Tip Jar: Sketchbook’d

Amanda Kallenbach

Filling up a sketchbook is one of the best things you can do as an artist. With a sketchbook, you are able to track your development as an artist and have the freedom to practice anything. It seems like it is a daunting task, but don’t let it be, just get wild with it!

I’m going to show you some of my old (and terrible) sketchbooks I have done in the past, while also giving you some more tips along the way! After all, it’s Tip Jar. I mean, what do you expect?

Old Sketch Book
These are from my first sketchbook I ever had in 7th grade.
This from my 2014 sketchbook. Both of these drawings haunt me to this day.

Buy a cheap sketchbook. If you buy an expensive sketchbook, you will be afraid to touch it. When I bought my first Moleskine journal, I refused to draw in it for fear of ruining it. But that’s not what sketchbooks are for!!! Buy an inexpensive sketchbook, and get all cozy with it.

I drew these in 2016, and started to take sketchbook seriously. I adventured with color and filling the whole page, rather than leaving half-finished pencil drawings.

Sketch in pen. (Plus use post-its!!) Drawing in pen is a SCARY commitment. When you draw a line, you can’t go back. Although it may seem stressful, it can help you gain confidence in your linework. AND there is a way to go back on mistakes. Lay a sweet, ol’ post-it over a sketch you don’t like, and keep drawing over it.

I bought a smaller sketchbook to bring on my summer trip to Thailand, and drew it when sitting in the Bangkok malls. I watercolored a lot because I had a nice little travel watercolor kit.

Copy your favorite artists.* Look at what inspires you, and mimic it. BUT this tip comes with an asterisk: DO NOT CLAIM THEIR STYLE AS YOUR OWN ART! Keep those style practices in your sketchbook just for yourself. They are just for you to develop your art, and help you grow into your own style.

Some sketches from my life. I drew a few of these at North Beach and the SF Botanical Garden. Just some simple stuff.
Some sketches from my life. I drew a few of these at North Beach and the SF Botanical Garden. Just some simple stuff.

Study real life. One of the things that greatly improved my art was going to figure drawing classes. I used to search for pictures of models online, but it’s different using people who are directly in front of you. If you live in the Bay Area, there are free classes at the San Francisco Art Institute on Friday nights, and depending on what city you live in there is probably something similar at other local art schools. You can also draw people you see at cafes or supermarkets.

I included these sketches in my portfolio. The granny drawing was also featured in my old column, Dungeons & Doodles.

Make BAD drawings. Grab a pen and just draw. Draw uneven circles, lopsided bodies, and crooked backgrounds. Fill up all your pages with paints, shapes, and glitter. My best sketchbooks are filled with drawings I hate, but ones I worked around with colors. Have a lot of fun with it!!!!

Some stuff from my most recent sketchbook! I find some of these sketches ugly, but when I added more drawings, the page started to look complete.

Honestly, keep a sketchbook. Carry it wherever you go and try to draw in it as much as you can. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t draw as often as you should or have perfect sketches. Just draw. A lot of my sketchbook pages were included in my portfolio for colleges, but when I was first drawing on those pages, I didn’t have the intention of including them. I had fun with it, and luckily, it scored me some sweet acceptances to art schools!

Here are some other sketches I enjoy from the sketchbook I am using now. Just some simple stuff!