketchbook pages from Dawn DeVries Sokol’s Art Journaling:

*Dawn’s style and approach is actually quite close to how I normally work in my sketchbook so it wasn’t a stretch for me to include several genres (painting, watercolors, drawing, collage etc.) on one layout. Though I do feel like I got out of my comfort zone by really getting into more doodling than I normally do.

3 creativebug sketchbook class dear handmade life 2 creativebug sketchbook class dear handmade life

Taking these classes has not only helped me stay on track with my sketchbook practice but has also opened me up to new techniques and styles. If you need a little creative boost, inspiration and motivation sign up for a FREE 14-day trial at Creativebug and you’ll get access to their 700+ classes in painting, drawing, knitting, crochet, sewing, quilting, and much more plus you’ll unlock one class of your choice for lifetime access (up to $24.95 value) just for checking out their classes and community. If you fall in love with Creativebug (like I did) you can sign up for only $4.95 a month. Seriously, it’s been the best money I’ve spent in a long time. 🙂

-Nicole S.

P.S. – Creativebug also has a monthly creative challenge and the June Challenge is a painting a day with the amazing Augustwren. The Creativebug community posts each day with #CBDrawADay and you can join them by checking out the challenge here and adding #CBDrawADay to your social media posts. 

Creativebug painting a day challenge

In this 30-day June painting challenge, Jennifer Orkin Lewis (known as Augustwren on Instagram) draws inspiration from objects found in real life and imagination. Using gouache and watercolor, she demonstrates her approach to painting without fear and reminds you that it’s never too late to start painting. Jennifer started her daily painting practice three years ago, painting for just thirty minutes every day. In that time, she has cultivated the loose, colorful style that she’s known for, inspiring thousands of people along the way.

Learn how to:

  • Paint 30 different objects using gouache and watercolor
  • Mix colors on the paper
  • Paint from your imagination
  • Paint from real life


One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing. I have several empty journals in comparison and I kinda hate myself for that. This was motivating!

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