Do you dream of making cool art journals and sketchbooks with ink pens, Copic Markers, colored pencils, or whatever medium sparks your creative neurons today?
Yep. Me too.
I know that sounds silly coming from an illustrator but I have to admit, I am terrible at journalling!
It’s a mental block. Almost every formal art class I’ve ever taken has required that we keep a sketchbook. Not just casually but as an assignment. Twenty, thirty, even fifty sketches per week, due on the teacher’s desk, bright and early every Monday morning.
Which means that when I sit down with a journal now, it feels like I’ve got a power hungry drill sergeant standing behind me barking “Draw, woman! Draw harder!”
It’s sad; I know it. Art school isn’t all benefits, it actually ruined some of the fun and playfulness of sketching. And I truly hope that someday I can find a journaling practice which doesn’t feel like I’ve got to crank out six more views of a toaster before dawn.
Sketching, even bad sketching has benefits.
Not just for artists, but for everyone.
Regular sketches and doodles will boost your creativity and improve your skills!
I see the greatest growth from students who doodle and take artistic notes.
I know, you’d think it would be the die-hard students, the ones who practice Copic flicking and blending 24-7, you’d assume they’re the ones making great leaps in coloring. And maybe that’s true if we’re talking about technical skills alone.
But the students who suddenly jump from great class assignments to amazing creativity, originality and artistry are the ones who sketch and doodle in-between coloring sessions.
It’s not enough to practice coloring, you have to play and experiment to grow.
It’s the creative journaling process that turns a colorer into an artist!
Because sketching and journaling are so darned important, I’m bringing in an expert.
Now I know, she’ll pshaw and “awww, shucks” me when I say this… but Pam has developed an amazing journal habit. She’s doing something so incredibly wonderful and beneficial that I knew I had to share it with you over a whole series of dedicated articles.
So today, we’re celebrating Pam’s debut as a member of our Vanilla Voices team.
She’s going to start us on the path to creative experimentation!
And hey, you’ve heard from Pam before:
The Art of Doodling
by Pam Gaylord
Copic markers, colored pencils, distress inks, watercolor, graphite, acrylic and oil paint, pen and ink, you name it I am bound to try it, if I haven’t already.
I am Amy’s “Problem Child”. I’m the one who likes to Doodle in class. You know the type, the person that seems to not be paying attention but is secretly drawing in her notebook and taking studious notes.
I’m going to be honest, photo realism isn’t my jam. I love to Doodle!
While digital and rubber stamps are the primary platform in the Vanilla Arts group, I prefer to draw my own artwork. I fill my sketchbooks with whimsical images using every medium I can get my hands on.
So why am I here?
Because there are things to be learned here that I haven’t been able to pin down anywhere else.
If you haven’t noticed yet, the people that hang out here at Vanilla Arts have skills! It’s not “talent”, it’s tried and true skilled artistic ability. The best thing is they are willing to share their knowledge! Count me in! I want to know “how did you do that!?!”
I’ve signed up for many of the Vanilla Arts classes and workshops but I haven’t completed a single one of them.
And that’s okay.
Instead, I sit back with my mixed media sketchbook and begin by sketching a duplicate of the digi image that is going to be colored. My sketch isn’t an exact replica, but it’s close enough that I can “sketch note” the process of applying markers and colored pencil in a manner that is technically “correct”. I hesitate to say “technique” because I have it in my notes from the Jelly Bean class that “there are no techniques” in art. On that matter I’m going to have to say we are going to have agree to disagree. Because that is exactly what I am Sketch Noting about during class. The “how did you do that” in my world is “technique”!
It’s not the notes that count, it’s the note-taking!
We learn from the process.
My sketch book is filled with partially colored images.
I surround them with notes about color blending, adding texture, shading, form, composition, Copic jelly, blooms, bathtub rings, paper selection, transparency, opacity, pushing, pulling, under painting, and SO much more!
What it’s not is color mapping!
I do make note of the colors used in the tutorial in my notes, but that is purely for reference (and it looks cool) not necessarily future application.
When I doodle, I doodle curiously. I have it in my notes what works, but the doodling part is my turn to play and see what else will work.
I apply the concepts presented in class in a new and slightly different way.
And it’s all in my sketch note journal - there when I need it - right along side the image that I applied all that newly acquired knowledge.
I don’t have to try to recall what or who’s tutorial I learned how to under paint a lemon so that it still looks like a lemon or how to color sculpt a cherry so that it looks like a cherry. It’s all right there at my fingertips and a turn of the page.
What works for Copic markers and colored pencils isn’t completely transferable to other art mediums but the underlying concepts of how to work with them to make them do the things that they can do does!
Ultimately, one day I will finally find that one medium that will captivate my attention and that one subject matter that I will draw over and over again until I am known for that one particular thing.....
Okay, let’s be honest, probably not. Once a Doodler, always a Doodler.
Want to start Sketch-noting?
It’s easier than you think.
Actually, it’s easy if you don’t overthink it!
My best starter tips:
Use a mixed media sketchbook so that you can play with a variety of artistic mediums in one book.
If you feel like using watercolor today and charcoal pencil tomorrow, you want a paper that can handle both.
There are no rules when it comes to Sketch Noting. You are free to create as you please!
Don’t pressure yourself to do something the “best” way or the “right” way. Just experiment to find what pleases you the most.
You don’t have to share your work with anyone! Your sketchbook is your personal sketch note “diary”.
In fact, Amy recommends that you do not show anyone your journals until you’ve filled a couple of them. Journals are a place for you to think-on-paper. You don’t need feedback, correction, or approval, you need to experiment and figure out what YOU like best.
Be willing to take risks and make mistakes - that’s part of the sketch note process. Don’t think of it as a mistake, think of it as any entry and example for a reminder of what doesn’t work well.
We often learn MORE and we learn FASTER by making mistakes!
Experiment, don’t procrastinate. If your sketch notes are perfect then you are doing it wrong (okay, maybe there is just one rule after all).
This is a no-pressure process. Have fun with your journal!
The most important thing?
Speaking of which, I’m off now to doodle my next Doodle of the Day.
Pam Gaylord is a Vanilla Arts student who dabbles in every medium she can get her hands on. She’s known for her cool and relaxed disposition, even when someone else’s watercolor water is quickly seeping towards her project…
Pam coordinates S.O.A.R. Colored Pencil Workshops for Iowa. More info here.
Check out Expressive Sunflowers Recipe Pack in the Vanilla Stamp Shop:
The digital stamp used for this project can be found at Power Poppy: