Wednesday, 26 March 2014


I love sketchbooks.

I love the feel of them, the thickness of the paper, the possibilities of all those blank pages.
Current book open at the last used page - ballerina bunnies!
Although I have a general passion for stationary in general, sketchbooks for me are extra special - even when they are not necessarily pretty things in themselves. For me, they have to be A4, square bound, contain nice thick cartridge paper, and be black. I don't know why I became fussy about the colour and the dimensions (especially when I love my stationary bright and bold), I think I just like the look of them together on the shelf. Seeing all that work past and the blank pages and books yet to be filled (I usually keep a new book waiting patiently to take over when one is filled) is quite inspirational.
My small row of sketchbooks at the very left of the picture
Here are 16 years worth of mine. I know the timescale is accurate, because the first one in this sequence is dated 1998. Wow, that would have been my last year at university studying zoology. That seems a long, long time ago! It seems like that's not many books to cover such a long time period, but some took years to be filled, others only a few months.

I also went through large periods of rarely using them at all, especially when I was working as a natural history curator full time, mostly I think because my job was quite creative, there seemed to be little creativity left when I was at home. I still drew though, obsessively. In between filling sketchbooks I likely just doodled on any scrap bits of paper that came to hand (especially at work, I was forever doodling idly at work, not that I wasn't working, I can just doodle and work at the same time. Especially when working on tricky Excel formula or pivot tables, that always seemed to require doodling). So, I also have a large box file full of random doodles that seemed worth saving. Here's a picture of it bulging full of scraps. What exciting ideas might be lurking within?
The boxfile of random stuff
Although my sketchbooks are openly displayed on a shelf in my crafting room,  I'm also quite shy about them. I would never feel comfortable with someone taking one down from the shelf and flicking through it, not even the husbandbot! I guess it's to do with that outpouring of creativity; it feels quite private, quite personal, until it's distilled into a format I feel I can share, like a completed painting or embroidery. However, here's a sneak peak of a few pages that I feel brave enough sharing with the world!
Of course, spot the predominance of animals :)
I've mentioned a few times in the course of this blog that most of my sketches and doodles sat unused for a long time. An untapped resource. In the last few years though, through getting back into producing art, and paintings and now embroidery, I finally feel that some of these sketches and doodles are finally beginning to breathe, and have a life of their own. Now I use my sketchbooks almost every day.

For me, I use them for the following:

  • To jump start creativity. When I'm stuck, a flick through a sketchbook reminds me that I can draw, and can create. That usually fires me up.
  • To get ideas. Over the last few months, flicking through my sketchbooks has given me quite a few jumping off points for new paintings or embroidery! One little rushed sketch from years ago might just have something about it that sparks off new thoughts in my brain, resulting in a new, finished piece.
  • Letting the creative part of my brain flow. With embroidery and painting, I know what I am doing before I start. In my sketchbook, I let myself be free. Just grab a pencil and see what happens. Sometimes nothing, but other times you can really surprise yourself! Just put pencil to paper and don't think, just draw!
  •  Idea development. Sometimes I have an idea for something, but it needs work. I often use my sketchbook to work ideas up from something simple, to a finished idea. It's nice looking back on that process sometimes!
  • Forcing the issue - in opposition to the above idea, sometimes I find it useful to force myself to do a certain thing. If I want to develop some new embroidery hoop art, I'll actually fill a few pages in my sketchbook with hoop outlines, with text headers to fill in such as 'title, 'idea', 'thoughts' etc. These can really work as development tools that make me think.
So yeah, I love my sketchbooks. Oh looky, there's one right now, open at a blank page, with a pencil just sitting there...I wonder what will pop into my head. Oh hello little badger!

What about you? Do you keep sketchbooks? If you do, how do you use yours?


  1. I love peeking at the sketchbooks of other artists! I find it fascinating to see the though processes of other creative folks. I keep a sketchbook with me at ALL times. And I can definitely relate to doodling at work. I find sketches to be an integral part of doing tax returns at my day job. :)

  2. If only I could draw :( Fabulous ideas for future projects, looks like you will be busy for a while yet!

  3. unfortunately, I can't draw. i wish I could though, i'd love to be able to fill sketchbooks and really admire you for your talent

  4. I love your animal sketches :) I love sketchbooks, I find I use them loads when I have good drawing days and it helps on 'bad drawing days' for the same reason that you like it, to remind me that I can draw and to kick start a project.