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:
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:
- 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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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 my self-guided retreat: The Inspiring Sketchbook.
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!