Removing the wrapping off of a new sketchbook is kind of like breaking open a present, and it makes me dream of endless possibilities within its pages. Then I open it and that first blank page staring back at me feels a bit like an Everest to climb.
So much for possibilities.
I have no idea why, but the first page in a sketchbook is always the most intimidating. I often hear it referred to as blank page syndrome. You could just skip it and begin on the second page. I’ve done that before, but then you still have that blank page staring at you every time you open your sketchbook.
And that’s no fun.
Now that I’ve been sketching for a while, I am starting to get past that first page pretty quickly. However, sometimes blank page syndrome doesn’t hit me until the tenth or fortieth page. These tips can be used for any page of a sketchbook or art journal. The important thing is to not get bogged down in the white space.
Here are a few ideas to get you going.
Go with a photo.
What a great way to chronicle where you are in your life when you begin your sketchbook! You can stick in a selfie, a photo of your family, or one of your favorite places or moments. Choose something inspirational, stick it in page one, and move on. Or feel free to journal a bit about it. Anything goes!
Write a prayer, poem, quote, or song lyric.
Personally, I need to pray over my artwork because I can use all the help I can get. Seriously though, starting off with something like this is a great way to get over the first page hurdle. Or go with Stephanie’s idea at Documented Faith and chose a word that you want to concentrate on in the upcoming months, then practice your lettering or print the word out in a font you like and glue it into the first page. Feel free to get creative!
Clip or glue in a sketch.
This may feel a bit like cheating, but I assure you it's not. It will still be your sketch inside of your sketchbook. If you are fearful of making a mistake, I get ya. Just do a sketch or doodle on another piece of paper and attach it to your first page. As you can see in the photo above, I've often done the same thing. Another idea that is similar is to paste in a piece of ephemera or make a collage. This is your sketchbook, so remember, you write the rules!
Treat it like a mini-scrapbook.
In the photo above, I used the first page of my sketchbook as a mini-journal and took several months to fill it in. At first I only made watercolor squares, but in the months ahead I continued to add things that were important to me. By the end of this sketchbook, I had a chronicle of that season of my life. You could easily use the first page to document other things, like your travel plans, your bucket list, your child’s firsts, or other important events in your life.
Dive right in.
We recently spent a week in the Appalachian mountains, and I arrived at our cabin in the middle of nowhere with a brand spankin’ new sketchbook. (What was I thinking?!) Surprisingly, it worked out okay. Because I immediately hit the outdoors exploring and sketching, I didn’t have time to dwell on first page syndrome. Now the sketchbook above has become one of my favorite nature and travel journals. If you have no idea what to sketch, go with what is right in front of you. Or pick a theme like Liz Steel did with her teacup sketches.
My best advice is not to be too precious about your sketchbook. It has to be used regularly to get the best out of it.
After all, paper isn't rare. Your sketches most likely won't find their way into a museum. What is priceless is your commitment to sketching.
Since every page won't be a masterpiece, probably not even that first page, use your journal or sketchbook for what it is - simply a way of getting your thoughts down on paper or capturing a moment. The true goal is to enjoy the moment. Happy conquering!