Sketchbook Magic I: Start and Feed a Daily Art Practice | Ria Sharon | Skillshare

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Sketchbook Magic I: Start and Feed a Daily Art Practice

teacher avatar Ria Sharon, Practice Makes Better.

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Overview


    • 3.

      Day 1: But I don't have the right art supplies!


    • 4.

      Day 2: But I don't know what to draw!


    • 5.

      Day 3: But I don't have time!


    • 6.

      Day 4: But I don't have space!


    • 7.

      Day 5: But what if it isn't any good?


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Artist and illustrator, Ria Sharon guides you through a playful exploration of sketching as a tool to nurture your artistic practice. In this 36-minute class, Ria will show you her simple (and seemingly magical) techniques to make time and space in your everyday life for creativity. You will begin a sketchbook that you can continue to come back to for inspiration in the days and weeks to come.

This class is perfect for anyone who is hungry for a right-brained activity. No previous art experience is required, just 10 minutes a day and an openness to fun... and yes, to a little magic!

Follow Ria on Instagram and sign up for Secret Sketches, her free weekly behind-the-scenes/inspiration email.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ria Sharon

Practice Makes Better.


There is no path to mastery that does not involve doing something over and over -- that's been my experience as an artist and illustrator!

So I encourage my students to take small consistent steps by creating bite-sized classes that make art a simple, easy, daily practice -- one that is joyful and fun!

I occasionally post what's in my own sketchbook on a brand new Instagram page. If you're interested in what goes on in my art-making process behind-the-scenes, join my private Secret Sketches group. That's where I share things that are not ready for the interwebs yet. :)


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1. Trailer: So I made a commitment to myself that I was going to make art every day. It doesn't have to be big or complicated. In fact, it's really often small and simple and it happens right here in my sketchbook. My sketchbook is an essential part of my art practice. It's portable, it's contained, and it's a wonderful documentation of where I am, where my art is on any given day. My name is Ria Sharon, I'm an artist and Illustrator, and I've been involved in visual communications for almost 20 years. If you're watching this video, you are interested, or the idea of keeping a sketchbook is appealing to you. But maybe you're a little nervous about what that's going to require. In this class in under ten minutes a day, we're going to go over the most common reasons that get in the way of making art. We're also going to explore alternatives, what allowed me to make this more self-affirming choice? I hope that this will encourage you to make choices that will allow you to bring art into your everyday life as well. We'll explore gentle ways of art making, practices that will open you to new possibilities and exercises that you can incorporate and that you can sustain on a daily basis. I'll share my secrets about making time and space for art. In our class project, we'll make art together. Hopefully, that will be the groundwork for your art practice. If you're called to make art, you can just start. You can just take one step and I'm hoping that your step for today will be to join this class. 2. Class Overview: My daughter was up on stage one day in front of 200 people, and she called me an artist. She said it in this really off-handed way because it was not the focus of the event at all. But it still hit me like a ton of bricks because I wasn't making art then. Then there was something that felt really disingenuous and self negating about being an artist that didn't make art. So I made a commitment to myself that I was going to make art every day and I intend to do it forever. I had some really good reasons for not making art, practical, rational choices, I'm a single mom, I have two kids with busy schedules, I have a full-time job, I run an Etsy store. Life was really busy. But sometimes business, as in my case, can also be a form of resistance and resistance comes from one thing, plain, and simple fear. I was afraid that making art was a selfish choice considering how long my to-do list was. I was afraid that making art was frivolous compared to, say, building schools in Africa. I was afraid of what people would say, what people would think. But I think that honestly, most of all, I was afraid that I was a bad artist. Does any of this sound or feel familiar to you? Someone once told me that the best antidote to fear is action and I've found this to be true. I did not realize when I made a promise to myself to make art every day, I was really making a commitment to take daily action. So don't get me wrong, fear, and self doubt are still my faithful companions but I've realized from this process of making art every day, that they're part of the creative process. So I've gained a healthier perspective on this that I'll share with you during the class. Over the next five days, and under 10 minutes, we're going to go over the common reasons that people set aside their art and a lot of the things that I said to myself while I was trying to avoid being an artist. I'm also going to share with you the things that I did to overcome my own fear and self doubt. Hopefully as we make art together in our class project we'll lay the groundwork for your own regular art practice. So are you ready? 3. Day 1: But I don't have the right art supplies!: But I can't make art today because I don't have the right art supplies. I was the queen of this. When people would ask me about my art I'd say, "I'm a print maker, so I need a press and a litho stone and a forklift to move the stone around." I really said that to myself. The focus of today is to let go of that idea, that you need something that you don't currently have in order to make art. When the truth is, you have everything you need. The only requirement for this class is a sketchbook, and you don't really truly need that. I use plain old copy paper a lot, but since the name of the class of is sketchbook Magic, we're choosing to make art in a sketchbook. Your sketchbook can be whatever size feels good to you, I've had big ones, small ones, everything in between. Currently, I'm using a sketchbook designed to take watercolor really well because I love gouache in watercolor, but that's totally up to you. You can check out different surfaces. Here's another sketchbook that has a smoother surface, so you can see the difference of one that has more tooth or texture to the surface and one that's smoother, and you can decide what medium that you want to work with primarily and what effect you want to have. You'll also need something to make your marks, and these don't have to be anything special either. One of my favorite drawing implements is a irregular mechanical pencil, the kind that you can get at the grocery store, you probably already have one laying around. If you look at these apples, I love the way the pencil marks look on the textured paper and these were made with my mechanical pencil. Part of the fun is exploring and discovering new mediums and tools, and finding ones that you really like to work with. I encourage you to try different things, things that you already have handy. This piece is a favorite of mine on Minted, and I made these circles with, guess what? Toilet paper rolls. For this piece, I didn't have gloss medium, so I used clear nail polish instead. Seriously, the point is anything goes. I have a strophe for different brushes, pencils, markers. For today, I want you to go out around your house and collect the things that are intriguing to you. You can press "Pause" on this video and come back when you have a nice collection of things that look like they'd be fun to use. Our assignment for today, now that we've gathered all of our supplies is to close our eyes and pick what we want to use to make our marks. I picked a fork. Here we go. For the first day, we're just going to make marks, whatever's inspired by the tool that you picked. This is the perfect time to mention the idea of style. If you've aspirations to make a career out of your art, which is definitely beyond the scope of this class and optional forever, you've probably been told that you have to have a recognizable style. People say, "Don't be afraid to bring yourself to your art. You be you, that's where the magic is." I know they mean it to be encouraging, but this one point has been the source of much hand wringing for me. What does it mean? Do I even have a personal style and where do I find it? I drew dogs for 100 days and now I'm drawing birds and making patterns, I'm all over the place. But then I read this from David Bales and Ted Orland, "Style is the natural consequence of habit." Take a look at these artists whose signature style I admire very much. Sharon Derry from Secret Leaves Paper Works, illustrator Teagan White and painter Katelyn Morse. Can you see that there's certain colors that appear in their work over and over? I love how Katelyn's brush has to touch her canvas a certain way to make the pedals of her flowers. I started to observe how I also make some choices over and over regardless of whether I'm drawing dogs or people or diddly. My pencil or brush hits the paper a certain way, I make some choices based on my preferences like I'm going to go for gouache over acrylic every time. I like working small, I really love the intimacy of working on a small scale right now. If you were to make 100 somethings, do you think you would find some patterns in the subject matter you're drawn to or discover that you hold the pencil or brush the exact same way every time you sit down and make something? Do you find that your paintings have the same colors, the ones that just happen to be on your paint palette right now? What if you were to let go of defining a style for yourself and just make a bunch of art for right now, and let a style naturally emerge? Now it's your turn, pick your tools and make something. You have your possible supplies, close your eyes, pick your mark making instrument. Make some marks in your sketchbook, build on it. When you feel like your page is complete, you can go to step 2, which is to share with the class. Take a picture of your sketchbook page and in the class projects section, click on "Start your project" and upload your picture. Label it day 1, and also post a quick introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you hope to experience in this class and hit "Save". I have a bonus stuff for you, if you're on Instagram, I invite you to post your picture and use the hashtag #sketchbookmagic and #IhaveEverything. Tag riasharon, so I know to look for it. I'll be doing regular roundups of your images on Instagram and on my blog, but this is optional. This is only if you feel comfortable sharing your work. A lot of times sketchbooks are private spaces for you to freely and safely explore new ideas and techniques. I totally get that, and if you're not ready to share your process with the interwebs, that's completely natural and totally fine. 4. Day 2: But I don't know what to draw!: Welcome back to day two of Sketchbook Magic. Today we're going to be talking about what to draw. The blank page, it's daunting for even the most seasoned creators. I know I said to myself, "I can't make art today because I don't know what to draw." What we're going to do today is go over some simple and easy ways to quickly unblankify your page. One, make random marks. You can use the blind tool selection technique we learned yesterday to determine what you want to use and then just start scribbling. After your initial marks, ask yourself what you see. Just think about cloud gazing or shack tests and build from there. If you need more tips, there are a couple of really great skill shack classes that address intuitive drawing and doodling. Jon Burgerman and Shantell Martin are awesome at this. This is what I made for Jon's class. I started by doodling with my eyes closed. Then I took the motifs that emerged in these two different doodles, and I actually made a sketch that I liked. Then I cleaned it up. Although, it's not something that I would display necessarily because it seems a little derivative. The process introduced to different approach for me that inspired several other projects. Two, pick a phrase from a book or lyrics from a song as inspiration. For this piece, as an example, I randomly opened an old book and the phrase, "The buzzard is the best flier" jumped out at me. Three, draw what's in front of you. See this bird. I wonder where I got this idea? Four, go outside and let nature inspire you. You don't have to go to the top of a mountain, although that's always nice. You can just go out in your backyard. When I take my dog for a walk, I usually run into something that I think is pretty cool and I snap a picture. Those are things that I can refer to later. Related to that is five: which is keeping a running list of ideas. Whether it's a word, a phrase, song lyrics, a concept, or that picture on your phone. Whenever you have that, which should I draw at the moment? You have a stash of ideas to turn to. For today's assignment, just like yesterday, we're going to add a touch of magic to it. It just requires a few minutes of prep. I've added this file to the class project page under attachments. It's called Day Two. You can do this a couple of ways. Either one, you can download and print this sheet, or if you don't have a printer, you can write out your own list of prompts. Feel free to use the ideas I have on the sheet or make up your own. Once you have a whole page of prompts, cut them out and put the swatches in a bowl. We're going to use the magic bowl and it's going to assign us with our art prompt for today. Fun. Remember how I said to keep a running list of ideas, you can keep adding them to your magic bowl and then keep the bowl for the rest of the class because we're going to be using it. Once everything is ready, we'll pick our prompt and make some art. I'll go first. I picked a toothbrush and the magic bowl picked birds as my subject. I'm going to start making my art now, and while I'm working, I want to share a story with you about a teacher in a ceramics class who announced on the first day that he was dividing his class into two groups. One would be graded on quantity and the other would be graded on quality. For one group, he would bring in a scale and 50 pounds of pots would be an A, 40 pounds would be a B, and so on. The second group would only be required to produce one perfect pot to get an A. At the end of the semester, can you guess what happened? The best pot came from the quantity group because they made as many pots as they could learning from each mistake while the other group spent all their time strategizing about how to make the perfect pot. The moral of the story: No analysis paralysis, just start. Make stuff good, bad, and ugly. What matters is that you're doing it and having fun. Your turn. Step one: pick your prompt and make your art. You'll draw your slip of paper, and make your art for today. Then step two: share it with the class. Go to the class project page and this time, click "Edit" on your class projects and upload an image of your page. Label it "Day Two." This time, tell us what you enjoyed most about today's assignment. That's it. You're done. Can't wait to check out your art. Of course, the optional bonus if you'd like, post your picture on Instagram, use the same: #sketchbookmagic, and then today's hashtag is, what I made today. Of course tag me, Ria Sharon so I can find it. Woo-hoo, see you tomorrow. 5. Day 3: But I don't have time!: It's Day 3 of Sketchbook Magic, and today we're talking about time. I can't make art today, because I'm not on vacation and I might have to wait until I retire. These are thoughts that I've had about art and time. It's true, I don't have long stretches like I did in art school, where we had three hours hour studio classes twice a week. But since I made this promise to myself to make art every day, I realized that I never would have those stretches of time, so I was going to have to think about it differently. How do I find time? This is actually the question that I get from most of my friends when they find out about my art practice. What's interesting is that these are the same friends who wake up before dawn to run five miles, or to go to spin class three times a week, or to play 18 holes of golf on a regular basis. So I had to be just as devoted as they were to running or biking or golf, because art is a sport in that way. The only way that you're going to get better is if you do it again and again and again,. We make time for the things that we value. Bottom line. I don't have three extra hours in my day. Do I have one extra hour? Rarely. Do I have 30 extra minutes? Sometimes. Do I have 10 extra minutes? Probably, if I shorten my shower to five minutes, I could have an extra five minutes. There we go. What can we do in five minutes? I picked five minutes pretty arbitrarily, but you get the idea. There are secret pockets in the day you can play with this. What can you do in five minutes, one minute, 30 seconds? That's the length of a TV commercial. Can you doodle during a TV commercial? Can you paint a still-life during half-hour show, or while listening to 60-minute podcast? Today's magical item is yes, dice. Feel free to press pause on this video and go to your board game closet and get your dice. Or if you've misplaced Yahtzee, no worries. Go to, they have a digital dice roller. I'll throw it first. Five. I'm closing my eyes to pick a brush, and letting the magic bowl pick my subject. Song lyrics. I have five minutes to make something inspired by song lyrics with a brush. Go. Don't feel you have to start and finish something every single day. This is your sketchbook. Your ideas start here. I can think of something and expect that it would be really cool, and when I try it, not like it at all. Or very often, I start something, heat it, then come back to it in a week, add one little element, take away some others, and eventually I really love it. It's all process. It's all learning. Your turn. Step 1, make your art, roll your dice, set the timer, tick a slip of paper from the magic bowl, pick your tool, blind or not, and go crazy. Step 2, add a picture to a class project, and today, let us now how it felt to make something in your allotted time. Of course, bonus step 3, share on Instagram, with hashtags sketchbook magic, and today's hashtag is, IHaveTime. That's it. See you tomorrow. 6. Day 4: But I don't have space!: Welcome back. Day 4 of sketchbook magic. Today we're going to be talking about space. What I used to tell myself is I can't make art because I don't own a studio. But years ago, I actually did have a studio, a huge one. It was in this big old warehouse. It was awesome because I could spread all my canvases out and make a big mess. Guess what? My canvases gathered dust. I blamed a host of all other reasons for that. One being that it was inconvenient. I had to drive 30 minutes away. It wasn't in the best part of town, so I felt like I could only go there during certain times. Whatever the reasons were. I know that it's not always about the physical space, but sometimes it could be just as much about the emotional and mental space for art-making. Do you need a certain light or do you need it to be really quiet? Conversely, do you need it to be really loud or to be listening to a certain music? All of these things are sometimes valid, and then sometimes they're also constraints that you put on yourself that may or may not be always true. For me, same as with time, I decided that this was really important to me. I was going to have to figure out how to make space in my life or allow my art to come into the space of my life. So I started to bring my portable sketchbook with me to test this theory about where I could or where I couldn't make art. What I found that I could be a little bit more flexible. That's our task for today, is to see where we can loosen our constraints around our ideas about spaces where art can be made and to help us with this task, we're going to enlist the help of another magical device. Fortune tellers. First, we have to make our fortune tellers. Before we get started with that, brainstorm eight spaces that you are most likely to find yourself. Pick ones that are already part of your experience. You're not going out of your way. Where do you spend time anyway on non-art related activities? For me, I'm at the office most weekdays. When I'm not there, it's probably because I'm taking myself or one of my kids to a doctor, or a dentist, or orthodontist, or what have you, so I'm often in waiting rooms. Sometimes I'm on a bus or a train, or I'm waiting for a bus or a train. When I'm home, I'm in my kitchen a lot. I'm also on the side of a soccer field at least a couple of hours a week, so you get the idea. Download and print the fortune teller template in the class resources named Day 4, and personalize your very own fortune teller by adding the eight places that are relevant to you. Just in case you need a refresher course in fortune teller assembly, you fold two opposite corners of the square together, then open it back up to fold the other two opposite corners together. Turn the blank side up and fold the corners towards the center. Full disclosure; I totally messed this whole thing up the first time, had to call in the expert. See? Turn the whole thing over and then do this again, fold the new corners towards the middle. If you need your own local expert, I suggest you consult anyone 15 and under, those will totally set you straight. You fold the new corner towards as center one more time until you end up with this tiny square, almost ready. Then we have to fold the whole thing in half, first in one direction and then the other, which will make it easier to make the pockets for your fingers. Practice makes better applies here too, friends. This may be the hardest part of the class. Now we're ready and as usual, I'll go first. I'm going to pick the face that feels like me right now after sweating through the paper folding business and move the fortune teller as many times as it says, 1, 2, 3. Now I'm going to pick how I'm feeling right this minute. Open. I'll move the fortune teller as many times as there are letters in my feeling word. I'll pick out another feeling word. Trusting. I'm trusting. I'm making art in the kitchen today. For today's demo, I want to show you an example of what I was talking about yesterday. I'm going to go back to the project I used for the demo on Day 1 in the class and reworking it in the time I have today. Again, you don't have to start from scratch every day. If your kitchen is anything like mine, there's always a lot going on in there. My daughter is in the middle of a beading project over here. Speaking of which, seriously, kids are amazing teachers on this point. They have no problem just plopping down wherever and making stuff. Let's let the kid in all of us be that unselfconscious and at ease with our own art-making, that we can do it anywhere. There's a way that any space you make art in can be that sacred space. There's also an interesting thing that happens for me when I take art outside of my "studio." It's like it keeps me from taking myself too seriously or something, like the pressure's off, and the piece ends up being less tight or self-conscious too, and I really like that. Now it's your turn. Step 1, make your art. So first, you can pick your tool, blind or not. Draw a slip from the bowl. Set your time using the dice or not. Use the fortune teller to figure out where you're going to be making art today. Once you're done, step 2, take a picture of your page and add it to your class project. Label it Day 4 and tell us where you were when you made it and how your work was influenced by your environment. Of course, the bonus step 3, post your image in Instagram with sketchbook magic and today's hashtag, make art anywhere. All right. Tomorrow, Day 5, last day. 7. Day 5: But what if it isn't any good?: Day five of Sketchbook magic. Today's lesson is about fear. I can't make art today because I'm afraid that I really can't make art or at least art that's good enough. I never said that. I said all of the other things but they were really expressions of what if I'm not good enough? "I don't have time," is actually shorthand for, "I can't possibly make art that's any good in five minutes." "I don't have space," is short for, "Real artists don't make art while waiting for the dentist." All those conditions I had about time and space were really barriers that I put in between me and making art, so I would never have to find out if I wasn't really any good at it. If you're watching this video, you need to hear this. You are an artist. Dancers dance, writers write, artists art. Art is a verb. It's your job to make art, not to judge whether it's good or not. I don't make art in my sketch book every day so that I can sell it, or display it in a gallery, or have it published in a book. I make art every day because I'm an artist. The irony is the only way to become a good artist is to stop worrying about whether or not it's good and just make it anyway. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up too. This is what Isabel Allende, author of over 30 books, says about writing. The same is true for art. Yet, it's hard to shush the inner critic inside each of us that refuses to stay quiet and keep saying, "You're not good enough." Here's some ammunition against the critic, "It's not true and I have proof." Because that critic says it to everyone, not just to you. It says it to me, and to award winning photographers, and veteran designers, and licensed illustrators, and multiple New York Times best-selling authors. Every time someone who has achieved success admits to me that they hear that voice in their head too, and that some of them also feel a moment of panic when they sit down for their next project, that all the previous ones were just total flukes, it's evidence that that critic is a liar. I know that all those people are more than good enough, they are amazing actually, yet, they still feel the same fear and hear that same voice, and they keep going, which means that I can keep going too and so can you. For our last class together, our focus is on how to keep going despite fear and discomfort. How do we build confidence in our art making abilities? The solution is to create structures that support your process. For example, I formed a social sketch club in my city. We get together for two hours once a month and sketch. Also once a month, I gave away an art printable to my tribe on my website,, and once a week, I do a series on my blog called An Artist's Sketch, a Q&A with an artist I admire, and I make a sketch portrait for each one. So yes, these are ways that I like to connect with other artists, but they also force me to make a portrait every week, an art print every month, and participate in a group activity every month. Clever, right? They say it takes 28 days to form a habit or break one. If you're just starting with your art practice, I highly recommend creating structures for yourself that help you make it a priority regularly. You might notice that I'm a bit of a Skillshare junkie. I may or may not be enrolled in 10 classes right now, but I do it for this reason. The classes give me structure, assignments, deadlines, and people who are encouraging me on my projects, which makes my next point perfectly. If you really want accountability, make it social. With a caveat that this is optional, of course, based on how you feel about sharing your sketchbook. I find it incredibly encouraging when people leave me feedback or even just add a little heart on Instagram or a little thumbs up on Facebook. In addition to Skillshare, there are other groups that you can join for free or for a nominal fee. In the last nine months, I participated in 12 weeks at The Artist's Way, All Creativelike's 30 days of creative devotion, The Here Company's 10-day rise class, and Elle Luna's 100-Day project. You've been working on your sketch a day project all along, and our assignment for this final day of class is to help you continue your daily art-making habit. I know you are guessing popsicle sticks for today, right? It's the magic device to de jure. But if you don't have popsicle sticks handy, feel free to write these numbers, 14, 7, 10, 28, 12, 30 on some slips of paper and put them in the magic bowl. Another magic bowl, of course, since you have your prompts in the first bowl, and you can never have too many magic goals, in my opinion. Then it's a matter of picking one, and that number will be the number of days you'll be making art, not counting these last four. I'm going to go first. I'm making art for 10 more days and I'm posting my sketch pages in the class project section. Your turn. Step 1, pick your number of days and make your art for those allotted days. At this point, you know you have all sorts of magic to help you do this. You can pick your tool with magic, you can pick your subject with magic, you can pick your time with magic, you can pick your space with magic. As you get more confident in making your own selections, you can consciously choose how you want to make art every day. But if and when you feel stuck, otherwise known as resistance or fear, use magic. Don't forget to share your work. So every day, take a picture and post it in your class project. As always, you have the bonus step of posting your assignment to Instagram using the hashtag Sketchbook Magic and the last days hashtag, My X Day Project. 8. Final Thoughts: It's been such a delight spending the last five days with you making art together. Thank you for your commitment to yourself, to your art, and for facing your fear. I have made a piece of art, especially for you, and I'd love to send it to you. So once you're done with your day 5 assignment and you've posted it in the class projects page, send me an e-mail at, and I'll send you a printable file that's ready to frame or post somewhere where it can be a gentle reminder for you. When my daughter called me out, it was a call back to myself, but that was just the beginning. Over the last five days, I've shared with you my techniques for getting myself unstuck and to loosen my own self-imposed restrictions around art-making. I've given myself playfully, joyfully permission to bring art back into my life, and now you know that you can do the same. You have everything that you need right now to be an artist. So although this is the end of our class, I hope that's just the beginning of a very long and rewarding new ritual for you. If you were being pulled towards art, I hope this class has given you permission to go there to do the one small thing every day and see with the magically too.