Alternative to a keeping a Sketchbook?

“A scrapbook for personal thoughts, dreams, interesting quotes, lists, doodles, visual notes, photographs, and drawings…use the book as an organic, changing piece of work, and let it reflect your interests and personality. Try not to fall into the trap of self-consciously trying to make everything in it a master piece. If you are unhappy about something you have drawn, do not tear the page out. Obliterate and recycle the surface, rub it out, or cover it up, but do it in an interesting way.”(Malsen & Southern 2015).


Sketchbooks are they good? Bad? Are they really as useful as everyone says? Many art teachers or professors throughout your art journey will always put an emphasis on keeping a sketch book, but does this really help all artist? They tell you to find a sketchbook you can bring everywhere, so you can sketch your ideas, doodle mindlessly, or maybe write things in it.

I remember in my high school art class, we were required to do sketches in a 5 x 7 inch sketchbook that picked out by the teacher. It was the first time I had a book dedicated only to sketches. While the practice of drawing was great, I found that the book itself made me feel trapped. Trapped by the size of the paper and the orientation of the book. It was just too small sometimes. I felt that since it was in a book, everything I drew always had to be vertical/portrait. There was also the problem of the wire binding being too big, and it always was getting in the way of my hand as I tried to draw.

Furthermore, I too fell in the trap of trying to make everything look like a master piece or at least a finished drawing. While everyone else spent 10mins on their homework sketches, I remember spending at least 2 hours on each sketch. Of course this did help improve my drawing skills and helped me develop my attention to detail, but the point of a sketch book is not to be worried on making everything perfect. On the other hand, I just couldn’t stand the idea of having uncompleted or unrelated things in my book. I wanted everything to be as similar and as neat as it could be. I end up doing all my sketches on the right sided pages, and I would do a collage or glue in something related to the drawing and put that on the left sided pages. And I would try to draw the same 3 characters in each sketch. I also hated that the pages would start to rub off on to the page in front of it thus smudging its self, ruining my drawings.

What did I get out of this experience? I did learn from it. I did improved my skills and make a cohesive sketchbook. But more importantly, I learned that I just don’t like sketch books. They are not for me. I find them more stressful then relieving. But that doesn’t mean I don’t do sketches. Instead I rather draw on separate pieces of paper. I feel a lot more freedom with paper that isn’t legally binding, and that will be forever associated with other papers in front or behind it in a book.

An Alternative Idea

I also found that I would rather doodle on the margins of my class notes, this is way more relaxing and loose for in the moment sketches/doodles. Then one day I when decided that I didn’t need my notes anymore, I still wanted all my doodles so I began ripping them out of the pages. Then I cut off the cover and back of the note books and placed them in a binder. Where I then started gluing all the doodles on them. Soon enough my 3 inch binder was full of all my doodles and sketches. Some pages are definitely way more filled then others. I have also glued in quotes, interesting things I found, and doodles drawn for me from friends. It's kind of like doing a collage but without the idea of having to ever finish the collage. I have looked back in this binder and gotten ideas from my doodles to make charms out of polymer clay, or even to use something in a finished drawing. So yes, sketching and doodling is something all artist should consider doing as part of their practice, but it doesn’t have to be in a sketchbook.

Referenced Book

Maslen, M., & Southern, J. (2015). Sketchbooks. In Drawing projects: An exploration of the language of drawing (p. 48). London: Black Dog Publishing.

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