How To Get Started With A New Sketchbook

Do you want to know a secret? I used to be afraid of sketchbooks. I was a perfectionist, and was afraid of making mistakes in my sketchbook, which would of course be ruined by a bad drawing. I preferred to work on loose paper. I’m sure many of you know this keeps us from being creative, from exploring, and from expressing ourselves on paper.

I have only learned in the last few months how to embrace the sketchbook as a medium – with the help of nature journaling and a few strategies I’d like to share here. This has really helped my transform my sketchbook from a place I could only face when I felt good enough, to a fun and exciting place that I visit every day!

A few practical tips that might help with getting started:

  • don’t start on the first page, but on the second page. This way you can come back to the important first page later. It can be just a mark, or a quick small sketch – something easy.
  • Also keep in mind that you first few sketches are warm-up drawings and they will likely not turn out as well as your later sketches. Your hand and eyes need warm-up practice, too, even when you draw every day.
  • A little project I started recently is to make small weather thumbnails on the first page of my sketchbook. They are small watercolor sketches, just impressions on how the weather looked on that particular day. This way I fill up the first page bit by bit and I document the weather and sky that I saw when I was using the sketchbook.
  • Write your name and address or phone number into the cover of a new sketchbook. That will give you the feeling that you now have used it and it’s not brand new anymore. Plus, if you lose it, you might get your sketchbook back, which is also nice.
  • If you make your sketchbook yourself (as in binding the pages), you will notice that it’s easier to start drawing in it because it seems less precious. At least that’s what happens to me a lot.
  • Another great idea is to note the date, place and weather when you start sketching. Adding this metadata will also help you later when you come back to your drawings.
  • You can also test your pens or paints on the first or last page. A great idea is to paint your watercolor palette and all the pigments that you use – particularly when you tend to change your colors often and look back at your sketchbook later.
  • And finally, let go of the thought that your sketchbook needs to be a perfect portfolio of drawings. It isn’t. Your sketchbook is for learning, experimenting, observing and experiencing the world around you. It can be whatever you want, and you don’t even have to show it to anyone.
An example of the small weather thumbnails I paint on the first page of my sketchbook.

4 thoughts on “How To Get Started With A New Sketchbook”

  1. I love the idea of documenting the weather in a thumbnail sketch. I can’t wait to begin my first homemade sketchbook this way.
    Thank you for that tip and inspiration

  2. I didn’t want to ruin my sketchbook by having a not so good drawing in it. But once I called the book, “My Book of Mistakes!”, I quit having problems of drawing in it.

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