5 Ways to Fill Your Sketchbook

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

Recently I’ve been feeling really tired. It’s nothing serious, just a short-term adjustment happening in my body, but really trying, nonetheless. This week, when it was time for me to do my Wednesday Art Chat where I share tips and tutorials on art and overcoming the inner critic, I knew I needed to offer something, but also to nourish myself. I want to share with you the insights about how I make art when I feel uninspired.

This is a simple, fun exercise that helps get my creative juices flowing, and makes me feel more grounded and light. It leads to lots of new ideas for my sketchbooks and art journals too. I’d love to hear what your experience is with it in the comments, and be sure to grab the free workshop at the bottom of the post too!

Make Marks in Your Journal

Let the lines and marks wander across the page and explore the space like the line is on an adventure.

  • Practice making thinner and thicker lines,
  • Drag the pencil or pen lightly
  • Make it thicker or thinner

Vary Your Pen Grip

  • Hold the pen super loosely, like you might drop it
  • Use a death grip
  • Hold it in your non-dominant hand
  • Hold it from the top or close to the bottom

Use a Variety of Mark Making Tools

Give Yourself Permission to Make a Mess in Your Sketchbook

Lately I’ve been writing in my journal: I’m tired. That’s the whole page. That’s it. And you know what? That’s enough.

Not every sketchbook page should be beautiful. In this age of social media and constant comparison, I think we get a false idea about what an art journal or sketchbook should be. A sketchbook can help you improve your art skills, but it can also be your friend. Your art journal can be an excellent listener. Give it a chance.

Using the mark making method, I can make a mess of the page, and at the same time, make order of my feelings. Funny how that works, right? I think the trick is giving yourself permission to make a mess in your journal.

Making a mess can be good for my feelings, but it’s also good for my art, because in this loose, anything goes state, lots of interesting marks and patterns can pop up.

Make Different Types of Marks in Your Sketchbook

  • Continuous lines: Let the line explore the space of the page
  • Short lines, long lines, skipping lines, jagged lines, fat and thin lines
  • Circles, openings, pods, leaves
  • Write whatever comes to mind in your non-dominant hand
  • Write in giant looping, overlapping handwriting so it’s more of mark making than text

Get My Creativity and Art Journaling Class for Free!

You’ll also join the Mindful Art Studio mailing list:

Mindful Art Tips

  • Slow down – Pay attention to the gift of the materials and time to make marks
  • Notice what appears on the page – see when the lines start to skip, get darker or lighter, overlap, and create shapes
  • Notice what your body feels like, where it feels warm, loose, tense, straight

I’d love to hear how you do with your mark making, be sure to drop into the comments!

Creatively Yours,



  1. Denise Moravek

    Thanks for all your tips I find them really motivating

      • Ed Earl

        After reading your post, can’t wait to try making the marks hard and soft. I think I’ll get something that I been waiting for. This was very inspirational.

        • Amy Maricle

          Hey Ed – Oh that’s great to hear! I know you’ll enjoy it!


  2. Nicole

    Loved this post, especially the warm introduction.😊 I must say I will try to make marks without thinking about the outcome. I do this with paint studies and sometimes interesting things happen and you end up with a really cool painting!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Hi Nicole

      Oh I so appreciate you taking the time to comment and I’m thrilled you enjoyed the post suggestions. Xo AMY

  3. Ana María

    Gracias gracias por tantas ideas que nos inspiran.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Gracias Ana Maria por escribirme y avisarme que te inspira. Es un honor. XO Amy

  4. Aline Gaubert

    Hi, Amy,
    I so appreciate your “Making art when you’re tired. I’m sorry I can’t inspire you today…..”
    I’ve been traveling to England for a funeral and complained to you that I couldn’t be creative. You said make marks, and I did on hotel stationary with a ball point pen!
    I love everything you write for us. Thank you for taking the time to help us express our inner churning selves. xxxx

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Aline!!! YES!!! YES!!! Our inner churning selves DESERVE the outlet, and will pay us back in spades when we keep showing up to make art no matter what, even on hotel stationary, bar napkins, and the back of envelopes. I so appreciate knowing that this helped. Thank you for taking the time to tell your story and I’m sorry for your loss. XO Amy

      • Aliya

        I used doodles to calm myself before wisdom teeth abstraction.

        • Amy Maricle

          WOW – what a great idea!!! xo

  5. Claudia Salinas

    I just found your beautiful website and the tips you give to all of us. I always wanted to have a personal art sketchbook to express myself. Now I am exploring my Art again, after many years.
    I have a condition where I cant be expose to stress, thats why I decided to create a blog; I started to feel joy again! and I am so happy that I foung your blog 🙂 :)… so much inspiration!. Thank you!

    • Amy Maricle

      Claudia – Art journaling has been such a strong and positive force in my life. I hope it’s that for you too! xo

  6. Frances Anne

    I’ve referred to this post when feeling intimidated by that big blank page staring accusingly back at me…thank you!

    • Amy Maricle

      Oh Frances, that’s great to hear! I’m so happy it helps.


  7. Brenda M Collins

    Amy I just stumbled across an interview you did that was so insightful I had to find your website. I’m going through a difficult time right now that is impeding my ability to pursue my creativity. I just watched your tutorial on self care through art journaling and you gave me ideas on how I can still feed the well, as they say; whatever I do it doesn’t have to be fabulous and I can use my nondominant hand while the other side is out of commission. Those two factors alone will get me back in the game. Thank you so much for the pep talk. I so needed it.

    • Amy Maricle

      Brenda! Oh your message means so much to me! What a wonderful thing that the internet puts us at each other’s reach. This is exactly what I hope people get. You may also enjoy a free class I have, How to Make Beautifully Imperfect Art. It’s a continuation of the lesson you’ve got. So glad you are here in our midst! xo

  8. jean kirchner

    I just found this lovely post, and you! as a result of picking up your book. My Inner Critic (IC) is STRONG and LOUD and very often tells me that since I can’t do something perfectly I’d best not try at all. This is annoying. And terribly discouraging. I love the idea of giving the Self permission to make a mess. That seems to be something my IC can’t compete with – perhaps because I’m not asking IC for permission but myself.

    Thank you for the gentle reminder that we are all artists; that we just need to get on with it in the spaces available in Life.

    • Amy Maricle

      OH Jean: What a lovely comment. You are not alone in these feelings and my hope is to provide some ways for folks to create mindfully and joyfully, and it sounds like some of it resonates. Happy drawing!


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