“Ok”, you might think, “That’s a nice story but… What is it about sketching that’s so great anyway?” Well, no matter where you’re up to in your creative journey, here are my top 5 (out of many) reasons why you should maintain a regular sketching practice.
A beautiful way to record memories
When you spend time sketching somewhere, it’s much easier to become fully immersed in your environment. You have to pay attention to the colours, the patterns, the atmosphere of a place, whether it be your grandpa’s garden or a temple in India. And the longer you sketch, the more you will remember the smells, the sounds, the music around you. People might stop to have a chat, kids could ask to try your tools, a stray dog might even decide to have a nap at your feet, and
All of the sudden you’re part of the scene, not just passing by.
For all these reasons, I absolutely love to open a sketchbook at random and be immediately transported back to where I was when I was drawing. Details I would probably have missed if I had simply snapped a picture and moved on are revived every time I flip a page, and each memory or experience is captured in a much more meaningful and interesting way.
A fantastic drawing workout
Sketching is also an amazing drawing workout. Just like a regular workout, the more you do it, the stronger you get. Think of it as a warm-up, before the big performance that a finished piece would represent: that base work is exactly what you need to hone your craft and grow creatively! Skipping it would be like suddenly deciding you want to be an athlete, but only wanting to compete at the Olympics. If you neglect your training and only show up for big events, you are going to be a little bit unprepared, right? So, by flexing those drawing muscles, you can keep your skills sharp and challenge yourself without the added pressure of producing something perfect.
A wonderful creative playground
Ok, let’s be honest, we are ALL feeling that pressure when we find ourselves browsing perfectly curated Instagram profiles or Pinterest boards, right? Even my own work-in-progress images are carefully staged for Instagram. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing the actual mess of my creative process on the platform. \
So, what social media tends to do is push us to focus on creating finalised, flawless pieces, instead of valuing the super important exploratory phase that allows us to grow and stay inspired.
Because it’s in that mess that we eventually find our own, “authentic” voice, not a watered-down version of hundreds of other people’s style.
And guess what? Your sketchbook is the perfect place to relieve some of that pressure: each page becomes a personal, almost intimate space where you can safely fail, or succeed for that matter! Regardless, the final product doesn’t matter so much. It is more about that creative journey, and what you can learn from it. In your sketchbook, you can give yourself permission to be bad, and accept that not everything will look good at the end. Plus, in the process, you’ll also learn to trust your gut, and identify what not only feels right, but also looks right!
A place to identify and strengthen your aesthetic
Remember that high school assignment I mentioned earlier? One of the rules was that we were not allowed to throw any sketch out. If you’re wondering why, well, how many times have you finished a piece, and immediately wanted to get rid of it? Hated it, even? The reason we sometimes feel this way is that we are strongly emotionally attached to what we create – it’s understandable,
Creating is making ourselves vulnerable, to other people’s opinion, and to our own!
My teachers knew that, and that’s why they asked us to keep every single sketch, even if we did hate them. They knew that if we came back to our sketchbook later, once that initial emotional reaction was a bit less strong, we would be able to take a more objective approach and find qualities in our work we had totally overlooked before. And that’s a very important process!
Being able to objectively assess your work – which doesn’t mean simply pointing out the flaws, but also acknowledging the qualities – is a great way to learn, and to grow creatively. Plus, it’s the first step towards using your sketchbook as a kind of road map towards finding your own style. Because, of course, by going back through the pages of your sketchbook, you can compare different techniques, review what worked and what didn’t, and, most importantly, see the progression in your work! And the more you sketch, the more likely it is that you’ll see some trends emerge. But it’s not always easy to recognise them until you get a “birds-eye” view of your work: each isolated sketch won’t necessarily tell you that much, but together, they’ll reveal your patterns, your strengths, or weaker areas you might want to improve on. And that’s very valuable insight!
A source of inspiration for your creative work
So, by now, you know that my own sketchbook explorations have led me to develop a style that not only feels right, but also plays to my strengths. But how did I move from the pages of my sketchbook, to illustrations? Because drawing to capture reality is very different from drawing to create an illustration, right? And it can be difficult, away from the “real world” to use our drawing skills in service of an idea, a message, or a story, especially if you add style in the mix. Yet, the process of translating what you’ve discovered through sketching into a cohesive illustration style is way more natural and painless that you might expect!
Because what FELT right and LOOKED right in your sketchbook will also feel right and look right in an illustration. Whether it is the use of a particular tool, an affinity with a particular material, the development of an unusual technique, or the colours and compositions you use, it’s the combination of all these elements that, ultimately, form your own unique style. By getting acquainted with them in your sketchbook, away from the pressure of producing something perfect, you’ll feel all the more confident when time comes to work on an illustration.
That’s why it’s so important to remember to value your creative explorations, and to go back to them often, because there are so many golden nuggets to be found in there… Nuggets that could become central to your own, unique style!
Where to from here?
So, I hope I convinced you to give sketching a go! You won’t regret it, I promise. And to help you along the way, I’ve put together a Skillshare class, called “Find Your Creative Style, Sketching to Develop Your Aesthetic,” a series of empowering and exploratory lessons that are sure to kickstart your sketchbook! You can even view the intro below.
So, no more excuses, go forth and sketch!