For all of the talk I do about journaling and sketchbooks, can you believe that I have never fully completed a sketchbook?! Well, not until a few weeks ago. I have filled plenty of pages in plenty of sketchbooks over the years, but I typically end up abandoning a book, unhappy with many of the completed pages. It’s interesting because I’m not a perfectionist, but I do take creative work seriously. When I was in college, studying musical theatre, my music theory teacher once told my parents at a performance, “Marian is very serious.” And I was. I vividly remember feeling an irritation with my peers who didn’t practice or work hard during rehearsals or focus during classes and workshops. I cared about doing things with excellence.
So, when I’d go to fill a page in a sketchbook, I would look back at the previous pages and cringe at some. I didn’t feel like they were excellent and I didn’t want them included in my body of work, so I would rip out a few pages I wanted to keep and throw the sketchbook away. Number one, that’s completely, unnecessarily wasteful. Number two, it almost entirely defeats the purpose of a sketchbook, which is to practice and keep a record of improvement. And, number three, it’s the old problem of taking my creative work (and myself) way too seriously rearing its head.
But, I’m sharing it here because I’m sure I’m not the only one. And I’m also sharing it because I’ve been working to change it over the past couple of months. I was inspired by the Kitchin sketchbooks (you can check those out HERE) and I decided that one of my goals this year was filling an entire sketchbook. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect. It doesn’t have to feel finished or excellent to me. It just needs to be filled.
So, I started filling a sketchbook when I started the illustration class with Calvin. I filled several pages when we’d work on the assignments together and then I just kept going. I sketched more of my art supplies and then moved on to pictures from my travels to Europe a couple of years ago. And then I added in some experiments with walnut ink and some watercolors at the beach. This was initially just going to be my “pen and ink” sketchbook, but I allowed myself to break free of that completely arbitrary, self-imposed boundary.
One day, I pulled out the sketchbook I’d been working in, flipped to the last page I filled, turned to the next page, and realized the book was filled. I actually said out loud, “Oh…it’s filled.” I felt a little perplexed, which makes me laugh now. I had never seen the end of a sketchbook and it was almost like I didn’t know what to expect. But, the last page was filled without ceremony and I’m sort of glad for that. I might’ve been tempted to save the last page for something “really special” and then it may never have been completed.
So, here is the filled sketchbook…
Of course, I don’t love every sketch, but I learned from each one and from the whole experience of filling the book. These are just a few of the things I learned along the way…
I’m oddly more relaxed working with a fountain pen than a pencil
I can add little scribbled people to my sketches so it doesn’t look like the apocalypse (or lockdown)
Sketches with wonky lines and perspective issues can have their charms
I have always been scared of detail and I learned there is no need to be
And, most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m getting better and better with consistent practice. My style is slowly finding me and I’m learning to recognize it.
And, I’m excited to share that I’ve already filled up over half of another sketchbook! I think I’ll end up filling 3-4 sketchbooks by the end of the year, blowing away my goal of completing just one. The good news is, I have plenty of empty sketchbooks that need to be filled!
For those looking for some good sketchbooks, these are some of my favorites…
You can find more posts about my relationship sketchbooks here…
Speaking of creative endeavors, my course with Jeanne Oliver, The Atelier | Creating with a Limited Palette, will be going live on Friday (June 18)! Hundreds of people have signed up for the class and I am so excited about seeing their work and interacting with that community. You can learn more about and sign up HERE if you’d like to join in!