Probably the most famous sketchbooks of all time were those of Leonardo Da Vinci, although Picasso also produced 178 sketchbooks in his time. But why do artists keep sketchbooks?
In Da Vinci’s and Picasso’s case, they were filled with ideas, notes, and drawings of things they saw and imagined. Exploring themes and making studies until they were ready for canvas.
As a general rule, most artists keep sketchbooks to help them with the creative process that aims to end up with finished pieces of art, whether they be on canvas, drawing paper, or any other type of artistic medium. We looked at some of the primary uses of sketchbooks and how you could potentially use them more as an artist.
A sketchbook allows for an avenue of free-flowing creativity with zero pressure involved. Unless required as part of the grading process at Art College, sketchbooks are often kept privately in the same way one might keep a journal.
Why do artists keep sketchbooks, and why should you start doing so? Think of it as a place to keep your private visual thoughts and ideas before you assemble them, and you are ready to present them to the public in a complete art form.
Sketchbooks, also often referred to as visual journals, can be used for drawings, images, newspaper cuttings, words, places, collage; literally anything that piques your interest and inspires you.
No matter where you are on your artist’s journey, a sketchbook will come in useful. Having a private space to let your creativity flow will help you to practice your drawing skills if you are starting, as well as help to keep them sharp if you are already a more experienced or established artist.
You may even want to keep separate sketchbooks for different types of art. One in which you practice drawing life models, and one for landscapes, or perhaps different sketchbooks for various drawing mediums such as graphite and pens.
Every day that you spend honing your skills, you may notice something new about the way shadows are cast at different times of the day, improve your shading techniques, or understand more about how your perspective changes with your emotions. Either way, the more you practice, the better you will get. As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”!
Your sketchbook is also an ideal place to test out new materials and mediums. Use it to test out different levels of H and B graphites or various types of pens to see which you prefer working with. You can also use your sketchbook to test out different color palettes and make notes of combinations that you want to use in the future.
Before committing yourself to a particular project, whether it be on canvas, drawing paper, sculpture, or any other medium, you can use your sketchbook to explore your ideas more fully. By sketching your idea out and adding to it over time, you can work with it, and develop it until it feels more fully formed in your mind.
Let your imagination and ideas run wild until you begin to hone in on your preferred options and approaches. You can also practice-run your ideas in your (tried and tested) preferred drawing mediums, overall helping to develop a personal style and preferred techniques in relation to each particular project.
Perhaps an idea you have isn’t quite working due to the layout, angle, or materials being used? Even after your idea is fully developed, you may find that a few practice runs with different spacing, materials, and colors can help to troubleshoot problems that you find yourself running into. A sketchbook can help you to decide how the finished piece may look before you start it, to save you wasting any materials.
Having a sketchbook on you at all times is fantastic for documenting down or sketching out ideas on the spot when inspiration strikes. Better to get the idea down straight away rather than have the possibility that you may forget it later on, or perhaps not be able to grasp the meaning or emotion that you had invested in it, at that particular time.
Many artists find that using a sketchbook to unload all of their creative ideas, out of their brain onto the pages, can also help to focus their minds on more pressing tasks at hand.
One of the most useful reasons for artists to own sketchbooks is to inspire the creative process further. As you use your sketchbook to document your ideas, you can look back on ideas that you’ve had previously for your own record.
Whether you revisit ideas you’ve had in the past for further development, use them for inspiration for entirely new projects, or even to develop a series of artwork pieces, you may find that the more you fill your sketchbook pages, the better your ideas and imagination will flow. Having a sketchbook filled with your past work could give you the inspiration and confidence you need to start working on a new project in an unfortunate episode of “creative block”.
Many artists also use their sketchbooks as a place to collect and store images, photographs, and other inspirational materials that they find. You can slide the keepsakes within the pages, stick them onto the pages, or some sketchbooks even have pockets in the back cover where you can store things in.
The main reasons behind the question “Why do artists keep sketchbooks?” is that many artists find them extremely handy to use to practice regularly, develop their skills, and test their ideas. Having all your sketches kept neatly in one place is certainly better than having a million scraps of paper all around your house, especially if you’re trying to hunt down an idea you had last summer while you were in a particular place.
Not only will you find sketchbooks useful in the creative process, but also holding onto your sketchbooks as keepsakes allows you to remember your processes for years to come. Whether you want to leaf through your practice drawings to see how far you’ve come along, or just have them around for memories for yourself and family to enjoy, they’ll always be a treasured part of your creative journey.