sketchbookA sketchbook is an artist’s best friend! Okay…well, sometimes. Other times, it is a pain in the neck, another one of those things you feel you should be doing but do not have the time for.

You may be wondering why you should care. A sketchbook is a visual record of your ideas, your thoughts, your inspirations and your creative process. It is a collection of your creative endeavours, however formal or casual they might be. A sketchbook is also a good place to go to for inspiration if you are stuck for ideas, not to mention an essential part of practicing and keeping your skills fresh!

So how can you make your time with the sketchbook easier and more enjoyable?

Here are some tips:

1.    Indulge in something that excites you!

Your sketchbook does not need to be a plain-Jane coil bound collection of white paper. Get a sketchbook you can get excited about! Find something with an interesting or inspiring cover. Or, you could use your own creativity to jazz up the cover of a book you already have. Chances are you will find more motivation and pleasure sketching in something is an object of art all on its own.

2.    Get portable!

Half the challenge of using a sketchbook is finding the time for it. Get yourself a teeny tiny sketch book that you can use when you have a few minutes of down time, no matter where you are. I have one that is about two or three inches square that comes with me in my purse. That way, I can sketch whenever I have a few minutes at the doctor’s office, stuck in traffic or on the bus!

3.    Use strategic thinking!

What are your time wasters? When could you be sketching but are doing something else? Determine what these times and places are, and put a sketchbook nearby. For me, it is the TV. I know I can waste the evening watching mindless programs so I make sure I keep my sketchbook close. That way it is a constant reminder. That way, I cannot use the ‘I just did not think of it’ excuse, and I can sketch while I listen to the TV.

4.    Be open-minded!

Do not limit yourself to the type of quality of work in your sketchbook. So what if one day you do a fully rendered drawing and the next you doodle a few marks? So what if one day you collage and the next you paint? Your sketchbook is not a place for ‘art’ (though ‘art’ may be found there); it is a place for your ideas. Have an ‘anything goes’ attitude about your sketchbook and do not get hung up about making something good.

Then again, you could also…

5.    Give yourself limits!

This can be a fun way to get over a creative lull or overcome feeling overwhelmed in the studio. Limit yourself to a certain media or certain colour, then let yourself go crazy! Sometimes having that little bit of structure can free us up to get creative in other ways. I once kept a sketchbook in which I only used black, gray, and orange media. Each page different, but it was united by the colours. Some of my most interesting drawings come from that book!

And if all else fails…

6.    CHEAT!

Ok, not really, but here is the thing: Maybe you do not have time to work in your sketchbook, but Iwill bet you have time to doodle while you are on the phone, to draw when you are in a meeting, to sketch when you are at class… Those things count! They are a record of your creative thought processes, which is exactly what a sketchbook is meant to be. Keep those bits and pieces and glue them into your sketch book!

These are just a few ways to keep your sketchbook fresh and stress-free. What other strategies do you use?

Miranda Aschenbrenner is a young fine artist who specializes in graphite drawings. You can visit her blog to learn more about her art tips and drawing techniques.


Thanks Miranda for the sketchbook tips! I have gotten lazy about using my own sketchbook lately and your ideas have motivated me. 🙂 Lori

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Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Artist Ambassador to Arches/Canson/Royal Talens. As the owner of, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses. Lori is also a member of the CBS Entertainment Tonight & The Insider Tweet Team.

12 thoughts on “6 Tips for a Stress Free Sketchbook

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  2. ashley says:

    one of the things i do is, after i have a dream at night, i’ll write down everything i saw. then when i form a better picture in my mind, i draw my picture.

  3. whoa says:

    Not to be rude by any measure however some more depth or detail would help elaborate out the idea’s your giving that are inherently very vague to me.

    give an idea of
    How to be Open minded with drawing..
    define what that means and how to adapt or how you learned to see the world from outside the box.
    just saying that and giving an vague “dont worry bout doodling vs. full on sketchings” snippet
    explain that thinking outside the box requires one to explore different art styles , different ways to draw using different things to draw , different people , different lightening and to change it up and even the style draw a person using household objects , or draw a car out of a bunch of computers or t.v’s
    combine organic and inorganic things i.e a lizard that looks like a t.v or a literal lizard that has a screen on its back or sides that can be channel changed.

    not meant to be rude just my 2cents

    • Lori McNee says:

      Hi Xander, I welcome differing opinions. This post is a guest article, so it is a bit difficult for me to explain Miranda’s thoughts…but, I will try. To be ‘open minded’ is to allow for artistic inspiration, and don’t box yourself into formulas or rules. This will help eleviate the stress and will let inspiration flow without any goals attached. This is what this post means to me.
      I like your suggestions of mixing it up.

      Happy sketching-

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  5. Casey Chalem Anderson says:

    The basis bones for my painting has always been the drawing. But drawing just by itself has profound value and helps me think through my hand. I can break down and understand what I am seeing with a pencil in my hand. Thanks for posting this and reminding me to pick up a pencil asap.

    • Lori McNee says:

      Casey, I am glad you enjoyed this little post. I myself started drawing again after many years of neglecting, and it feels great! My paintings have improved from it as well. Thanks for stopping by for a comment/


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