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Getting Personal: The Inside Scoop on Personal Sketchbooks


Last time we took a look at how to get into the habit of using your sketchbook journal as a way of making art and creativity a habit. A journal is a manageable way, both in terms of size and time, to make art important in your busy daily life.

I also issued a 30-day sketchbook challenge on my Facebook page. Many joined the challenge with others and posted regularly. It was a joy to see the creativity and excitement as we shared our journeys in sketching. Why 30 days? Because they say it takes 30 days to establish a habit. I hope those who took the challenge are in a lifelong habit!  

I thought we’d take a look at the many ways sketchbook journaling can evolve and become more personal. By personal, I mean individual and meaningful. Just as your art has a unique style, so will your journaling. Your job is to find a style and a voice that’s all yours. Try them all on for size and find the fit that best suits you and your situation. Maybe you only have time to journal on the weekends or while on vacation. A more detailed journal with pen and watercolor will work for your time. Perhaps you use your journal to find peace from the busy work day. Your journal will have less detail and may be filled with simple everyday objects done in a gestural style. The point is, a journal is your own creation to do with what you want.  It’s all about you, and in this case—that’s a good thing! 

As I began to investigate books and websites of those who journaled, I began to realize that these little treasures were no secret!  Journals are as endless and as creative as we are. Today I’d like to challenge you to take a fresh look at your sketchbook.  Let’s try some different ideas and make your journals as unique as your fingerprint!

One way to mix it up—is to mix it up.  Think about using other materials—think Collage! An exercise you might try is a series of entries about YOU. Where were you born?  Where did you go to school? What are your interests? What direction will your art take next? Collage a two page spread with these themes, or any you want to explore. Finding the materials to use is as much fun as doing the pages! I’ve used everything from leaves and newspaper clippings to ribbon and pages from a book. 

Other ways to mix it up is to use ink (I love monochrome ink paintings!), colored pencils, watercolor crayons, and markers—alone or together! I love using different papers. Colored pastel papers, handmade papers, I’ve even used brown paper bags. I’ve crumpled the paper first to give the page texture and also used a batik method (a method using dyes and hot wax to create colorful patterns) with the crumpled paper. I’ve tinted paper with flat and multi-colored washes before I worked. Just like any art form, you’re journal is only limited by your imagination! 

Another way to make a journal meaningful is to use it for personal reflection. Using both words and sketches describes both your joys and sorrows. I use my journal with the written word as a part of expression and have found it to be very healing. Many others have found personal journaling helpful when dealing with illness or grief.

Explore how you can combine script as part of the entry, let it become part of the art itself. The photo below shows a quick sketch from one of my classes using text to surround the painting like a frame, becoming a part of the work and experience itself.

Keep a record journal. I keep a journal of my garden. I do this with simple records of the vegetable garden from year to year. As the idea has grown, I’ve incorporated seed packets as collage, my drawings and paintings, poems I write about the seasons, and so on. It keeps the years from blurring together and helps me remember the weather last year as well as what plant or crop worked and what didn’t. Other record journals might include wildlife, birds, nature, flowers, food and wine, or anything else you would like to keep tabs on.  

As I wrap up this series on the Sketchbook Journal, I hope I’ve encouraged you to pick up a journal and begin the journey. And I hope you can see that there are as many ways to keep a journal as there are people who keep them. A sketchbook can be a constant companion and friend. Soon, you will find you have a shelf full of old friends that hold memories close and record your daily life on your journey as an artist. Enjoy the journey!

Michelle is an artist/writer living and creating in Columbus, Ohio. To see more of her work, read her blog, Living a Creative Life, or visit her website.

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