I know you’re not all my “art people.” Some are my art people, some are my home people, some are my furniture people, and some are my everything & anything people. But, the art posts are not just for my art people. There is so, so much I’ve learned from art that can translate to so many other areas of life! So, today, I want to give you a tour of my second completed sketchbook (yep, I’ve filled a second one already) and share what I’ve learned from filling two sketchbooks so far this year.
the old Roman gate in Barga, Italy | pencil & watercolor
sketchbook lesson no. 1 | practice makes better
I’ve been learning this through my whole art journey – practice makes better even in drawing and painting. It’s easy to recognize that practice is important when it comes to sports and instruments, but we often mistakenly think that artists and designers pop out of the womb with their abilities. While some are gifted, I’ve learned as I’ve read about countless artists and creatives that their success and mastery came from lots and lots of practice, not from natural ability. Obsessive practice in some cases.
Making a commitment to do something daily – cook, draw, paint, write, read, sew, tell jokes, will make you better at that thing. That’s good news. You don’t need to wish and want to be a better xyz. You can be! It doesn’t mean you’ll gain mastery or global recognition, but you will get better.
sketchbook lesson no. 2 | growth happens in the small, daily choices
Growth doesn’t happen just from doing something one time. It happens from putting in a little bit of time every day. It’s that daily choice that will make the difference. Even after filling just two sketchbooks, I can feel my confidence growing in drawing from life, sketching quickly on the spot, and drawing more accurately from a photo. I’m also seeing my style develop more.
I’m practicing this with German as well. If you can remember, I started taking online German classes at the beginning of 2020, and, well, you know how that year fell apart. But, I’ve picked it back up again, listening to German lessons, practicing vocabulary, grammar, and conversations for about 15 minutes of my walk each morning. After just a couple of weeks, I can feel the German I know starting to wake up again in my brain.
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
sketchbook lesson no. 3 | we need space to try
If I’m going to take the time to put something on paper, I want it to be good. But, I’m really working on letting go of that. I need to give myself a space to try something new, different, intimidating, or hard. Maybe it’ll be good, but, if I’m drawing something for the first time, chances are it won’t be great. It’s all a part of learning and growing, though, and we all need spaces in our lives where we can try while giving ourselves allowances for mistakes.
bicycle in Florence, Italy | pen & ink
sketchbook lesson no. 4 | work doesn’t always have to be profitable or practical
I am so guilty of rolling every creative hobby into my business! It’s great that I have the freedom to do that, but it’s also a problem when I start to self-impose a standard that everything has to be sellable and sharable. Work doesn’t always have to be profitable or practical and it doesn’t even have to have a point. Sometimes we need to do the creative work for the sake of it. Just because it’s fun; because we want to; because it makes us happy.
I am feeling more and more drawn to my sketchbook as a time that’s just for me. Maybe it’ll turn into something profitable, but I’m not getting out my art supplies with that in mind and it’s felt really good.
sketchbook lesson no. 5 | it feels great to do something you’ve always imagined yourself doing
I think this is the biggie. I have always imagined myself filling up sketchbooks. When I traveled to the Great Wall of China a few years ago, the thing I wanted to do most was to sketch the wall and surrounding area while I was standing on it. When I traveled to Europe, I imagined sitting on a bench in a park or at a cafe or in a museum, sketching. I am happy to say that I did take time to sketch when I traveled, but I wasn’t already in the practice of sketching, so it felt foreign and intimidating. I know it would feel much more natural even now.
I am slowly becoming someone who sketches. It’s no longer who I imagine myself to be, but who I am. That’s a pretty powerful shift.
A study from Rendering in Pencil | graphite
Here are a few more pages from the sketchbook…
chair from our basement family room | graphite
1920s fountain pen from Paris | watercolor & pencil
Monet study from The Impressionists of Argenteuil | watercolor & pencil
Here is a video tour of my first two filled sketchbooks if you’d like to see all of the pages…
Here is the link to Rendering in Pen & Ink, the book I mention in the video.
This second sketchbook is the Arteza sketchbook. I love the cover and look of this particular brand. The paper is very nice for pen & ink, graphite, and light washes. It will buckle if it gets too wet, though. It’s also one of the least expensive (nice) sketchbooks I’ve tried and it comes in a three-pack, so it’s an economical choice.
I mostly draw with my antique fountain pen, but I also really like this Lami fountain pen that isn’t expensive and it has a nice, thin nib point. I’ll share more details about the supplies I use in a future post/video.
Until then, do you have any questions to ask about my sketchbooks? Any words of wisdom or success stories to share about daily disciplines?
PS – I’m already over halfway through filling up my third sketchbook! Here’s a little preview of a watercolor study I did a couple of days ago…