I think the artist’s sketchbook can hold an almost mythical quality to it, even within the artist community. I blame Leonardo daVinci for this because his sketches, and their detail, are almost absurdly beautiful.      

Sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, close up of woman's face and hair.
Leda and the Swan by Leonardo, c. 1506

I would guess that if you asked fifty different artists how they use their sketchbooks, you would get fifty different answers. In the past, like way back in college, I have used them to map out projects in detail. However, it wasn’t until last year that I truly relied on them. That is because last year, I challenged myself to a 365 day sketchbook challenge. The goal was to work in my sketchbook daily, begin a serious studio practice, and to make a commitment to myself. I *mostly* made it, but since that ended, I haven’t spent focused time in my sketchbooks.

artist sketchbook with markers and painting tools.

These days  I use my sketchbook more as a place to jot down ideas,  to try small thumbnails for project ideas, or just to record colors I really enjoy. 

When I am feeling really fancy, I will actually make sketches of the value (lightness and darkness of an object) of my paintings. Doing this can help me work out issues that I am having with the design. In the photograph below, the top sketch was the one I was trying to figure out. I knew that the painting wasn’t working, but I couldn’t see why. So, I used a trusty sharpie marker, and did a quick sketch of where the values were.                 

black and white sketchbook entry

As you can see, I jotted down what was working for me and even made a little note to myself to “push line quality in black”. In the bottom sketch, I did just that, and ended up happy with the results.

If you want to see what I’m up to in my studio, or check out my sketchbook challenge, hop on over to instagram and take a peek.