For as far back as I can remember, I have kept a written journal. As I began to try my hand at lettering, sketching, and watercoloring, I began by doodling within the pages of my journal.
I quickly figured out that most diary or agenda paper does not like watercolor (and vise versa), so I began trying out various papers. Without even thinking about why I was doing it, I would tuck or paste any finished sketches into my journal pages. I suppose it was just a simple way to keep everything together.
As I continued to sketch and paint, keeping my work in a journal was a great way to record notes about my sketches, such as how the paper performed or my thoughts and observations while I was sketching. Plus, organizing my sketches into a journal format allowed me to document any progress I was making.
One day, a brilliant thought occurred to me: Why not just use a sketchbook?
(Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.)
Sketchbooks can cost a bit more than individual sheets, and sketchbooks do have their drawbacks, but I think the advantages of sketchbooks far outweigh the negatives. I want to encourage you to go with a sketchbook, and here’s why.
Sketchbooks are portable.
Sketchbooks are easy to grab and go, and for that reason, I tend to sketch more when I use a sketchbook instead of individual sheets of paper. I even keep a wallet-sized sketching kit on the table beside the front door so I can grab it whenever I leave the house. Having sketching tools easily at hand can encourage creativity.
If you prefer to sketch or paint without a binding getting in the way, it is very easy to cut portable size sheets and keep them in a small, 3-ring binder or other organizer. This is a great idea because you can vary your paper and add pockets, a pencil pouch, or other handy dandy tools to your "sketchbook."
Sketchbooks are multipurpose.
You can use your sketchbook for, you know… sketching, but it also has loads of other uses. It can also at the same time be used as a diary, a calendar, a travel journal, a place to practice lettering or press autumn leaves, or even a place to paste in mementos, photos, or ephemera. I often keep a birding list (or grocery list!) on the backside of pages, or I'll even draw fun doodles and make daily notes such as "Pancakes for breakfast!" Your sketchbook can replace a lot of other organizers and maybe even inspire you to make your to-do list extra pretty!
Sketchbooks document progress.
Since most people tend to start at the beginning of a sketchbook and work their way through, a sketchbook can become a timeline of skills, observations, and achievements. For example, in the photo I am bravely showing you my first attempt at hand lettering that I tucked inside one of my journals. I remember being so proud of it at the time. Thankfully, I've come a long way since then! A brief flip through my sketchbook reveals a bit of improvement from a year or a few months ago, and that’s encouraging! Who doesn’t need a bit of encouragement now and then?
Sketchbooks document “mistakes.”
Just as a sketchbook can document great moments in your artistic journey, it also documents those not-so-great moments. Since all my scribbles are bound together, it’s much more difficult for me to discard artwork that I judge as poor, messy, etc. In fact, I have some downright ugly stuff in my sketchbooks, but this is a good thing! A learning curve never follows a straight shot upward, and work that is less than perfect is a reminder that we learn as much from our mistakes and messes (possibly even more so) than we do from our successes.
Most importantly, keeping a sketchbook binds a story.
A quick flip through my sketchbook brings back a flood of memories of that day we spent at the park, how that old tree use to look in our front yard, or the morning in April that we had snow flurries and French toast.
Overall these stories are nothing exciting, but they are my stories. Yes, there is heartache in these pages, but there is a lot of joy there, as well. These scratchmade journals are documenting memories, moments, and proof of God's goodness. And these aren’t things any of us should easily dismiss.