Hey all, welcome to a new week and the next installment of “Thirteen Commitments for Artists to Cultivate Inspiration”. You can catch up on the others here.
Sketchbooks (and Journals)
Some people like them, some people are “all digital”, and some don’t like them at all. History shows that sketchbooks are the playground and idea banks for the creative artist. Just look at the cave paintings—ok, yeah, I’m stretching it a bit there. Actually, where would we be without the sketchbooks of Leonardo? They are a wealth of studies, concepts, and wacky ideas: boat shoes.
But beyond the auspices of the great Leo, there are a myriad of artists from Van Gogh to Frank Lloyd Wright. Just a simple Google search will supply a ton of famous artists sketchbooks. I’ve read that Picasso filled more than 170 sketchbooks in his life. Historians keep discovering new sketchbooks from great artists which continue to give us insights into their thought processes. These are valuable finds.
I believe a physical sketchbook is important. I know there are “all digital” people out there, but they are missing out of two benefits of sketchbooks: daily physical product and posterity.
“Sketchbooks and journals are the street lamps that illuminate the artist’s journey.” ― Neil Waldman
Daily Physical Product
I get digital. I like digital, but in the end it doesn’t have the ease nor the unexpected surprise of flipping back through an old sketchbook. Also, digital tends to push us to a final complete piece. Exploration and spontaneity are possible with digital and are likely, but the finality that comes of media on paper pushes us to turn the page and begin again. With digital it is all too easy to erase and start over—with no evidence that the other even existed. To keep a digital sketchbook the artist must be intentional about storing and saving. With a physical sketchbook it’s built in.
Also, at the end of a day of sketching you have something that you can hold in your hands, flip through, and quickly notate or share. (Yes, I know about sharing online, but it’s not the same.) Plus, aside from those who are carrying tablets, sketchbooks are easy to pack and require no power.
This physical product doesn’t just apply to illustrators or designers, it also applies to writers. My wife has completed writing a book that was born within her journal. This wasn’t a book that she set out to write, initially she was capturing thoughts and ideas which she began to share and the ideas grew into a book. She could have done this digitally, but again flipping through files and flipping through journals are typically different intentions.
“My sketchbook is a witness of what I am experiencing, scribbling things whenever they happen.” —Vincent Van Gogh
Imagine years from now, someone saying we recently found all of <<Insert Your Name>>’s files and wow there was a plethora of sketches that never saw the light of day. That’s a cool idea. With a sketchbook or journal this happens. I’m sure it will happen with files and computer documents in the future, (in 2014 there was an article about some deteriorating floppy disks of Andy Warhol) but the chances are fewer. Be ready to leave surprises for the future. I realize not everyone is going to be Leo or Warhol, but we definitely won’t be if we don’t leave proof behind.
Keep a dailyish sketchbook. This is how I handle my sketchbooks. Sometimes, there’s a grid of boxes where I scribble in ideas. There are some days when I am particularly inspired, where I will scribble these boxes for a few pages, and later when unspiration strikes, I will return to them and select the one I like best or feel like will work best and will work on it.
A bank of ideas often restarts my imagination/inspiration and I can build more boxes. This bank of ideas helps me have consistency. What’s nice is that sometimes when one sketchbook finishes, I have some of these boxes left undone and will pull them over into my new sketchbook. So, when I start a new one, instead of beginning with no idea where to start, I have ideas.
These same principles apply to writers: jot down thoughts then come back to them and expound on them. Carry ideas over and never start a new book with a scary blank page.
If however, you are starting your first sketchbook follow my suggestion from last week: make a mark, any mark, and then do more.
Here’s how we put it in Thirteen Commitments for Artists to Cultivate Inspiration: “I commit to keeping a sketchbook, believing this is where I get to play, and it will serve me on days I feel all played out.” Get your free copy of our one page PDF Thirteen Commitments for Artists to Cultivate Inspiration here.
By the way, I’ve collected all of the “Thirteen Commitment” posts, so far, under one link. Please share them with the artists you know. You can find them here.
5 points many poses
I shared this last week but since we are talking about sketchbooks, I thought it would be a good idea to post this again. This is a gestural process that I have been thinking through for a while now. It allows me to rough out ideas very quickly and not have to worry about what I am going to draw. Process:
- place 5 points on the page
- choose one point to be the head
- place the body “tube” (I use a cylinder so that I can tell which way the body will face)
- determine which dots are the hands and which are the feet
- connect the arm “tubes” to the body and hands*
- connect the leg “tubes” to the body and feet*
*note step 5 & 6 are interchangeable
This is an easy process once you get the hang of it and will allow for some great gestures using the same five points. All of the gestures in the video above are from the same exact 5 points. I just used marker rag paper to do an overlay.
If you use this process tag me on IG @mrjaymyers I’d love to see what you do. #5pointgesture
This is a great book that I mentioned but did not tell you much about from my personal experience. I’m excited about it as I have already used it to build a sketchbook for my daughter. It has many ideas about storytelling and because sketchbooks are a designer’s friend they have an easy step by step process to make your own. It took me an hour for the first one—you know learning the steps. I think now I could do two to three in an hour. The upside I can create these books to whatever size and page count I want and they aren’t going to cost an arm and a leg. So, if I want to study a particular subject: perspective, I can make a perspective sketchbook that has as few or many pages as I decide.
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Have a great week everyone. Create, be happy, create more,
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