How to Keep a Sketchbook - Exercises for Inspiration and Motivation! | Jordan Hill | Skillshare

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How to Keep a Sketchbook - Exercises for Inspiration and Motivation!

teacher avatar Jordan Hill, Illustrator and Storyteller.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Don't Be Discouraged

    • 3. Familiarize Yourself

    • 4. Prepping Your Pages

    • 5. Set a Timer

    • 6. Make Mistakes

    • 7. Use Sticky Notes

    • 8. Draw it Again

    • 9. ABCs of Drawing

    • 10. Keep a List

    • 11. Take Notes

    • 12. Outro

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About This Class

Has it always been one of your goals to start a sketchbook or pick up drawing but you haven't gotten around to it? Are you discouraged with your current sketchbooks and want some tips for sprucing them up? Need some inspiration or prompts to incorporate into your sketchbooks? Simply looking for another artist's perspective on these books? Look no further, this is the class for you!

In this class, I will go through a series of exercises that I like to use in my own sketchbooks and show examples of how I execute these techniques. You can use these exercises as ways to get started in your sketchbook when you get stuck; using one of these ideas is a great way to get your creative juices flowing when you're attempting to draw every day.

In the end, this class is about having fun, so I hope you enjoy yourself as you work through the exercises I've provided!

Music: - Feelin' Good by martynharvey

Meet Your Teacher

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Jordan Hill

Illustrator and Storyteller.


Hi, thanks for visiting! I'm Jordan, and I've been an artist and storyteller all my life.

I've always been intrigued by the arts and the sciences alike, and this curiosity has an impact on the way that I approach my artwork and life in general. The most important thing to me has always and will always be the emotion people get from experiencing my work. I want people to feel something, and I hope that I can help encourage you as well. 

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1. Intro: Maybe you're a beginner artist who's still struggling a little bit when it comes to sketchbooks. Maybe you're someone who has wanted to start a sketchbook for years, but just has never gotten around to it, maybe, or someone who's been drawing for years. But you're currently feeling a little bit confused when it comes to your sketchbooks. You want more inspiration or just a different artists perspective on it. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then this might be the class for you. I'm Jordan. I am a illustrator and storyteller, and I have been drawing almost daily for going on two years Now. I know that some days can be rough when it comes to inspiration and trying to figure out what to draw, especially when you're doing it every single day. But that is one of the things I hope to help people with in this course. In this class, I will be going through a series of exercises and techniques that I use in my own sketchbooks and have heard other people like to use in. There's a swell. There will be quite a few hands on projects in which I will present you with exercises and then go through them myself so you can kind of see how it's done. And I hope that this class will be helpful to you no matter who you are or where you are at in your journey as an artist. The only things you will be absolutely required toe have for this course are a sketchbook and something to draw this, this convey be anything as basic as a school pencil or a ballpoint pen. However, if you already have any other mediums, things like water, colors or acrylics or wash, or anything else, those will also be able to be used as well. So I hope that this class will help you find your way a little bit on your artistic journey , and I hope to see you there. 2. Don't Be Discouraged: before we really jump in and get into the meat of this course, I wanted Teoh offer a word of encouragement above all else. Whether you're completely new toe art or you've been drawing for years, it's kind of inevitable that you'll find people probably online that you think are better than you. Even if we know that our is subjective, sometimes our brain will still try to make these comparisons. It think it's a somewhat natural human thing, but that doesn't mean that it's not still a dangerous thought process. To get into something to keep in mind when you're trying to work through these things is that many artists, most artists myself included Onley post the work that they're most happy with. There might be the occasional struggle drawing that they post, but most likely they did a ton of drawings before that that they weren't very fond off. They typically don't show the worst of the worst because they don't really want to present themselves like that. And also a lot of times, the artists that you are looking at online have probably been drawing a lot longer than you have, and even if they haven't even if you started at the same time. People progress at different rates. There are so many different things that go into how quickly a person advances. If someone isn't pushing themselves and they're just doing the same thing day in, day out, they're not going to advance asses quickly as someone who is making an active effort to push outside of their comfort zone and actually grow. There are so many variables when it comes to other people in their art online, and though it is nice to be able to look at other people's are and be inspired by it, it's also very easily to become discouraged by it. Try not to compare yourself to that. You're allowed to look other people's artwork. Don't get me wrong, and you're allowed to appreciate other people's artwork. But when you take someone else's artwork and you compare it to your own, it's extremely counterintuitive. Not only is it negative, but you're also putting yourself in a mindset where you feel like it's not okay to grow, and it's not okay to make mistakes, which is an inaccurate way of thinking. Instead of comparing yourself to other artists, try to compare your work to your password. I fall victim a lot of times to wanting every day to be even better than the one before. And though there's nothing wrong with wanting to improve and get better in the context of yourself, it's also important to note that everyone has bad days, even the artists that you may be comparing yourself to. So instead of comparing yourself to other artists, try to focus on your own work and improving that, and a lot of times you'll find that it's a lot less discouraging overall. 3. Familiarize Yourself: the first thing you're going to want to do when starting a new sketch book is to familiarize yourself with that. Some people tend to buy the same sketchbook over and over again, but I prefer to try new ones whenever I get the chance. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that it keeps me from becoming bored with the same thing. Sometimes having a new type of sketchbook is just the kind of motivation need toe actually get cracking on the pages themselves. However, because of this, I definitely have to take the time to familiarize myself with the paper and sketch book that I'm using. At that time. Different papers will take different mediums in different ways. Some of these effects you may like some of them you might not. But the only way to figure these things out is to try everything. You can do this on one page, in which you try to use all of the mediums you possibly can in a mixed media style piece, or you could do it over a series of several different pictures. Personally, I like to keep a page or two in the very back of my sketchbook exclusively for swatches when I goto work on a specific sketchbook page, and I'm kind of nervous about jumping into it. Having a smudge page where I can try out the mediums and see how they react to the paper itself is a nice way to ease that frustration or that nervousness. You can also familiarize yourself with your sketchbook by using some of the techniques and prompts that I give later in this course. But essentially, the idea is to not become so discouraged by the idea that it's not quite turning out the way you want when you have a brand new sketchbook and you're not quite sure how it works yet. So with that in mind, we can move on to some more exercise based videos. 4. Prepping Your Pages: though I personally don't always use this technique to start my sketchbooks. I know that for a lot of people, it can be extremely useful, So I wanted to make sure that I mentioned it, and this is to prep your pages beforehand for me. I primarily do this when I'm having a rough time getting started, and the blank page is incredibly intimidating. However, for some people, this is a very good way to start a sketchbook. You open your brand new sketchbook and you add something to the pages. This could be anything. It could be a random shape. Some paints blotches of color, wash a scribble or anything else you can think of. The actual act of prepping a batch of pages can be extremely fun, and it gives you a jumping off point for when you reach that point in your sketchbook. It acts as a sort of prompt, and it can be an interesting challenge to see how you deal with the randomness of these product pages. If you've never tried this before, I would recommend you set some time aside. Teoh do a handful of your pages. It doesn't have to be every page especially if you're not sure that you'll like this technique or not. But if you've never tried, it's definitely worth giving it a shot. And you might decide that you actually like having prepped pages more than you like having blank ones, in which case you can go back and prep more. 5. Set a Timer: one of the most common things I hear from people that want to start sketchbooks but never have is that they don't have time, Teoh. Now, the reality here is that you don't actually need extended periods of time to drop. Sometimes there's this idea of hours upon hours of uninterrupted time. But in the end, you really only need a few minutes. I've found that the most efficient way of working with this idea is to set a timer for five minutes and only draw for that amount of time. If you really, genuinely only have five minutes to spare your done after that and you still withdrew something, so you're still making progress. However, for a lot of people, starting is also the hardest part. So it might happen that you draw for five minutes and then you realize, Oh, I actually do have time. I was just procrastinating on starting in the first place, and in that case you don't have to stop. You can continue drawing this five minute timer technique is a good thing for trying new things and working with materials that you've never experimented with before. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we're trying out new things. And this five minute idea takes some of the pressure off, mostly because we don't generally think we're going to come out with anything perfect in the span of five minutes when you're first getting started withdrawing and you're really trying to build up that creative habit. I would recommend doing this once a day. Every day. It's only five minutes, and you can take this five minutes from anywhere. It can be five minutes while you're drinking your coffee in the morning. It could be five minutes that you would have spent on social media, but instead you want to draw. It could be five minutes while you're watching a TV show. If you have five minutes to spare, it's a jumping off point, and it does help to install in yourself a creative practice 6. Make Mistakes: in my opinion and in the opinions of many other artists, a sketchbook is a place to try new things. It's a place for you to experiment safely, and nobody has to see it if you don't want them to. The concept of trying new things can apply to anything from the medium's you're using to the actual way that you execute a drying of, Ah, certain object. Try not to be afraid, and I know this is a lot easier said than done. But mistakes we really can help you learn. There are several quotes of uncertain origins that revolve around this idea, but the point is still the same. Essentially, it goes along the lines of I didn't fail 1000 or some versions say 10,000 times. I just found 1000 or 10,000 ways that didn't work. This is the approach we should come toe art with. Even if something doesn't go the way we expect it to, it should still be a learning experience because we're finding things that we don't like. We're finding things that we don't want to repeat, and that, in and of itself means that you learned something. Some of these quote unquote mistakes can actually turn out to be happy accidents. It might not turn out exactly the way that you wanted it to in first place, but you might still like result. The only way to know is to try something else you could do along these lines is to make mistakes on purpose. Close your eyes and make a random scribble or drop ink on your page and then work around it . Try to incorporate these into your page and look at them as something to emphasize instead of something too hot. 7. Use Sticky Notes: the technique I'm going to illustrate in this video kind of runs in contrast to the point that I made in the last video. But both are valid in their own way. In the last video, I discussed the importance of making mistakes. But just because there is value in making mistakes, that doesn't mean that you necessarily have to be happy with it. If you do end up making mistake and there's no way you confined to truly incorporate it into your page, there are ways of fixing them, if you would like. Some people may disagree with this, but I think it's okay if you feel more comfortable with pages that look nice, so long as you don't let the obsession with perfection get the best of you. If you can fix your mistakes and still be happy making them, then by all means follow the technique illustrated in this video. However, if you think the perfectionism would get the best of you, I might advise going against this idea now. The technique I am talking about is something that a lot of artists will dio, and this is to use post it notes. They add an interesting pop of color while allowing you to quote unquote fix your mistakes by covering them up. This is also a way to get more practice. And on the same page is because you did your drawings underneath the post. It notes you made your mistakes, you learn from them and then you executed it differently and in a way that you enjoyed more and then you simply cover what you did Not like again. This is one of those things you need to be careful with because I do truly believe that sketchbooks are made for making mistakes, but it is something to keep in mind as being an option. 8. Draw it Again: again keeping in the same vein as making mistakes. It's okay to try drawing something again if you don't like the way it turned out. In fact, I highly encourage this because it allows you to look at your mistakes, see what you did wrong and then learn from them. It's pretty much a unanimous concept that the only way to get better at something is to do it again and again. It's where the phrase practice makes perfect comes from. Even though I personally prefer the phrase practice makes better. It is extremely rare that we get something right the first time. This might be a certain technique that you choose to try again. It might be a certain pose, different proportions or any other number of things. It's also okay if you want to change some things about your approach in order to figure out which bits of the piece that you didn't like an example of. This might be the time that I attempted a wash portrait in full color, and the tones really didn't turn out the way that I wanted them. Teoh. When I did a second attempt at a wash portrait, I used mostly black and white so that I could get a feel for the medium better, and it gave me a place to jump off of in the future. In the time lapse that you're currently viewing, I decided to redo the piece that I did for my five minute timer challenge. I used a few different mediums in order to get similar effects that were a bit more controlled, and I also gave myself a tiny bit more time just so I could have a better chance at getting something out of it that I actually liked. 9. ABCs of Drawing: The exercise I'm going to discuss in this video is a bit less vague than some of the others , and this is just a good general way to come up with ideas. You could call this any number of things A B, C's of drawing or whatever. But essentially, the concept is simply to draw the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a particular letter, you can do these in order as a series in which you do a through Z. It's a good way to fill up a solid 26 pages of your sketchbook, or you can randomly pick a letter either right off the top of your head or using a random generator. In my case, I decided to a just because it seemed to be the most self explanatory version, and the first thing I thought of when presented with the letter A was the word alligator. This is a bit of a challenge for me. I don't really draw as many animals as I would like to. I have been wanting to get more into creature designed, so it was a very good subject for me to tackle. And so in the end. I think I really got something out of this random idea generation method. If you wanted to take it to a whole other level, you could even get some smaller sketchbooks and dedicate each one toe on individual letter . It's simply a matter of how much time you want to dedicate to this concept and how inspiring you find it. Overall, you could put a further theme on it. You could say animals that start with the letters of the alphabet or flowers that start with the letters of the alphabet. Honestly, the options are pretty much endless, and if you decide to generate some ideas from this and draw based on it, I would love to see what you've accomplished. 10. Keep a List: Now, the next tip I have for you on keeping a sketchbook is something that I kind of developed and realized I need to do over a long period of time. And that is to write your ideas down. I know a lot of people think that they can keep their ideas in their head. But sometimes you're in the middle of drawing something and you come up with 234 more ideas . And then next thing you know you for gotten three of them by the time you're finished with what you're currently working on, those lost ideas very quickly add up. And it could be very disappointing when you recall an idea you had but can no longer grasp . So I'm going to show you a few different ways to keep track of your ideas. I'm not the most organized, but I know that I can look in these places for inspiration. If I'm not feeling the ideas at the time, the first place I keep them are in my bullet journal, and they're simply a wist things. This was created during an October, and it's just things that came up things that I thought about things that were interesting to me while I was currently developing pieces. There's things here that I haven't even touched on yet and this was a solid five or so months ago. The next place I want to show you is in your sketchbook itself. Now, this is an older finished sketchbook of mine. But on one of the pages, I just made a list of things I wanted to improve on things that I wanted to draw in this sketchbook or other sketchbooks, and I didn't get to all of them in this sketchbook. But it was Mace to that intention and the final thing or post it notes. Now this is my current sketchbook, and if you look in the back, they've sort of run dry. But I'll stick a few post it notes to the back cover so that if I have concepts or just general things I want to draw, I can keep them on these Post it notes. I have so many posted notes. This is not even half of my post, it notes, all full of ideas and concepts. Some are just little notes from books that I've read things that I like to be a idea of and would eventually want to incorporate into a narc concept things that could be titles, just anything that was inspiring to me. I hope that one on these post amounts and like I said, that's not even the half of them. And now when I'm having a quote unquote art block or I'm having a hard time deciding what to draw, I can look through these lists and find something that is inspiring. I hope that kind of explains a bit how this could be a helpful technique for generating ideas or keeping track of your ideas, and it shows you that you don't necessarily have to be super organized either. 11. Take Notes: now, one of the very last things I want to talk about in this course on sketchbooks is that a lot of people think of sketchbooks of thes things that have beautiful illustrations on every page. And they're just these masterpieces. And for some people, that's what they are. Though this is always your personal choice. I tend to prefer toe look at my sketchbooks as a developmental tool. This means that though not every page will look perfect, there will be a lot of behind the scenes work, including from nail sketches and notes that I've taken and note taking is what I really wanted. Teoh kind of show you through in this sketchbook. There are many different things you might find it useful to note in your sketchbooks here. I just mentioned that I like to the eyes smaller and further apart, as opposed to more centered and larger, and I just made a know about art style here. I was talking about hair and profile view, and I made a very adamant note to myself to draw more guys because I draw a lot of girls, and I noticed that this was where I was trying to do a character design in which I was emerging the words horns and plants, and I was just talking about again hair from the side, and I was talking about how it could be too overwhelming if I twisted the plants into the hair. But if I was going around the horns that looked interesting, and so those types of notes, primarily to help yourself through the design process can be incredibly useful for teaching yourself how to get better at your art. In the last two examples, I'm going to give you what actually are also pages that have thumbnails on them and that that was another thing I mentioned off the sort of development tool. So these air some illustrations. I was kind of planing, never actually executed them yet. But I can now go back if I'm having a rough time and draw from these thumbnails. And here I was trying to figure out what I liked in pieces and what I didn't like. So I was talking about distorted image, slightly darker images, reflections and water, Victorian style clothing, just kind of giving myself reference points so that if I came back to these tiny, tiny little thumbnails In the future, I would know what was happening, and the same applies to these thumbnails as well. It was a similar concept where I was trying to make notes of what I liked, what I didn't like. So overall, I think writing in your sketchbooks, as opposed to simply drawing or painting, can be just as useful, if not more so in helping you to become a better artist. 12. Outro: So I hope that this course has shown you that you don't have to be the best artist in the world to keep a sketchbook. I hope you've realized that all artists have bad days. All artists struggle, and that's exactly what a sketchbook is for. It's okay to make mistakes. It's OK. If not everything turns out exactly the way that you expected it to. In the end, a sketchbook should be a focused more on the process of creating and enjoying that process than it should. Having a perfect masterpiece on every page. I hope you will enjoy the exercises and techniques presented in this class, and if you feel comfortable sharing what you came up with based on them, I would love to hear from you in the project section of this class. But until next time, I hope you all have fun making something