Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Sketchbooks

I really recommend that artists keep a sketchbook. What you do in that sketchbook is entirely up to you, I do suggest you keep a few things in mind:

Quality: You will want to purchase your sketchbook from a local art supply store or a place that carries decent artist quality products. Look for decent weight paper and that it is acid free. A basic book (I always fancy up my covers by gessoing them and painting a picture) will run for roughly $10.00, depending on the size.

Buying any old journal from a department or dollar store may seem like a cheap option but as you work more and more in your sketchbooks you may be upset in a few years to find yellowed pages with faded ink.

Size: Where are you going to use your sketchbook and for what purpose? I used to get these monster 11" x 14" books when I was in school. They were great to take to galleries to sketch from the masters and make copious notes. I could sprawl ideas of future projects on the pages and never run out of space.

I've gone to the other end of the spectrum now and I carry 6" x 8" book. I like that it fits discretely in my purse and that I can slouch down in a booth while I'm having a coffee and draw my surroundings. I don't jot down as many notes as I used to so I don't require that sort of space anymore.

Frequency: The biggest advantage to keeping a sketchbook is that it keeps your hand in practice. Have a busy week? Take your sketchbook out while you are waiting for a meeting to start and do a few loose pictures. On vacation? Bring it to the beach and capture the trees swaying in the wind. Have an idea for a painting? Make a note of what you want to capture and come back to it when you are in the studio.

Use this book. It can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to fill it up, but if you approach it with the attitude that perfection is not required, just habitual consumption of pages you will get into the routine quite quickly.

It is so interesting to leaf through old books of mine and see how my thinking has changed and what has stayed the same. I can tell when I am well practiced and when I'm struggling to return to the arts. They are a great documentation of my growth as an artist.

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