100 Ways to Fill Your Sketchbook
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Figuring out what to do when you sit down to create can sometimes feel overwhelming. Keeping a sketchbook is a great way to cultivate your ideas and turn them from seeds into something inspiring. I did that recently, as I set out to use the letter U 100 different ways in my art journal. Here’s 100 ways to fill your sketchbook, using just some watercolor squares, a pen, and one letter of the alphabet. And yes, you can do this too!
How to Create Your Own Challenge in Your Sketchbook
- Set a goal number. This could be a goal for the number of art pieces, pages, or days. Make a goal that feels exciting, not daunting.
- Set parameters. Define some simple parameters for your project. This might mean using certain materials or techniques. You may brainstorm your ideas before settling on one, or just go with your gut.
- Pre-prep your sketchbook page(s).
- Carry your sketchbook in your bag and use it.
- Use your sketchbook project as a tool for generating art ideas, not as a way to strive for perfection. You are likely to get better art this way!
Here’s my parameters for my U project:
- Watercolor blocks in earth tones, one 2 – page spread (initially)
- Micron pens
- Use the letter U to create a variety of patterns
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My idea was to use the letter U any way I could to create a variety of patterns. I loved the idea that a letter of the alphabet, which anyone who can write can make, could be the basis for art. Here’s my parameters:
Clearly, I ended up expanding past one page, but given my personality, I knew I would feel hemmed in if I set a huge goal, so I started small, and added as long as it felt fun.
I’m a big fan of “flexible structure.” I set myself a goal that serves as a general guide, and I can change it slightly as I go along depending on what works for me.
If you like this idea, but want some more help creating your flexible structure, check out m y class, Paint, Pattern Repeat where I’ll lead you through this process step by step.
There were a lot of different ways to stretch this idea.
Look at all the variations! It boggles my mind how many different ways (over 100 in the end) I could use the letter U to make patterns. You can do this too. It just requires stretching your mind a bit.
Coming Up with Ideas for Your Project
When I struggled for ideas to fill more blocks, I started writing about it to brainstorm, talking to friends and family about their ideas, and looking in nature and textiles to see where else this shape was appearing. This led to new pattern ideas I loved. There is pleasure in giving yourself permission to dive deeply into an idea.
For example, I noticed that a stone arch is an upside down U. Hair pins are squiggly U’s. Birds in the sky can look like a series of U’s. Sagging nets make U’s, and waves are a series of connected U’s. After a while, you start to see the connections everywhere, and it always boggles my mind how much nature repeats itself.
After I reached over 100, I decided I was ready to move on, at least for a while. I’ve used some of my favorite U patterns on art journal pages like this one.
I hope this helps you create your own fun challenge in your sketchbook. I’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments!
Thank you so much. Your suggestions are always simple and do-able. I am new to art journaling, but the inchie challenge helped me finally understand the process. Fo me it is like mini paintings that I can work on even if I only have 5 mins a day on a busy week. So thak you. You are amazing.
HI Meggan! YES – you’ve totally got my approach to helping people get started. It’s also a great way to get creating when you feel too pressed for time. I can’t wait to see this continue to develop for you! XO
What great ideas, Amy! Thank you!
I’m so happy this speaks to you, Tacy! Xo
After a few weeks or months?? I’ve taken this on and am having much fun. I’ve played around with the background colors because “They are the unimportant part” – says the gasping tight part of my brain. Of course, they have lent much to the process and because my focus is on the u pattern I’m finding more room to noodle and play with the color. I love it when I find I like a piece! My “art police” are exacting and sneaky- for now though they are napping.
Michelle – I’m thrilled this is working for you!! It’s great to work in series for all these reasons, right?
Love just looking at your work. Great suggestions to help stimulate myself
Oh Lita, that’s great to hear! Have fun creating! xo
It’s very cool!
Thank you so kindly, Elaine! xo
So happy you like it Lynn! Xo
Thank you for this helpful suggestion. I teach a high school art class. We just recently made sketchbooks. I can see this as a good warm up.
Hey Carmella: Oh yes, this would be amazing with students – I can only imagine where they will take it! XO
Absolutely great! Easy and doable… my inner critic is astonished to see how it looks and I love how it feels light to do! Thanks for these suggestions!
It feels light to do. YES> I like how you put that. Happy creating Tania! XO
The more simple the idea, the better it works. You are the personification of those words.
Thank you so much for sharing!
Nel – I’m thrilled that this gets you excited to create! XO
YAY! So glad to hear it Almah! Xo
Thanks Amy, I was just thinking about reaching out as to where to start, as I am finding myself overwhelmed as a newbie exploring art. I look at the different mediums I have, the different instructional books, the different paper I have, and think where in the world do I continue with what all I have started. True to my nature when I start something I dive right in, going wide in the experience, then overwhelm myself, back out, and may not continue. I knew you would know how to guide and simplify the process that I was overcomplicating. I personally like “S”, so am taking off with that letter. ThankSSSSSSSS ~~~~~~ Kathy
Kathy – Thissssss issssss sssssso fun to hear! I’m thrilled that this concept speaks to you! happy S’ing. Tag me if you post so I can ssssse!
So inspiring! And also manageable! I’m going to challenge myself to do something similar. Thank you, always, for sharing.
Emily – I’m so happy this speaks to you! And I so appreciate you taking the time to comment too! XO
Never thought of U as such an interesting letter!
Hi Lin: HA! Funny right? I don’t know that I necessarily did either. I’m not sure I gave it a lot of thought except that I knew it could look like a letter or look like other things. It got me thinking of other good options: S, T, M, V, C, H, I, J, L….there are so many good choices. It was a great exercise to stretch the creative boundaries of my mind! I hope it is for you too!
This is just great for the days when I need to decompressed ans simply play with my art supplies. It’s the perfect mindful practice and besides: 26 letters, 10 numbers….one can play a long long time 😊 Merci, Amy, for your wonderful creativity 🤩
So happy I could inspire! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Xo
Hi Amy, cool post!!! What kind of sketch books do you use?
I’m so glad you liked the post! I had a link, but it was rather subtle. Here’s my current favorite sketchbook.
It’s quite amazing what your artist mind comes up with. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration – I’m going right to my sketchbook! And thank you for sharing with us.
Hi Rosa! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the ideas! Have fun in your sketchbook!
Hola, Amy!!!!! Buenos días!!!!
Después de estar años leyendo sin parar libros de arte de todas las técnicas , contigo estoy encontrando un sinfín de ideas para crear por mí misma ….cada vez que veo algo tuyo en vídeo o leo alguna de tus páginas , siempre acabo diciendo ” Uau, esto es genial!!!” y la cabeza empieza a imaginar todas las posibilidades que tengo, mas ahora que estamos tanto tiempo en casa.
Gracias por ser tan divertida y amena , es un lujo leerte y escucharte.
Un besico desde Albacete, España.
Es un muy buen proceso esto. Ya es hora de jugar con tu arte, disfrutar del proceso sin expectativas. xo
this is awesome now i know what to draw finally.
I’m so glad I could help, Maddie! xo
Hi, such simplicity and such depth to your approach. I am grateful that you shared your passion and skills so generously . Not just a window but the doors to my creative world have burst open. I am looking forwards to my creative journey. Thank you Amy.
Oh Heather, this means so much to me. Thank you. I’m so so excited for you! Can’t wait to see what explorations happen!
Thank you so much! How wonderful that I discovered you! I’m looking forward to this journey. My husband passed away a few months ago. I will find great benefit in these exercises. Bless you for being so giving
Hi Donette: Oh I’m so thrilled that this can help you, especially in this time. I’m so sorry about the loss of your husband. Big artsy hugs. xo
You are a great artist
I’m so glad you’re here Aisha. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. And…I suspect YOU are a great artist! xo