Always Drawing: How to Start and Keep a Daily Sketchbook | Mike Lowery | Skillshare

Always Drawing: How to Start and Keep a Daily Sketchbook

Mike Lowery, Illustrator and Author

Always Drawing: How to Start and Keep a Daily Sketchbook

Mike Lowery, Illustrator and Author

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9 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:10
    • 2. Class Orientation

      2:44
    • 3. What is a Sketchbook + Why Keep One?

      3:31
    • 4. Sketchbook Tour: Russia

      1:32
    • 5. Sketchbook Tools and Materials

      11:18
    • 6. What to Draw on the First Page

      8:45
    • 7. The 30 Minutes a Day Challenge

      4:07
    • 8. Sketchbook Tour: India

      2:02
    • 9. Final Thoughts and Homework

      2:10
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About This Class

Want to learn how to start a daily sketchbook and actually keep the practice going?

Always Drawing is a new series from NYTimes bestselling illustrator, Mike Lowery. Mike has kept a daily sketchbook for more than 20 years and wants to help you start a daily routine of keeping one, too. And "sketchbook basics" isn't basic at all! It's geared towards artists of all skill types, from beginner to advanced students.

In this class we cover:

  • What is a sketchbook and why it's important to keep one every day.
  • Tips on getting started and maintaining a consistent practice.
  • Types of sketchbooks and what materials you should try out
  • Approaches and styles to help you get inspired and excited to draw.

And lots more! There are also two assignments that will help you get started with a sketchbook of your own.

Part one is (as you may have guessed) is just the beginning! This series will be based off of your suggestions, questions, and requests. Be sure to leave comments with ideas for future sketchbook-related questions!

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Meet Your Teacher

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Mike Lowery

Illustrator and Author

Teacher


 

Mike Lowery is an author, New York Times bestselling illustrator, public speaker, and an avid sketchbook-er.

He's been keeping one every day for more than TWENTY years, and he's on a mission to get you to keep one, too,

You can see his daily sketchbook posts on Instagram:  @mikelowerystudio

Mike is an author and artist living in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Katrin (who is also a children's book illustrator) and his incredibly genius kids. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to dozens of children’s books to gallery walls worldwide. 

 He's currently writing and illustrating a series with Scholastic starting with "EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DINOSAURS." &n... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction : Interesting. Yes. Okay. Oh, I see it's upside down. Yeah, that makes more sense. Oh, hello. I didn't see you there. I'm author and illustrator and avid sketchbook keeper, Mike Lowery. Have you ever wanted to keep a daily sketchbook of your own but you always seem to fail for some reason? Maybe life kept getting in the way, but more likely, maybe you couldn't think of what to draw. Well, I'm here to help. In this nine-volume VHS collection, I'm going to give you some tips and tricks and advice that will change your life forever. I'm going to teach you how to keep a daily sketchbook. Join me now on Always Drawing with Mike Lowery. 2. Class Orientation: [MUSIC] Hello. I'm offering illustrator, Mike Lowery. Welcome to the Always Drawing sketchbooking series. This is a new type of course that I'm going to be doing where we will be exploring every aspect of keeping a sketchbook, starting with materials to use, why to keep a sketch book. We're going to explore later on some activities that you can do in your sketchbook if you can't think of something to draw. The goal for the whole course is for you to keep a sketchbook of your own. We're going to talk about style, watercolor brushes, pen and ink, pencils, and paper. Again, the whole goal is for you to keep a daily sketchbook. This class is geared towards anybody. It's for people that are just starting out with keeping a sketchbook. It's for people that have tried to keep sketchbooks in the past and for some reason something got in the way and they weren't able to do it. It's for people of all different variety of skill levels. Maybe you're a beginner, you're just experimenting a little bit or maybe you've been drawing for really a long time and you just want to start being better about keeping a daily sketchbook. [MUSIC] I feel like maybe before we begin, I have to introduce myself. I feel like it would be weird if I didn't. I mentioned I'm Mike Lowery. I am a New York Times bestselling Illustrator. They make you say that if you make it to the list. I don't know if you know that or not, but even at a family reunion and stuff, my mom will say, "This is your aunt" and I'll say, " I am New York Times bestselling Illustrator." I'm a New York Times bestselling illustrator. I'm also an author who's worked on dozens and dozens of books. I have also written illustrated greeting cards for companies like Hallmark and I've even done food trucks and other fun things like that. The most important thing about me that you should know is that I'm an avid sketchbook keeper. These are some of my sketchbooks here. I've been keeping a sketchbook almost every day for about 23 years. If you're thinking, just from the looks of it, then you must have been maybe four to six years old when you started keeping a sketchbook, and you're right. That's exactly right. That's not right. I've been keeping a sketch book for a long time and I keep getting questions either through Instagram or through my website with some specific questions about keeping sketchbooks. I think that they're good questions so I decided rather than responding to every single one, I've decided to make this class where I can talk about some of those things. 3. What is a Sketchbook + Why Keep One?: Now we're going to talk about what a sketchbook is. Now I know that you know what a sketchbook is, but I don't know if you know what a sketchbook could be or what it could become. I think that there's a couple of things that you should maybe put into your brain about the way that you think about a sketchbook. A sketchbook is a place for you to experiment, to explore new materials and techniques, it's a place to make mistakes, and it's a place for you to ultimately learn from those mistakes, hopefully. I don't know if I have ever learned anything, but I try to. Hopefully, it's a place that you will learn from those mistakes and that you will exercise the way that you draw and then you get stronger and more confident or more comfortable. Ultimately, this is where you end up finding your voice or your style. That's a pretty big thing to maybe come out of them. For you, it might also be that maybe you're not interested in making a living from art. You just do it as a way of relaxing or doing something new. Another big reason that for many years that I kept a sketchbook was just to keep a journal of my life, to keep drawings that would illustrate some things that I did during the day. Some days it's really boring. Some days it's just food that I ate. Some days it was a little funny thing that happened, maybe a little note. But some days it might be remembering the way that I've felt the first time that I saw a kid on an ultrasound, not just a kid, but my kid. I didn't just randomly go into someone else's ultrasound appointment. But it might be stuff that I would have probably remembered that day. Anyway, but there might be other things where, I think traveling especially, there's all these little things that happen. When you're traveling, you're trying new food and you meet new people, little things happen. There's these little moments where you feel awkward or uncomfortable potentially. You can make some notes about that. Those things are really great to revisit later in a sketchbook. But a sketchbook does all of these things. I think that it's a really great place to keep track of these things. Let me also add that a sketchbook is not a place where you generate content for social media. It can be. I will admit that on my Instagram account, I show a lot of drawings from my sketchbooks, which I think could potentially still perpetuate this concept that every artist is making incredible artwork every single day in their sketchbook, and it's just not true. I make mistakes in my sketchbook too. I just don't post those things. I think that maybe a lot of people don't post the days where it didn't work. Then if you're just following along, if you're somebody who's not keeping a regular sketchbook, you're thinking to yourself, "Well, I could never do it. These people are prolific and they're creating new content every single day and I am unable to do that." I do think that part of it is just drawing all the time, but you also have to be willing to make mistakes and learn how to fix pages and things like that. I'm going to show you some examples from my sketchbooks over the years and maybe that'll kick off some ideas for you on how you'd like to keep your sketchbook. 4. Sketchbook Tour: Russia: All right, here's a really short sketchbook tour from a trip to Russia that I took before I left. I just collected some weird Russia facts to get prepped for the trip. There was once a beard tax in Russia and there are some wealthy Russians. They'll hire fake ambulances to get through traffic. I thought that was insane. Alaska used to belong to Russia. They bought it in 1867. We being in the United States, I wasn't part of that deal. While I was there, I just made some notes to myself. Again, you'll notice I keep rough, sketchy, notes over here on one side. One of my favorite stops was to go into this Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, etc., all these video games from the Soviet era, so I sat and drew a lot of those while I was there. There was a Christmas market going on, which actually looked a lot like the Christmas markets in Germany. I was surprised. Here's one of the tents or one of little cabin things at the Moscow Christmas market. Then one last thing that I'll show you, I think it's the last last thing, is I bought a bunch of these enamel Soviet era pins and I really liked those. I just sat one day, I didn't know what to draw, so I just sat and drew. That's my little tour of my Russian sketchbook. 5. Sketchbook Tools and Materials: One of the questions that I get the most is what pen are you using. No one ever asks me about my daily skincare routine, which is what I thought Instagram, like the little question area was formed and no one asks me about that. They always ask me what pen are you using. So here, once and for all, I will make a comprehensive list. I'm going to show you some of the tools that I really like to use. I am not a materials marketing person, I'm not a sales rep or whatever, I am the person who will show you some things that I like to use. Then I think for some of you, you'll look at what I'm using and you'll say, well then that's what I will be using forever, and that is definitely not what I want. I don't love to answer the question because I think that there are some people that will say, “What kind of pen are using?“ I'll say I'm using this pilot pen or whatever, and they think that is the pen that all artists need to use and that's the one that I will use. That's why I don't love answering that question. What I would prefer would be for you to try a bunch of materials out for yourself. I didn't know that I would love watercolor until I started really playing around with it. I didn't know that I would end up using ink and gray wash. Sometimes I go through windows where all I use is pencils, but anyway, in this next section, I'm going to show you some of the materials that I really like and materials that I've used in the past or that have been recommended to me, and I'll show you some of those now. First off, let's look at the sketch books. This is a little moleskine sketchbook. The paper is pretty good. It's a heavy weight, but it's better for maybe pen or pencil. I like those because they're small, but when I'm working large, I like to get one of these large Strathmore sketchbooks with heavy duty paper in it. But a sketchbook can be any size. I prefer to pick something that I can carry with me, something like this. Here's one that I carried with me to Iceland and it was a good size to get in there and work and do some drawings of some of the geysers. But a sketchbook doesn't have to be some fancy, I don't even know where this one came from. This is some old one. It's from maybe 15 years ago. I don't know where I got it. The paper was awful. I hated it. Here's one for moleskine, it's watercolor sketch book. These are great. There's less pages in it, but these are great if you use a lot of wet media like watercolor. Posca marker is really heavy ink stuff. Moleskine makes these larger format ones too. I think these are really good. I mostly like these for pencil. Here's a drawing that I started on a flight to Turkey where I just started drawing. I didn't like using a lot of wet media with a book like this. But here's a sailor that we saw in Samos. We didn't really see him, but I just made him up. I carry a little sketchbook like this with me sometimes for just really quick pencil drawings and for making notes. I've gone and spent a lot of time making by hand a sketchbook. Here's one that I made a decade ago now. Red screen print at the ends and put this nice paper. Even these little moleskine ones, they're good for just pencil drawing and things like that. The thing that I've been using the most recently is speed ball makes these handbook journals. I've been using these for a couple years now and the paper is good. I'm not saying that this is the sketchbook that you should get, I hope that I make that clear. This is just something that I use. It's a good size for me. It handles wet media pretty well. It's really good with pen and ink. Anyway, so that's a speed ball handbook journal. Now let's take a look at some pens. Uni-ball vision is probably the pen that I use the most. It's got a uniform line. It dries pretty quickly, and it's pretty water safe. So if I'm going to do any watercolor or ink wash over top of it, then it works really well for that. It's not the only pen that I use. I'm going to show you some other pens, but this is a good one. I'm just going to draw a couple of bats. So there's a bat with a uni-ball pen. Next up, I'm going to show you this tombow pen. It's a brush pen, and it's got a lot more variation in the line. Take a look at this. It's good with water too. I can do some ink wash over top of them. I'm going to show you that at the end. There's another bat. It's got a little bit more of a brush pen feel to it. Now this is the tool that I use the most, just a real cheap mechanical pencil, 0.7 lead. I carry one of these all the time. I make notes with them. I draw with these a lot. I like that the lead is really soft so that the line breaks up a little bit. But I have some fancy mechanical pencils too that I also carry, but I like this a lot. Those fancy ones always had those metal tips that can scratch like these cheap plastic ones. You can just throw them in your bag and not really worry about it. Now, these are Posca markers. You might have seen some stuff about these. They've gotten pretty popular. It's an acrylic paint marker and it's got this really great fluid line to it. You can fill in shapes really easily. I like to use these as background color a lot. I'm going to show you that a little later on. I'm drawing with it here as like a regular pen, but it's pretty easy to fill in big, very opaque, very flat shapes, and so I like to use these a lot. There's a lot of different tips forum, the color selection is really good. It's one of the tools that I use a lot for color. It's a Posca marker. Here's another one. I'm going to show you a different width as a thicker line with this one. I really like these markers a lot. Can't forget to draw the legs here. Now, next is a Kuretake brush pen. Now these are not great with water, but it's another brush pen that I'll carry with me because it's got a firm but flexible brush tip to it. So that's not really a brush tip, but it's got this rubbery feel to the tip. So I really like drawing with this. If you're not going to be working with anything wet over top of that, I really recommend this brush. Well, not brush, but you know what I mean, brush pen. I'll make more detailed notes about all these pens that I'm using below so that you can actually pick up some of the ones that you really like. This is one of my favorite brush pens. It can be a mix of this brush pen, and it's got this really great rough texture to it. You can get really fine points. Now, I'm painting more of a chunky line here. But you can get really fine lines. If you haven't really played with a brush pen before, this is one that I highly recommend because it's a lot of fun, it's really easy, it's not real messy. Look at this fantastic type of artwork that you get from it. Look at this. Here's another tombow brush pen. It's just a different weight. It's a little bit firmer, but I like this one a lot. Again, I'm not trying to tell you all. These are the best art supplies ever. These are just things that I have used over the years that I tend to like. I think that there's stuff that didn't make the list maybe because it leaked too much. I had a couple of pens that would do that a lot. This is just another brush pen. This one's from Muji. It's got a very soft point to it. Now, I'm not always recommending a brush pen over a brush with ink, I'm only suggesting it for this because they're easy to carry, they're just a little bit less mess. I like ink wash a lot. This is one of the things that I like to carry with me. I just mix water and a little bit of ink inside one of these water brushes, and then you can carry this with you. You can't take them on a plane because they'll leak, but you can change the gray in it or you can make it a color if you want to add ink in water and mix with any kind of ink. It makes this light wash. I use this a lot. You'll see this a lot in my sketchbooks. If I'm at home, I use a brush and ink wash that I've made. But if I'm traveling, I like to carry it in one of these water brushes like those. I keep talking about gray wash. So I'm going to show you how I make it for when I'm at the house. I use India ink like this and I put a few drops in a glass of water. Maybe I should put some psychedelic music on. Stir it up. You just want to test the consistency but I've checked mine. Now look at how I've just painted on. It's just India ink watered down, but it makes really a nice gray tone to it. I'm not going to get into this a lot, but I'm going to show you my travel watercolor set. The reason I'm not going to get into it is I want to do a whole travel sketch booking watercolor section later. So just look at cheap watercolor sets and you'll find something like this. One last thing, look at this big acrylic marker. These are great in a sketchbook. Now, I'm doing mine on a pad right now just because I'm testing some stuff out. But you can make really big shapes like this, and you can fill it in. Just like the Posca marker, these acrylic markers are really good for laying down color flat in a sketchbook. Now, I'll let it dry. You didn't see that, I fast forwarded through that but once it's completely dry, then you can take a brush pen like this one and you can draw right over top of it. I think that this would be a fun sketchbook exercise to do later together. Let me know if that's something that you'd want to see for a class later on. That's the end of my sketchbooking tools section. Come to the next section where I want to show you some more sketchbooks stuff and we're even going to talk about a 30 minutes a day sketchbooking challenge. Now it's your turn. You need to find a sketchbook that you're going to be happy with for a little bit. Maybe you can go to an art supply store and try some out. Maybe some pens, maybe you get a little watercolor also. I'll see you in the next section and we're going to experiment a little bit more with our materials. 6. What to Draw on the First Page: All right, today has come. You've got yourself a new sketch book. It's the paper that you like. You've got your pen picked out that you want to draw with, maybe you've got some watercolor, but it's that dreaded first page. The first page in this sketchbook, it's always super intimidating because you've got this great nice paper, you don't know what to draw. Here's an exercise for your first page in a sketchbook just to get things moving. What I like to do is I like to start by doing a little something about myself. Now first thing, put your information over here. I'm not going to write mine but you can draw that. Maybe that's the first thing that you do. Write your name, your contact information, your email address, and then on this page, just start drawing something about yourself. I'm going to do a little drawing of myself. I'm going to go straight to pen. Maybe you don't necessarily want to do this. Let me draw a little thing about myself here. What this does is, don't think of something new, just think of something that you like to draw, or not even something that you like to draw and just think about something about yourself. Maybe you have other hobbies other than drawing. Here's my hair, here's my cowlick, here's my beard. All right, so I'm going to start there, and I'm just going to add a few things about me here on this first page, typically where a v-neck like this, and let's see. Something else about me. I like to draw keyboards, so maybe this is just a page where you just start drawing some of the things that you like to draw. Maybe you don't know what to draw, so just maybe you are a knitter and you want to draw some knitting supplies, or a sewing machine could be a lot of fun if you like to sew. For me here, I'm drawing this old synthesizer, and these are all things that I'm drawing quickly because I've drawn them a lot, so maybe you don't have something like that. Again that's totally fine. Maybe you want to start with pencil. Maybe that's a really good idea to start with pencil here, and I got this old keyboard. Does anybody out there have some old keyboards at their house that I could sent up in my address. Well maybe you have to message. Me I don't think I should just put my address in the message board. Some old keyboard. What I'm doing is I'm just trying to do a bunch of doodles that fill up the page. Again for me, these are things that I just like to draw, but it might be maybe you have a collection of synthesizers that you really like, or maybe you play the drums. Maybe I'll draw a drum. I like guitar pedals, so I'm going to draw [inaudible] guitar pedal here. Now I'm going to finish mine off with a little bit of ink wash, so I've got my wash saved in a jar like this, and open that up, and I've got my watercolor brush, and I like to use the left hand side of the page to just test things out. Again you're going to put your contact information up here, and then maybe for this one, you're going to use watercolor. I'm going to use this ink wash just to add some value here. There you go. We did it. We were able to fill in a weird and dreaded first page in a sketchbook. It can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Once you get started, now we've got a sketch book that's rolling, and now it's just time to move on to the next day. Your turn. Draw something on the very first page of your sketchbook. I know you can do it. I'll see you in the next chapter where we'll keep exploring. 7. The 30 Minutes a Day Challenge: This chapter for some of you is going to maybe just make you a little nervous because it involves a very big challenge for you. This isn't necessarily your homework, I'll get to that later, but it's something for you to start thinking about for your sketchbook. That would be the 30 minutes a day challenge, okay? Here's the 30 minute a day challenge. You probably couldn't guess from the title of the challenge, what you're going to do is you are going to start working in your sketchbook for 30 minutes a day, every single day, okay? You could start with seven days, which we're going to talk about for the homework, but the goal would be to maybe try it for a month. What you're going to do is this, it's very simple, you're going to start by taking your sketchbook. Let me pick up one here. This is not my most recent sketchbook. This is an older one. You're going to take your sketchbook and you're going to, well, first of all, you need to write your name and your contact information. I don't think a lot of people don't talk about that with their sketchbooks, but I always keep mine. I'm not going to show you mine because then you'll start calling me or whatever. But I'm always worried that if I lose my sketchbook, if I leave it on an airplane or if I drop it somewhere in our gardens here on the Lowery estate property, if I drop it, then hopefully somebody will find it when they're taking the tour at the Lowery homestead and then it will be returned to me. Although I assume they would see the name, they would never return it because they will just know how it's valuable. Anyway, but I put my contact information, my name, and my email address, and my phone number. Luckily, I've never lost it before, but just in case. Anyway, what you're going to do is you're going to start, put your contact information in it, and then I start by dating the pages. You don't have to predate them, okay? You just start with today's date and then we'll go from there. The drawing for 30 minutes a day challenge, what that does is you are going to sit down and find your time, 30 minutes to focus on it. Just like any other form of exercise, physical, or any other skill that you've wanted to be better at, you have to find time to do it. It might mean that you have to wake up early and set an alarm for yourself to get up slightly earlier than you normally do. I know for some of you that would be really tough, it is for me at points. Or maybe it's during your lunch break while you're snacking, you're going to start drawing for 30 minutes, but you're going to set a timer and you're really going to be actively drawing for 30 minutes. Or maybe it's at night. But over the years, I know that we have so many excuses and things that fill up our time. But I've had it just for years and years, like, "I would love to keep a sketchbook, but I don't really have time to do that." I would like to challenge you and say if you've ever said, "Well, I don't really have time to keep a sketchbook." I would like for you to think about, are there any games on your phone or other apps that you flip through that are not directly related to your work or directly related to your family? Maybe it's even a word, Scrabble type app. Can you say Scrabble or is it like copier? But it might mean you cutting something out. It might mean you not being able to binge that latest television show that you've heard so much about a New Yorker who just keeps, "You've not watch this yet? You need to watch it right now." Maybe just pause it for now and really try and focus on drawing. It'll end up doing a lot of really good things for your brain and it'll help you calm down a little bit at points. That's what it does for me at least. It will also really help you push some of these skill techniques that we were talking about earlier. 8. Sketchbook Tour: India: Here's another super quick sketchbook tour. This was a trip to India that I took a while back. Just a few things that really stood out for me on the trip that I made notes about like eating soup on the little flight. It was real small and empty flight and I paid to settle soup. I had a layover in Turkey, and I ended up buying another neck pillow because and I don't like my neck pillow. Waiting in line. This was 2:45 in the morning, heard heard people yelling. Then the next day I was in a market in old Delhi. Made some drawings from that. Of course, I drew all the food that I tried, and I saved some tickets. Here's a little story from India, from a market in India, I had a guide. He kept pointing at stuff, and asking if I knew what it was, and he said, "Sir, do you know what this is? Do you know what this is?" No. No, I don't know what it is. He would point at stuff, and it would be dried figs, he'd say. He'd laugh because I didn't know anything. Do you know what this is? This is coconut, and I'm thinking, "How did I not get coconut?" It was always dried fruit, or some form of dried fruit, I never got it right. Then, he pointed at something. Ready? He pointed at something. He wanted to know if I knew what it was. It was a big sign that said water gun. It felt like a trick question, and I said it's a water gun. He seemed totally shocked. He said, "What? Oh, yes. That's right." So you know, if I'm traveling, I might keep track of, here's another ticket, but I am going to keep track of food, and maybe one moment, but I do like to try and keep track of some of these interesting stories, other things that happen on trips like that. 9. Final Thoughts and Homework: This is the end. But before I go, I wanted to say thank you for following along. Sketchbook is something that I've been really passionate about for a long time, and I hope that a class like this would just be something to get you a little excited about it too. You do have some homework. Don't think that I'm just going to leave and you don't have to do any work. I did all this work, now you have to do some work. You have two things for homework, which is number 1, I want you to really try that 30 minutes a day challenge. Just start with seven days. If you can do it for seven days, then keep going, and maybe it becomes part of your routine. The second thing that you should try is doing that first page in your sketchbook image, just something about yourself. If you feel comfortable, if you really like it, post it below in the project gallery so that we can get to know you and take a look at it. I also want to remind you that this is a continuing class, this is just part 1, and the following classes will be based on questions and suggestions that you might have based on this class. My idea is that the next one would be exercises that you can do in your sketchbook if you can't think of what to draw. But let me know what your questions are. If there's some materials and techniques that you'd like to see, let me know. Also if you'd like to see more of my daily sketchbooks, you can follow me on Instagram, I'll put all that stuff below, and then also on my website you can see a book where I've collected some of my favorite travel drawings and a guide about travel sketchbook and things like that. But be sure to follow me on Skillshare so that you can see when the next class is going to come out. Maybe it's already out, it depends on when you're watching it. I mean, I assume that you're not watching it today that I'm filming it because that, anyway, but follow me on Skillshare so that you know when the next class comes out. I look forward to seeing you next time on. Always draw with Mike Lowery.