Using Sketchbooks to Draw More Often

Using Sketchbooks to Create Good Drawing Habits

I want to sketch and draw more this year. I’ve commanded this to my art-making brain in years past, but as weeks ticked by on the calendar, other priorities elbowed the notion into a dark cupboard.  

Very frustrating – and self-inflicted.  

I follow the Canadian artist Marc Taro Holmes. He features tips and tricks (and fantastic art) related to urban sketching. A few weeks ago, he did a live sketch event on facebook, using the app Sktchy. See below.

Fun with Portrait Drawing and the app Sktchy

On Sktchy, artists upload photos of themselves in a queue, and you have permission to draw or paint them, digitally or traditionally. For free. With no worries related to copyrights. Fun, right?

Being artists, the selfie reference images are creative, beautiful, challenging and fantastic. #lifedrawingclass

The artists range in ages, ethnicities, tastes and talent – from beginners to professional illustrators.

After creating art from one of the photos, you snap a photo of it from the app. When your new sketch is swiped to the right, the reference photo is revealed underneath it.

The artist you modeled your art from gets notified that they inspired you, and the artsy community reacts, and everyone flourishes.

Pencil sketch of Danny

Giving the Sktchy app a Try

Using sktchy, I grabbed a 4×6 spiral sketchbook, and started sketching – in pencil only – to keep this simple. I’ve reserved this little sketchbook for these Sktchy drawings exclusively, to help keep my wandering interests fenced in to a single focus.

I’ve done 14 little pencil portraits in about 6 weeks of evening couch-time, which breaks my all previous records for sticking with this more-drawing resolution. And I’ll tell you this: the app is easy, inspiring and so FUN! My goal is to fill the sketchbook.

Drawing of Eva

Compare Your Art to What You Made Last Month – Not Other Artists

Be warned: if you follow a large swath of artists on Sktchy, looking at everyone’s amazing art and the reference photos that inspired it, you may have to reing yourself in.

Looking at all the cool photos and resulting art can be uber inspiring, and a deep vortex of time consuming, and not creating.  But, if you want to draw more, and you’re inclined to sketch faces and figures, you might enjoy Sktchy. Their Facebook Page is a great resource too, so check that out here.

Vin’s reference photo and a little pencil sketch result

A quick little video of sketches uploaded to sktchy on my iphone (above).

An Excellent Resource for Museum Images

Being on the West Coast, I don’t have many opportunities to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I do peruse their web site to nudge my art-making brain awake if I need an inspirational boost. 

This month, they’ve given open access to 375,000 images of public domain works in their digital catalogue.  The art is available for reference, re-mixing, teaching and sharing, without restriction. (Insert wagging tail and toothy grinned sprint to the art studio.)  

They’re also listing key information under each artwork, otherwise known as tombstone data – that is title, maker, date, culture, medium, and dimensions – on all 440,000 artworks that the Museum has digitized to date.

If you’re an art teacher, take a moment for yourself to happy-dance around the room and sing loud and festive. I can imagine high school students making mashup composites from Vermeer, Van Gogh and Degas for their iphone cases. I love good news. Read about their announcement here.

Getting Focused by Taking a Break

I just returned from a business conference over the weekend, and it was mind-exploding-great.

A recurring thread over the weekend was about getting started. Pulling the trigger. Stepping over the threshold. Finally doing what you’ve been thinking about, planning, marinating on and massaging in rough draft.

What holds us back? Like so many other starts and stops, it’s always just fear. And being afraid can be cloaked in all sorts of wooly camouflage; I need to practice more. I don’t have time. Materials have to be acquired first. Someone has to show me how to…  

The writer Anne Lamott talks about this self-inflicted avalanche of obstacles in her book Bird by Bird:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

Anne Lamott

Grab a Rope on the Art Hill, and Pull Yourself Up

Sometimes, all it takes is a new app to inspire a tepid beginning.

Other times, it takes a weekend of experts telling you things you intuitively knew, but hadn’t clarified into actionable steps. Lighting a fire of beginning under your feet is a gift, especially if you can actively pursue your own flint to get it started.

The bottom line is this: if you have something in you, and you’d like to express it, let it out. Even if it’s only for you, and you alone, kick that critic to the curb, and open the door.

How is your first draft coming along? Are you art supplies moving? What’s stopping you?

Lets get some work done.
I’ll see you in the next post –
P.S If you’re new here, you can subscribe to this blog so each new post will be sent to you via email.
Sktchy pencil drawing of phenomenal illustrator Vin Ganapathy – about 2″ x 3″

Art Quote

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

Joseph Campbell
Utrecht Manglon Synthetic Brushes
Utrecht Manglon Synthetic Brushes

9 thoughts on “Using Sketchbooks to Draw More Often”

  1. Pingback: Watercolor: Cruising California Rt 126 and Inspired by Sketching Artists - Belinda Del Pesco

  2. Pingback: Firenze Cucina - Watercolor and Making Art More Often - Belinda Del Pesco

  3. Quite off topic comment, and by no way inferring that any of you are drawing and drinking (at the same time LOL), but I have found that vinyl corks make quite good erasers (easily reshaped with a sharp knife) when you can’t find your usual one – which of course never happens in the best appointed studios, but often happens to me …..

    1. Vinyl corks, eh? Hmmm, I think I might be able to find maybe just a few of those around here…. And if they’ve already been recycled, I have ample reason to buy more now. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Marilyn Thuss

    Love your sketches. I have recently scaled some imaginary hurdle, because I suddenly find myself excited and eager to get to my studio every morning. I don’t question it, and it sure feels good! As always, your generosity and encouragement to all of us is enormously appreciated. I’ll be getting Bird by Bird…..thanks!

    1. Ahh, Marilyn, what a gift to be in the space you’re in right now! I hope your zest to seize each day rubs off on everyone else reading this who wishes they were on fire to get back to art-making! Sprinkle your pixie dust, and paint on!

  5. Love your drawing. I love this idea, but could get lost in it so easily. This winter has been very difficult, and
    getting big paintings done a huge struggle, but drawing, which I love, has been my refuse. Thank you
    for this and the constant inspiration.

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

  6. I also follow Marc, but missed his demo on facebook – so thanks so much for including the link. Also loved the review of your little portraits. With so much inspiration on the internet (including the recent challenge “100 faces in one week”, there is no excuse for not seizing all these opportunities to focus on practice, practice, practice…..the best way to starve negative thoughts from lack of attention! Art is such a magnificent obsession.

    1. Hi Gayle! Isn’t he amazing? I love his quick urban watercolor scenes, and the way he explains his process. Very inspiring, and always encouraging. ANd yes, practice, and more practice. We’re supposed to find joy in the journey, and quit obsessing about the destination, so lets walk on. 🙂

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