Anyone Can Draw: Sketchbook

This week is the last sketchbook class of the Fall term. As we get ready to  wrap up, I’m always a little bit amazed and a lot heartened to see how much everyone changes, grows, and develops in just six weeks. They try things that they wouldn’t have before, and I love hearing them come in and exclaim how much they ended up enjoying the thing they thought would be impossible…or how challenging the thing they thought would be easy, ended up being. 

I’m always, ALWAYS impressed by what good sports they all are about some of my hair-brained ideas. 

I start out every term with two statements.

1. Anyone can draw. If we have enough hand/eye coordination to write our names, we have enough to draw. Our brains are funny things that are designed to take in a lot of information quickly, decide if there’s any nearby threats, and discard everything else…we really don’t pay attention to details well. A lot of “learning to draw” is about learning how to make our brains calm down, stop looking for threats, and actually take in what’s in front of us. Observe, Think, Draw.

2. This class isn’t about learning how to draw. It’s about learning to love to draw…or at least enjoy it. Your sketchbook is a safe place to explore ideas, techniques or to just mess around.  Remember, none of these drawings are destined for the museum. Probably not even the refrigerator. Let’s relax and lean into that. 


1. Sketchbook – Sketchbooks come in all shapes and sizes. Go look at what’s available, feel the weight of the paper, the smoothness or roughness. Right now, I’m using a hardbound Strathmore #500 series mixed media book, which I love. The paper is heavy with a slight pebble, the pages stay flat once you fold the binding down, and it doesn’t fall apart easily. If you’re just starting out, something inexpensive is a good idea. It’s easier to not worry about messing up on cheap paper, I often sketch on just typing paper and a clip board.

2. Post-it notes – Speaking of cheap paper… I love post-its. They’re a great place to make little notes, doodles, things to hand off to a teammate, or the kid that stops to watch at the coffee shop. They’re also handy for covering up mistakes, or editing a sketch without redrawing the whole thing.

3. Pencils – I usually have at least two pencils. It doesn’t really matter what kind, the yellow Ticonderogas we had in elementary school are cheap and draw really nicely, but experiment and decide what works best for you. Right now I use a red ColErase pencil for quick stuff and layouts and I have a Blackwing Pearl for darker lines. It’s also not a terrible idea to throw a pencil extender into the bag…nobody likes drawing with a nub and I hate wasting the last third of a pencil.

4. Pencil Sharpener – It’s worth it to spend the extra fifty cents on the metal one. We’ll save ourselves a lot of frustration. Plastic pencil sharpeners flex when we use them, bending the blade and breaking our lead. It’s super annoying to lose half a pencil to the trash bin. While we’re at it, let’s pick up something to keep all those shavings in until we get to the trash. I just use an altoid tin for this. 

5. Eraser – A white vinyl eraser is my favorite. Some people prefer kneaded. I’m not picky about it, as long as it erases when I need it. 

6. Ballpoint Pen – In college, my art instructors would say to never use ballpoint. It has no permanence, and isn’t good for making art. That’s ridiculous. If we can make a mark with a thing, we can use it to draw. Especially in our sketchbook. I really like the immediacy of ballpoint. It allows for a range of value like a pencil, but requires a certain boldness because we can’t take the marks back once we make them. Part of the key to learning to sketch quickly is learning to be confident in the marks we make.

7. Ink Pens – Speaking of learning to make confident marks, let’s finish off our list with some pens. I usually suggest the starter set of Faber Casteel PITT pens. They’re pretty light-fast, waterproof (so we can paint over them, or spill our coffee on them without smearing everything) and are pretty inexpensive. The starter set comes with three different size “hard” tips, and a flexible brush pen. 

I keep on saying that I’m going to write out what I’m up to in class, or develop it into something like an online video class, so let’s start taking steps towards that and over the next couple of weeks sketch together! I’m excited about using a few minutes of my morning to further develop the daily practice of just drawing because we enjoy it.

Until next time, take care and be good!

Your friend,

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