The Creative Workout: 8 ways to make the most of your sketchbook

The Creative Workout: 8 ways to make the most of your sketchbook

By Olivia Whitworth 17/10/14

Illustrator Olivia Whitworth is running an IdeasTap Spa on sketchbook art. Here, she shares eight tips for using your sketchbook to improve your creativity...

Sketchbooks are a brilliant tool for learning, developing and observing. They are littered with drawings you want to show the world, and strewn with shameful doodles and smudges that you would never show anybody – ever.  

Whether you’re an amateur artist or a seasoned professional, and whatever form your “sketchbook” takes – from a tidy little Moleskine or a jumbled collection of sketches on paper, napkins and receipts – the practice of informally drawing on-the-go is will benefit you creatively in many ways. 


1. Carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go.

You never know when an opportunity might suddenly appear to grab a couple of minutes to scrawl something down. Your sketchbook doesn’t have to be a heavy slab of chunky cardboard slices – it can be the smallest, flimsiest notebook you can find. In fact, it doesn’t need to be a conventional sketchbook at all – receipts and beer mats are all perfectly acceptable. You are the one defining what a "sketchbook" is!  

2.  Avoid treating your sketchbook as a means to an end

Don’t focus too much on finishing it, or getting something down on every page.  I often feel like my sketchbook should be some impeccable treasure trove of doodle-goodies.  But it needn’t be finished or perfect.  Which leads nicely on to…

3.  Don’t rip out or get rid of work you hate

Just because you severely dislike it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in there.  Your sketchbook shouldn’t be some edited version of you. Keep every smudge and terrible drawing attempt, warts and all. It’s your sketchbook – you don’t have to present pages you don’t like to the internet for scrutiny, and even if you do, the likelihood is someone else will think it’s amazing. 

4.  Try using a medium or technique you don’t often use 

Experiment with materials, collages, paints, coffee grounds. Take a trip down memory lane and do some potato printing.  Draw with your other hand. Draw with your mouth. Try something unusual to keep you engaged, you never know, it might spark up your inner creative genius and lead to fame and fortune. 

5.  Get inspired

There is a wealth of images and ideas out there.  Browse blogs, websites, do a Google image search for “sketchbook art” – you’re bound to find something to tickle your creative fancy.  The web isn’t your only resource. Check out books of artists’ sketchbooks and journals. I love the work of illustrator Peter James Field, whose website features a diary of small, simply captioned, doodles.   

6.  Schedule time for drawing

Go somewhere you wouldn’t ordinarily go – a church, a zoo, or a car showroom! Or take time to draw something really familiar – your kitchen or your local corner shop.  Set yourself a timeframe to get something down, whether it’s five minutes or 50, and see what you can come up with.

7.  Remember, your sketchbook needn’t be just for sketches

Write to-do lists, record snippets of interesting conversation you overheard on the bus, stick in tickets or interesting pattern swatches, annotate things and cut and paste postcards or magazine articles. 

8.  Finally, just indulge yourself 

Use your sketchbook however you want; show everyone or show no one – it doesn’t matter. A sketchbook shouldn’t be a chore, so make sure you are enjoying yourself; you’re probably developing a myriad of creative skills without even realising it. So, good luck and happy drawing!


How do you use your sketchbook? Let us know in a comment!

For more articles, jobs and opportunities, visit our Art & Design hub

Illustration © Olivia Whitworth

Closing Update

18189 Page views

Illustration articles

Most popular
Our past collaborators