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Sometimes life is a little messy—just like art.

The PROPER Way to Use a Sketchbook – Allowing Yourself to Create Messy Art

Your sketchbook is a space for experimentation.

It’s a space for you to try out different mediums and styles until you decide what clicks. It’s a way to test out ideas before you make your mark on a canvas or high-quality art paper. Sketchbooks are supposed to be messy.

Now this is a mindset that took me two and a half years to grow into. I’ve come to realize that the better you become at art, the easier it is to get down and dirty.

Once you become more confident with your skill level, when you end up creating something that is objectively bad, you know that it was because you just attempted something different.

Within the first 2.5 years of my art journey, I’d constantly make it a statement to create clean and finished pieces in my sketchbook. A sketch couldn’t just remain in pencil form. It needed to be inked and colored in order for it to earn a spot on my Canson Mixed Media paper. However, as I began venturing out in my regular everyday life, the artist in me started to let go of this feign idea of perfection as well.

In all honesty, once I announced my plans to fill my new sketchbook before my birthday, it felt like quite a difficult challenge. And as someone which major commitment issues, I low-key felt as though hitting this milestone would be a distant dream.

Now, it’s beginning to feel much more attainable. As I let go of what I define as “good art”, I’m allowing myself to approach the subject neurotically. Because art is messy.

So here’s a result of my newfound sense of letting go:

Inspired by the discovery that everyone is mildly neurotic.

Yup, she’s meant to be crossing one leg over the other, but I had no idea what I was doing—and am well aware that it shows. I decided to add a bit of color using my Kuretake Gansai watercolor set, and love the way it turned out. It’s imperfect. Rushed. Drowning in anatomy and perspective issues.

This sketch is messy. And it will forever live in my new sketchbook.

Overall, I hope that we beginner, intermediate, and expert artists alike can learn to let go a little bit, and reconnect with the roots of art as a whole—its inherent sense of experimentation, beauty, intrigue, excitement, emotion, and everything in between.

So I challenge you to take the time to make a mess of your sketchbook. Kick it around a bit. Smudge dirt onto it. Do what you need to do to embrace the mess that is art.

A/N: I signed up for the Amazon Associates program. So, I will gain a tiny percentage of any purchases made through the links in this blog 🙂

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jane

    This was not helpful watsoever

    1. admin

      Hi Jane, thanks for the feedback!

  2. Rob

    Thank-YOU!!! I thought I was doing something wrong by keeping such a messy sketchbook. Pages and pages of doodles and repetiltive sketches until I got it “right”. I’d been filling in all the availabel space with little sketches. Now I don’t feel so bad about doing that. Thank-you again.

    1. Juli

      Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by! I love me a messy sketchbook. Sometimes I’ll jot random ideas in mine or glue in random paper mementos from trips abroad.
      I’m glad you found this post relatable. Enjoy experimenting ~

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