Three Types of Sketchbook



Do you use the same sketchbook for literally everything? This is something that people ask me a lot and the answer is no...I have different sketchbooks which do different jobs and find that categorising myself in this way is very helpful...a bit like a creative filing cabinet (about as organised as I get!) Before I started sketching stuff about by life and keeping an illustrated sketchbook-type-journal, I only used a sketchbook to work through ideas for projects/commissions/designs and stick in stuff that I found inspiring. My brain works better with paper and a pencil and I like looking back through these books to steal my own ideas which I had completely forgotten about!




My illustrated journals are quite different and more of a visual diary...a sketchbook of my life where I draw stuff, make notes, stick in book reviews, recipes, stamps, doodles, recordings of conversations or jokes, kitchen notes about the dog/guinea pig/child/what's needed from the supermarket etc. I even have someone else's shopping list stuck into one of my sketchbooks somewhere. (I found it in a supermarket trolley and liked it that someone had written '4 pack of Stella for Rosemary' on it. For those of you not in the UK, 'Stella' is a short for 'Stella Artois' a brand of lager synonymous with a laddish/manly culture. Rosemary obviously was partial to a can and this made me smile so I stuck it in too!). I like that, in addition to my own written notes and drawings, all these other bits and bobs build up to create a rich tapestry of random things that is my life.

(By the way, a scrap book is a brilliant way to start a sketchbook if you are a nervous sketcher... just add notes and stick stuff in that you like!)




Last year, I added a third category to my sketchbook filing system and changed things a bit by creating a couple of themed sketchbooks. I made one about houses (because I like drawing houses) and drew one house a day in it for a month. I also created one on the theme of gardens which recorded stuff happening in my garden, summer days out and walks. It sort of turned into a summer nature journal which was interesting...I'm rarely strict at sticking to a theme as I'm always fascinated with 'the journey' or following the creative possibilities that pop into my head which happens when I make art.




Whilst I was keeping these themed sketchbooks, I still wanted to record the family goings on and also wanted to work faster and freer so introduced an ugly sketchbook...fast, loose, messy and full of unfinished pages, strange experiments and attempts at drawing things that were difficult! I was becoming a bit precious about my visual journals and wanted to not be scared to try things. The ugly sketchbook worked really well for me in that way and is more private that the others as I really want to not feel any pressure to perform.


I really like it that some of drawings come out a bit weird...I welcome it and it makes me smile! I know these 'failed' drawings are all paving the way to more ideas, thoughts and wonderings. These ugly sketchbooks are more a reflection of my happy, messy, creative life than anything else I have made... they are truly me and I feel so liberated when I'm working in them. They are very cheap, made by either Pink Pig, Royal Talens or Seawhite of Brighton. They are all A5, with hard covers and have all have thickish cartridge paper in them which takes a bit of watercolour if I feel the urge!


So this year, I have decided to keep three ongoing sketchbooks:

  • My planning/ideas sketchbook

  • My ugly sketchbook

  • A themed sketchbook.


My themed sketchbook this year will document the planting and re-wilding of our garden as well as the objects, creatures and plants within it. I would like it to be a sketchbook I can take time over when I have a few hours spare and want to make slower more mindful art. My 'ugly' fast and loose sketchbook will be for family life, days out, museum sketches, cafe sketches and the recordings of random conversations overheard.


Have you thought about compartmentalising your sketch booking? Maybe it's something you could trying this year?