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Festive Sketchbook Prompts

A change in your normal routine can be a brilliant way to start keeping a visual journal and Christmas is particularly good if you have a bit of time off work. The shorter days and longer nights mean that many of us spend more time indoors which I think is a good place to dip your toe into the creative waters because

it means you can have all your art materials around you to have a play and get to know what you like using.

The advantages of starting a visual journal this time of year are numerous but essentially all culminate in cheering us up on those long dark nights. Starting or adding to a sketchbook helps you to seek the small, less commercial elements of the festive season and forces you to take time out of a busy schedule to do something mindful*.

*(Sorry, I know this is a very over used adjective but it is perfect for all forms of sketchbookery as it refers to being completely absorbed in your task. A friend of mine refers to mindfulness as being 'absent of mind'. Lost in your art, you give your busy brain a bit of rest and recuperation)

During the festive period, the dominant LEFT side of our brain is just too busy isn't it? That's the part of our brain that writes LOADS of mental lists, plans, socialises and stresses, throw a bit of multi-tasking into the mix and it can become an overwhelming cocktail of yuletide misery...especially if you're like me and have to put a lot of effort into being organised and remembering things. Our left side of the brain is also the part that is reflective, anxious, worried, depressed and sad. All this emotions are valid and important but can become harder to deal with during Christmas.

The only way to quieten the left brain is to activate the RIGHT side of your brain...this can be done by making art! It's like flicking a switch...suddenly, the right brain starts to dominate and the repetitive festive warblings of Mariah Carey/Noddy Holden and the tinsel-strewn scrum of the Tesco checkouts are but a distant memory (phew...hooray!)

Christmas then becomes quietly contemplative, in the very best way.

Getting started

You can read a bit about about art materials here but all you actually need is something to draw in/on and something to draw with. A great way to start is to have fun and not worry about good drawings (remember 'drawings' don't need to be drawn with a pencil/pen/brush...they can be cut from paper too!). Starting off by creating a scrappy sketchbook/work book full of sketches, collage and other scribblings is a brilliant way to escape from 'perfection paralysis'. There's a workshop here explaining my process and showing you my sketchbooks, if you fancy it. We talk materials and do some fun drawing exercises.


Buy an inexpensive sketchbook (under £10) and some simple art tools. Go for A5 if you're new to using a sketchbook as it's less daunting than a big sketchbook.

Good cheap sketchbooks with thick cartridge paper are:

Simple art tools

Is there something you like drawing/writing with? Use that! Don't worry about complicated colour unless you want to and just draw. If you're not sure where to start, try drawing with a coloured pencil instead of a graphite one. Try a dark-ish colour like browns, navy, purples, dark reds.

You can buy single and very good quality coloured pencils.

Excellent coloured pencils sold individually:

What about a graphite pencil which is water soluble? Take a look here

Or just a nice simple drawing pencil (go for 2B)? Treat yourself to a good sharpener and an eraser too xx

Good quality watercolour pencils also work well for this approach with the added bonus of you being able to wash over a little water to add a bit tone if you fancy.

Prompts for a Festive Journal are listed below but you can download and print out a pdf here. Stick it in the back of your festive sketchbook

Festive Journal Prompts:

Pick and choose what you fancy, have fun and use these as a starting point!

  • Stick in stuff Book reviews from the paper that you intend to read the following year, a small quote from an article, a poem, a cracker joke, bits of festive wrapping paper that you thought were nice, an envelope with some nice handwriting on. The festive postmark, a Christmas stamp, a label from a present, Quality Street (or other chocolate wrappers) that actually smell of Christmas, a receipt from a festive meal out, a cinema tick etc etc...

  • Draw something from a Christmas magazine I like to draw the cover of the Radio Times. If this seem too daunting, pick an interesting pattern or illustration from inside a Christmas magazine. Enjoy looking for it and make yourself a nice cup of tea whilst doing so (plus a mince pie/Christmas cake/more Quality Streets wouldn't go a-miss)

  • Copy out a short quote or poem from your favourite festive book

  • Jot down a recipe...did you try something new this year? Record it. If not, search for something on the BBC Good Food website ...

  • ...cook it...then draw it

  • Draw a Christmas book cover

  • Get people who come to your house during the Christmas break to write their names in your sketchbook. Let small children draw in it ...or do a small drawing for it..stick it in!

  • Draw a few of your favourite Christmas tree decorations. Make notes on why you like them. Do they have stories attached? Write that down too and let them tell their story.

  • Keep a record of what you ate one day over Christmas. Add simple drawing and doodles oven those things. Who did you eat with/what did you listen to/watch/read whilst you were eating? Feeling more ambitious? You could record a whole week of food!

  • Draw a spent/whole Christmas cracker. Illustrate its contents. Stick the joke in your journal. Who pulled it?

  • Draw a Christmas chocolate. Draw another...maybe another...then eat them! Cut the wrappers into tiny squares and stick then down the side of the page.

  • Draw your Christmas cake or a festive confectionary of some sort...mince pies, cupcakes, gingerbread are all allowed. Make yourself a tea/coffee and eat the item...How did it taste?

  • Draw an old Christmas cake decoration if you have them in your house. When I was little, we had a few ancient ones which had last years icing on...delicious!

  • Copy the patterns from some wrapping paper. You could create a type of patchwork quilt with your doodles.

  • Draw an illustration from one or more of your Christmas cards

  • Draw a Christmas stamp OR/AND draw an envelope then stick a used Christmas stamp on it

  • Go on a walk. Document it by drawing a rough map of the route. Walk through it in your memory and add notes of small observations, sights, sounds, thoughts and conversations

  • Draw a hot drink until it gets cold. Then make another and drink it outside.

  • Draw an alcoholic/fizzy soft drink. What does it smell like? Make a note

  • Draw something you own that is warm. Hats and scarves are easy!

  • Draw a Christmas/wooly jumper

  • Go on a walk...late afternoon preferably, just as it's starting to get dark. 'Collect' Christmas trees in peoples' windows. Look hard at the shape of the tree and the shape of the window. Look at the negative shapes. Photograph them with your eyes and brain then try doing a memory drawing of them when you get home. Also, have a little glass of something to warm you up and a small festive nibble...

  • Draw your own Christmas tree

  • Draw your feet with woolly socks on

  • Draw a Christmas stocking

  • Draw a piece of Christmas china if you have one and/or a Christmas napkin

  • Go on a walk. Collect 5 small objects (they don't need to be Christmassy) come home and sketch them. Whilst sketching them, think about your walk. Make some notes and observations about your journey. How long did it take? Where did you go? What did you see?

  • Draw someone watching TV

  • Watch a favourite festive film. Pause the TV for 5 minutes and draw what's on the screen.

  • With a Christmas visitor: draw a portrait of each without looking a the paper. Laugh at them, then stick them in your sketchbook. Get your guest to autograph the masterpiece ( it will be worth more that way in the not too distant future)

  • Play a paper based game like Pictionary, heads/leg/bodies, consequences or the Post-It note game (where you stick the names of famous people on your head and try to guess who you are). Stick the bits of paper into your sketchbook. Have fun! Please do tag me into your journaling pages on Instagram... I'd love to see them! @wildinksketch or @wildink_artclass #wildinkartclass #drawyourchristmas


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