We all like to produce nice finished paintings, but in order to do that often requires a lot of scribbling, note taking and sketching. Sometimes those notes and sketches can turn into finished works in their own right. Sometimes they are triggers more related work. Filling a dedicated book with all this preparatory work allows you to look back over ideas and reconsider them.
It is amazing how fresh ideas are generated when sketches and notes are revisited.
Some sketches are simple thumbnails to juggle ideas for composing a subject. These are quick and rough, but great to look back on. As your work develops ideas change. I have taken old thumbnails, made a few adjustments and they have become the source of a completely new painting.
A soft lead pencil or charcoal pencil are all that is needed for these rough little sketches
Artists Sketch Books
A small pocket sized sketch pad is handy for quick location sketches. These sometimes make it into larger, finished paintings but often just remain as simple sketches. Not only are they interesting to accumulate, they sharpen your observation skills and build up your drawing confidence.
Artists Studio Notebooks
I always have a working notebook in the studio where I test out new colors, experiment with color arrangements or write down little things I want to remember about the behaviour of different materials. These become a handy source of reference - especially years later when ideas and experiments are long forgotten. They don't need to be attractive or carefully planned - just a way of preserving and keeping everything together.
Artists Traveling Sketch Books
When traveling, a pen and pencil, a couple of brushes and a tiny palette are all you need to carry. The brush, shown here, with a water reservoir, is handy when water can’t be found or purchased. This tiny kit and sketch book t easily into a camera bag. Water can usually be found on location
In Flight Sketch Books
A sketchbook and some drawing equipment is a great way to fill in time on a long flight. To keep things simple I restrict the sketches to black and white. Two cut down film canisters make good black and white gouache palettes (Old contact lens containers are great for this too), a couple of brushes, a black and white charcoal pencil and a fine fibre tip pen are all you need.
Journals and sketchbooks come in all shapes, sizes and qualities. I’ve had some with beautiful 300gram pages and some with really cheap cartridge paper. The 300 gm paper is probably over kill unless you want to fill your book with carefully finished studies.
The cheap paper is frustrating because of the bleed through and absorbent nature of the pages. There are some spiral bound blank books with better quality pages. They don't bleed through and take more punishment than the regular cartridge paper.
It doesn’t really matter what you include in these journals, and sketch books. The important thing is to have them and use them. Anything - your breakfast, the family dog, pot plants, tools, buildings, buses trains - what ever you encounter is fair game. The sketches don’t have to be masterpieces either - some you will put a lot of work into and finish off , others will be simple, quick sketches. The important thing is to keep at it. Once you have filled 20-30 pages momentum starts to build and you will be constantly looking forward to doing the next one.
Author: John Lovett