A collection of different sized sketchbooks with their pages open showing different sketches and paintings inside

What is a Sketchbook for? By Ansari Prints

Why Do artists use A Sketchbook?

A Sketchbook is a great way to work out ideas and inspire new ones. When I have an idea for a new lino print or a painting, I usually start off by creating a thumbnail sketch in my sketchbook. This helps me to work out where to place elements of my design. Small scale drawings enamble me to visual how elements work together in a composition much more easily than a large scale sketch. It is not about the drawing being perfect but about getting it to a stage where I can work from and improve upon it, either with additional thumbnails or larger format sketches for reference. Sketchbooks are also a fantastic place for experimentation using different art mediums. Most good quality sketchbooks will take pencil, charcoal, collage, paint and ink. It’s not all about perfection but loosening up and being creative.



My sketchbooks are a like a pictorial diary and I have some really old sketchbooks that I still draw in and use as a reference for new lino prints and paintings. It’s interesting to see the development of my style and that some of the ideas I was working on are, still relevant to me now. Sketchbooks are where I can work out layout and experiment with new techniques, record ideas in notes and sketches and jot down the names of songs that I like that are playing on the radio. Other times I just draw anything that comes into my head without it having to be a finalised design. Its great to have a bank of sketches and ideas that can be drawn upon at a later date.

Sketchbooks and Scrapbook

Sometimes the pristine sketchbook page can be quite intimidating, I put this self inflicted pressure on myself to be perfect, which actually defeats the whole object of using the sketchbook. I wrote about this in my last blog post about inspiration where I talked about using scrap pieces of paper, like the back of envelopes which I then I stick into a sketchbook almost like a scrap book. I came across a really old sketchbook recently that I had mostly used to stick in photocopies of books from the library with the odd sketch or hand written notes.

Eric Ravillous & Edward Bawden  famously used Scrapbooks however they both had very different approaches from the way they used their sketchbooks. Edward Bawden used them more for reference where as Eric Ravillous’s scrapbooks were more like works of art in their own right. I have an amazing book https://fryartgallery.org/product/eric-ravilious-scrapbooks/ .  


Size Matters

I  have several different size sketchbooks for different occasions and places. A pocket size sketchbook for on the move. A slightly bigger book, which is 14/14cm, which I like to fill the pages with one image if I can. An A4 landscape sketchbook, which is really old. A 20/20 cm and my largest is an A2 sketchbook. I use the A2 to put lots of images spread across both pages and then I find it easier to work on those without having to turn the page to refer to the other sketches or drawings. I also get out several sketchbooks at a time at my desk and cross reference those. 

This is the way I like to work in my sketcbooks and there are no rules as to what you do in yours. I really believe its all about enjoying the process and that’s the best place to  start. 

Here are links to some examples fascinating snippets of sketches and how different artists draw.

Leonora Carrington https://mamfa.com/leonora-carrington-sketches-from-down-below

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