Inside My Sketchbooks + Tips for Starting Yours

A simple decision I made over 10 years ago has shaped my creative life: to always, always have pen and a notebook with me.

It was a simple commitment. Not to draw every day, not to write every day, not to fill it with amazing thoughts. Just to always have at hand a means for capturing random thoughts and information. There are now few things I treasure more than my archive of notebooks.

The notebook/sketchbook allows us to put ephemeral thoughts into "inspectable form": to do lists, diagrams, drawings, doodles, impassioned journal entries. It gives our working mind extra "hard drive space" to mull over problems, frees up bandwidth by carrying fiddly bits on our behalf, and provides a little nursery in which to nurture thought seeds into saplings.

a look inside

To each their own

I had a phase where I loved spiral-bound notebooks because they can lie flat and fold in half. Since about 2012 I've become a devotee of the Leuchtturm variety (sort of like Moleskine, but with page numbers). For day-to-day, I have a little “pen quiver” on my notebook with a pencil, a black medium-tip (like a Paper Mate Flair) and a bright color (another Flair or highlighter). If I need more pen power, I have my little zipper pencil case full of other stuff, more colors, brush pen, highlighters, pencil sharpener. For occasions when I only have my teeny little purse, I carry a small pocket-size notebook, a size that also works well in a jeans back-pocket.

Some people like to carry index cards bound by rubber band or binder clip. Does pocket-size feel too cramped? Does an 8x10 notebook seem huge? Blank / dot grid / squared? I'd recommend avoiding lined pages, but if you really like them, then go for it!

You just have to try things until it feels right. The main thing is that it doesn't feel too intimidating, the best tools are the ones you use. If a new sketchbook feels "precious" and like every line needs to be perfect, it helps to make a messy scribble on the first page to break it in. :)

An exercise for you

Next time you're out running errands or passing by an art/craft supply store, take 10 minutes and go try some pens and pencils. (EXTRA CREDIT: test them all out on the pages of your sketchbook and make a mess!) Are you attracted to thick, bold lines? Something with a smudgy look? Brush pens? A fountain pen? Good ol' sharpies? Super-fine tipped felt pens? Chisel tips? Usually you can experiment with these in the store. Find 2 or 3 that just feel so good you want to keep making marks with them. Variety is good.

Share your kit! Make a few scribbles with your new/favorite pens and pencils in your new/favorite notebook and post on your favorite social platform. Tag me on Facebook or Instagram, or use #sketchypeopledraw

For Digital Sketchers

There are lots of apps, and several good styluses out there and I'm saving that for another post, but if you have favorites please share in the comments. Maybe consider carrying paper/pen with you anyway or in addition to your digital kit and mixing it up now and then.

a little inspiration to get going

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