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9 Beginner-Friendly Ways to Fill Your Sketchbook

Earlier this year, I convinced myself to splurge on a Moleskine Sketchbook (they’re just so exquisite) and made a promise not to buy any more art supplies until I finish this one (I’ve got a history of accumulating art supplies that I never actually use). So, over the past few months, I’ve been on a mission to discover exciting ways to fill up my Moleskine.

Regrettably, I haven’t even reached the halfway point of my sketchbook yet. This means I’ll have to patiently wait a while before my next visit to the art store. However, I’m having an absolute blast exploring different subjects and organizing them in my sketchbook in a way that I find visually satisfying.

As a beginner, the main goals I have in mind for this sketchbook adventure are twofold:

  1. Draw things that pique my interest and are just plain fun.
  2. Dive deep into the fundamentals of art to help in my growth as an artist.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into my top 9 favorite ways to fill up my sketchbook!

1 Explore the world of fashion.

If you’re fascinated by fashion and style, then creating fashion sketches can be a delightful way to fill your sketchbook. The possibilities are endless, from sketching accessories and clothing to runway models. If you happen to have some old fashion magazines lying around, they can be perfect sources of inspiration, and you can even incorporate collage techniques into your sketches.

I’m personally excited to embark on a series of sketchbook spreads dedicated to studying collections from fashion brands I adore (but can’t afford), like Gucci. This way, I can study the different aspects of their designs, such as colors, styles, and textures while maintaining a cohesive theme within the same sketchbook spread.

Lately, I have been blown away by the fashion illustrations for Gucci done by Ignasi Monreal who is a really talented Spanish Artist, and I would love to explore a similar aesthetic using gouache in my sketchbook.

2 Study anatomy.

I love drawing portraits and it’s no secret that one of the best ways to get better at drawing a face is to study its anatomy to understand its shape and structure. Filling pages of my sketchbook with anatomy studies has allowed me to work on my art fundamentals, even though I must admit it can sometimes get a tad boring and repetitive.

Here are a couple of tips to make anatomy sketches more interesting:

3 Convey your story with self portraits.

Creating self-portraits can be a bit intimidating but incredibly rewarding. It allows you to document your journey, explore your identity, and tell your story in a unique way. And if you’re not keen on realistic self-portraits, you can always embrace a more abstract approach to capture your self-perception.

Much of my sketchbook so far is void of colors so I plan to create a series of self-portraits using watercolors, gouache, ink, and colored pencils inspired by Van Gogh, the official King of Selfies, and drawings by Mary Clare Montgomery, a talented artist based in Detroit whom I recently discovered.

4 Sketch your favorite sculptures.

Beyond their visual appeal, drawing sculptures is an excellent way to practice shading and delve into anatomy. I have a deep admiration for sculptures from the Renaissance Period, and there’s always so much to learn by studying them.

5 Take on an art challenge.

Art challenges are a great way to get out of your comfort zone and draw something more imaginatively using an art prompt. Of course, you should always use references in addition to your imagination to bring your visual concepts to life.

It’s also a great opportunity to discover and meet new artists who are participating in the same art challenge, study their process, and learn from each other.

Here are some of my favorite art challenges you can try:

When tackling an art challenge in your sketchbook, remember that perfection isn’t the goal from the outset. Begin with a few thumbnail sketches to explore different compositions, take notes at each step, and don’t hesitate to showcase the various iterations of your challenge drawings to document your creative process.

6 Study Artworks by Other Artists.

Replicating artworks by artists you admire with your own creative spin is one of the most satisfying ways to fill your sketchbook.

To make these artist studies more attractive, consider including a miniature printout of the original artworks alongside your sketches. Share your thoughts about what you appreciate in the artwork, its backstory, and any valuable lessons you’ve gained.

7 Doodle the mundane.

Some time ago, I took a short course on transforming doodles into art by the Swedish Illustrator Mattias Adolfsson, and I instantly fell in love with his concept of filling a sketchbook with charming drawings of everyday objects.

I find doodling creatively liberating and relaxing. It is something I occasionally indulge in, especially when the pressure of creating “perfect art” becomes overwhelming. If you’re seeking inspiration, check out this video by Mattias Adolfsson showcasing his adorable sketchbook which, is in my opinion, the gold standard for drawing in this sort of style.

8 Draw what’s in your comfort zone.

As artists, we often become proficient at drawing certain subjects that pique our interests after consistent practice. For me, it’s all about drawing faces, which constitutes a significant portion of my sketchbook.

From my beginner’s perspective, focusing on one area of interest and dedicating time to explore it in depth can alleviate the pressure of constantly experimenting with new ideas and overcoming the fear of a blank sketchbook.

I recently stumbled upon the mesmerizing artwork of Tiina, an artist based in Finland. She fills her sketchbooks exclusively with scenic landscapes in gouache, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s aesthetics. Tiina’s sketchbook tour demonstrates that you can create a stunning sketchbook even with a singular theme.

9 Challenge yourself with a new drawing medium.

A sketchbook without bad drawings is usually a sign of playing too safe and not experimenting enough for fear of failure.

If you’ve become too comfortable drawing with the same tools, trying to sketch with a new medium gives you the chance to become a beginner again, reignite that spark, and break the monotony which I feel is important to grow as an artist.

So there you have it—nine delightful ways to fill your sketchbook as a beginner. Remember that the journey itself is as valuable as the finished sketches. Embrace the learning process, enjoy every stroke of your pencil or brush, and let your sketchbook be a testament to your artistic evolution. Happy sketching!