Inspire Yourself By Starting A Sketchbook

I can’t art. Without exaggeration, the sum total of my artistic range falls somewhere between a toddler’s scribbling and the cave art of early man.

But I do write, and you not what really sucks? When I’m strolling about or having a sit somewhere and inspiration leaps up out of the ground and bites me on the seat cushion – and I’ve gone and forgotten my notebook.

Various Sketchbooks

Image Credit Russ Stutler

Creativity is best right in that moment, when it’s freshest. Bringing it back from memory later is just never as good.


And I can’t imagine that it’s a whole lot different for artists.

So, to all you artistic sorts I say, if you aren’t carrying a sketchbook with you on the regular, you’re robbing yourself of inspiration.

Barbara Weeks, an artist who writes on the Urban Sketchers – Chicago blog, has a great post laying out five key reasons why “every visual creative should keep a sketchbook.”

  • For practice
  • To record ideas
  • To experiment
  • To record your progress
  • And, because it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist!

She also offers some useful tips for getting started with a sketchbook.

One that I heartily endorse is that you start with a sketchbook that makes you feel inspired. It doesn’t have to be some fancy thing that costs you your rent money, but it needs to be a book that gets you excited just at the thought of committing your work to its pages.

The main reason that I like to journal in old school marble-cover composition books is that they have all sorts of associations in my memory with writerly atmosphere and creativity. Just cracking the cover of one is enough sometimes to give me inspiration.

To help you choose a sketchbook that will get your imagination fired up, there are no end of solid recommendations. A good place to start is Russ Stutler’s examination of Moleskine sketchbooks, as well as a few other brands. (Here’s another listing of sketchbook possibilities.)


Another suggestion I’ve seen from a few artists is that you skip right to the third or fourth page, just so you don’t have to deal with the pressure of that first blank page. I like that idea…plus, just when you think you’ve run out of room, you still have some extra pages.

Nela Dunato, on her art and design blog, also gets behind the notion of always carrying a sketchbook and has this to say about how to treat it:

Sketchbooks are a place where you can play and be completely free to mess things up and make mistakes. It’s a perfect tool for you to learn how to loosen up. You can try out things that you never tried before and explore techniques and styles radically different from what you usually do. You have permission to create horrible art, and guess what? You don’t have to show your sketchbooks to anyone. Ever.


That’s great advice, and to that, I add this: When using any sort of creative journal, forget your ‘shoulds.’ Don’t restrict your creativity with self-imposed rules. There is nothing you must do or must not do. Any idea, any image, any medium. Anything goes.

I saw a thread on the Wet Canvas message board by an artist who was stuck trying to get her sketchbook started. She thought she should begin with a title because that’s how she always did it. Since she couldn’t think of one, she had no idea how to begin. By holding herself to that creative ‘should,’ she was holding herself back.

So, she asked other artists for ideas that might help her get over the hump. The overwhelming response: Don’t wait for the title, just jump right into it.

And that’s my recommendation to you, too. Pick yourself a sketchbook, grab your favorite pen or brush, give yourself permission to create…and then jump right into it.

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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