my first completed sketchbook

by | Jun 16, 2021 | Artistic Endeavors, sketches, Watercolors | 17 comments

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.

stack of sketchbooks | art studio | miss mustard seed

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…

sketchbook tour | pen and ink | architecture | miss mustard seed

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

sketchbook tour | pen & ink | travel sketch | Paris | miss mustard seed

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.

sketchbook tour | miss mustard seed

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!

sketchbooks | miss mustard seed

For those looking for some good sketchbooks, these are some of my favorites…


You can find more posts about my relationship sketchbooks here…

Customizing a Sketchbook

Sketchbook Tour

Vintage Style Leather Sketchbook

My Europe Sketchbook

Better to create crap than to not create at all

sketchbook tour | architectural pencil sketch | miss mustard seed

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!

The Atelier | Creating with a Limited Palette | Jeanne Oliver | miss mustard seed


  1. SandyA

    Marian, This is such a lovely sketch book…from beginning to end!! Your talent always amazes me….I love Mettingham Hall!!

  2. Arlene

    Your sketch book is wonderful!

  3. Wendy

    I have sketch books too.😉. What I’d give to have them filled with the contents of your’s!

  4. Dale

    What was the series you said you and Jeff were watching? It was something about farmers? Thank you

    • Marian Parsons

      Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon. It is so funny! It does have some language (f-word specifically and some British cussing), so it’s for adults and older kids/teens, but it is interesting, beautiful scenery, and so funny if you like dry, British humor.

  5. Margaret

    Love this.
    My stated goal: draw *something* every day. Just one thing.

  6. Michele M.

    Your talents are amazing.

  7. Jenn Anderson

    I love your sketchbook and I’m so glad you shared it! It’s beautiful to me. Partly because drawing and painting is a talent I do not have and I admire it very much! But, I also appreciate that you share how you learn, not just with art specifically, but about how you learn and grow as a person in your character and perspective. It’s wonderful and humble and friendly. I really enjoy your art. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get some of your work for in my home. =). Thanks for sharing this with us!

  8. Laura Daly

    Love your work. Your talent amazes me!!
    What fountain pen are you using for pen and ink sketches?

  9. Jean

    A great achievement! I’ve filled lots of sketchbooks with journaling and memories but only one with drawings and paintings. I need to make a Half-2021 goal to fill up at least one more!

  10. Monica

    Your sketches are lovely, especially the architecture! I’m looking forward to The Atelier class on Friday!

  11. Michael Wadley

    Loved your sketches. I’ve been afraid to pick up my half finished sketch book for some time now. You have given me the inspiration to pick it up and start sketching again. Thank you!

  12. Elizabeth Millinghausen

    I’ve been on this planet for 49 years and using sketchbooks for about 44 of those years. I have yet to actually fill a single one. My problem is boredom with a certain paper and I will gravitate to a new one like a shiny new thing (as Anne Shirley would say, “That’s fresh with no mistakes in it”). I’ve made it a goal to try and stick with one until it’s finished, but I have a couple that have A LOT of pages, so the truth is, completing one is a lot of work and inspiration isn’t always there. What I’ve started doing is like a positivity journal, although instead of writing, I draw the things that made me happy that day. So much more fun to look back on than a written only journal.

  13. Cherie Bautista

    I also gave books with empty pages . They are journals and things to do books and scrap books. I just love paper and beautiful empty books . But I will try this summer to fill at least one. I always say this to myself but you encourage me . It my first summer goal. Yes!

  14. Carolyn L Dietrich

    I love your sketches. I was very impressed especially the one of the tape measurer! The detailed houses were wonderful. You amaze me. Congratulations on finishing a sketchbook!

  15. Dionne Street

    My New Year’s resolution this year was to draw in my art journal every single day. It was the best goal I’ve ever made. I am a perfectionist and I only wanted excellent drawings in my journal. However, I told myself I wasn’t going to do this because I wanted to see my progress. It has been awesome to see myself grow in the past six months. It’s funny because I have found that the art I don’t like is usually the prompt that I wasn’t into and the great ones were something I really enjoyed drawing. I picked a different drawing prompt for every day of the year. I surprisingly found that I love to draw insects from scientific books! Thank you for your blog! I enjoy all of it as we have the same interests in common!

  16. Carolyn L Dietrich

    I’m so impressed with everything you drew in your sketchbook. Being able to draw with a pen really impresses me. Your work is lovely.



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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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