Daily sketch routine

Day 1: find a subject

It's been a while since I started to try to develop a daily sketch practice. Time, space, motivation: always something holding me back.

I love notebooks, I bought so many these last years that I could open a notebook shop ;-)

Almost all of them are empty, white, as blank as a brand new notebook can be. Always afraid to spoil them. And I'm still fascinated by the potentiel enclosed in a clean and fresh piece of paper. Well I think it's time to start to exploit this potential.

My objective is to practice drawing from nature. I've taken classes of live model drawing, but we don't always have a model to draw at home. So my first obstacle was not really a supplie issue (so many notebooks but also pencils, pens, felt pens, brushes...), but more a subject issue: what to draw? How to find, daily, someting new to draw? Of course there are plenty of things all around me that could be a base for still life drawings. But so far, nothing appealed to me enough to start.

So I thought that if the day one assignment was to choose a tool, maybe my tools could be my first drawing subject. Well, it was a good idea, because I enjoyed doing it. I used an indian ink felt brush and started to draw the tools already there on my desk. And here is the result.

And the very good point is that I think that next time I will find it easier to choose what to draw ;-)

By the way I'm french, so I hope my english isn't too bad and is at least understandable ;-)


Day 2: Refining my objectives

What an experience, the day 2... First I realised that I had anticipated on the schedule, answering the "what to draw" issue first, with the "what is in front of you" solution. "Nevermind, I thought, I can try the magic bowl method", and I did.

I picked "furniture". Just fine, it is consistant with my objective to draw from nature, so, let's do it! I chose my coffee table, took a 4B lead graphite pencil, and started.

I didn't go very well. It took a loooonnng time. I got upset many times. I finally produced this:


Am I satisfied? Not really. Compared to the day one drawing, this one looks dull, static, laborious. Am I going to give up? HELL NO!!! It is actually something I felt many times before when trying to start a daily sketchbook. I need to overcome this. And I may have found a few leads:

  • First: I should keep it simple for this daily practice. It is not supposed to take a lot of time. My mistake? I drew the table AND everything on it. And this altogether was too much for the exercice. So next time I'll choose something simpler
  • Second: I shouldn't choose a tool that I can erase. Because it is to tempting to erase every tiny little line that is not exactly as it is supposed to be, in my perfectionist mind. And to erase again, and again, and again... until the drawing becomes dirty. That's why indian ink is magic: that line is wrong? It doesn't matter, I can hide it in a shadow later. Or it will give some vibrancy to the drawing. On day one, I actually didn't care if the ink bottles weren't exactly as what they looked like, because, I couldn't change it, so I had to deal with it. But with a lead pencil, and an eraser, it is another story. I should keep it for longer project, when I really want something accurate.
  • Third: I should choose things to draw that help me work on my weaknesses. It supposes that I know my weaknesses, and today I actually identified two: ellipses (the shape of the table, the top of the mug, the candle....) and perspective (books, position of object in the field depth...)
  • Four: I should allocate a defined duration to the exercice. Just like for live model drawing actually.

Conclusion: I'll focus on one thing at the time, or simple compositions, choose objects with elipses or composition with perspective, forget lead pencils, and use a timer.

Conclusion bis: this wasn't a confortable exercise, but a usefull one. If there is one thing to remember from this experience, it is the following: you are not satisfied with your work? Don't get upset. Just cool down, look at it and ask yourself what could be improved. That may be the starting point for your next day practice.

Conclusion ter: so in the end I'm happy with the experience :-)

Day 3: Estimate the time I can allocate to my daily practice

Ha ha, it seems that once again I'm a bit early on the scedule, at least with one of my conclusions ;-). So using a timer, yes, let's do that. My dice stoped on 5 minutes, and I picked "everyday object". I want to keep it simple, so I choose my mug (and it will help on my ellipses issue). I take two watercolour pencils to work on it, and five minutes later, here it is: 


Well five minutes, it's very short, and I was a bit frustrated when the timer bell rang. I would have liked a few more minutes to add some shadows and refine a few details. I think I can probably allocate a bit more time to my daily practice, maybe 15 minutes.

But it's intersting to know that even when it's a busy day, I can potentially produce something in a very short time.

Day 3.1: six month later

Well I guess it didn't work for me the first time, this daily practice :-s. I have a lot of "good reasons/excuses": I have worked on other skillshare classes, mostly on lettering, I have created my website and I.... fell in love :-) ! And a brand new relationship, it takes time as you may know ;-)

Today I have a good oportunity to start again, and to turn into a positive experience something bad that happened to me recently: I fell down the stairs and broke my clavicle. Thank god it was the left one so I'm not too much handicaped, but as you can imagine many things are complicated, like for exemple using a keyboard to write this: it takes way more time than before. I'm on a sick leave for a month so I have a lot of time. And I decided to try again this daily practice. I can't draw too long, it becomes painfull quicly, but I can easily dedicate one hour a day, which is way more than the time I can usually afford for this. I hope that when it will be time to go back to work, the ritual will be installed and it will be easier to keep on a daily practice. So I decided to re-do day 3 and to try again to limit the time to 5 minutes. Conclusion: the same as before: 5 minutes are too short for me. The result is frustration and demotivation. I definitely need more time to get satisfaction from the exercice.

So I decided to use those 5 minutes differently. The 5 minutes technique is actually a method I use to fight procrastination. When I find it hard to start something, (even something I like to do, like making art), I decide that my objective is to work at least five minutes on it. It's easier to start when I know it will end shortly, and either way I get a success: if I work only 5 minutes, I still have reached my objective, and it's encouraging for the next time. But most of the time I actually work longer. In a conclusion, I won't use the dice to decide a maximum time allocated, but a minimum.

As a conclusion, here is a picture of today exercise: I picked up "faces" in the bowl and chose a black brush pen. I decided to draw a portrait from a picture I found in a magazine. Three sketches: the two on the top are those I did in five minutes, the bigger one is the final one that took me maybe 15/20 minutes.


Day 4: a place to draw

I had a hard time to find motivation these last days mostly because my shoulder hurts me a lot: its difficult to do anything else than staying on the sofa, reading or watching movies. I felt a bit better yesterday so I decided to try again with day 4. Well the question of the place is not really an issue for me because I'm lucky enough to have an office in my appartment with a desk dedicated to my art practice. So I just have to sit there, and I don't have to remove all my things after drawing, I just leave them where they are to start over the next day.

So I just sat at my desk and picked a new idea in the magic bowl: book title. That is great because I'm trying to improve in hand lettering so that is a good opportunity. Those sketches might be the source for a furture project, maybe crearting a cover for the book a chose. It is a french book which title is "Au bonheur des ogres" written by Daniel Pennac. The translation in english could be "The ogres' delight" (a reference to Zola's "The ladies'delight"), but I saw that the english version of the book was entitled "the skapegoat". It is one of my favorite books, the language is delightfull and it's very funny.

I started to explore the kind of typeletters I could use and finally produced what could be the start of a lettering and an illustration for the cover. I think I'll definitely try to develop this idea later.




Day 5: A sketch is not a finished work

I totally relate with this: I am often frutrated by my sketches (see when I only have 5 minutes ;-) So I definitely need to let it go and start practicing as a daily training. It easier for me if I think of those sketches as preparatory work for bigger projects, so then I know it's not the final version and I can always improve it, even If I don't do that for every sketches. I'm not really convinced by the "28 days to form an habit" thing (see), based on my experience I think it might take me much longer than that, but it doesn't mean it's not worth it and the more we try the more chances we get to succeed, so...

So I picked 30 days, and here is the first of those 30 daily (I hope) sketches. I picked "Imaginary creatures", I can figure out why but I first thought of an octopus, then of an owl and after a few lead pencil sketches, I drew this feathery creature that I imagine floating in the air like octopus do under water.

1/30 : imaginary creatures



2/30 : what i have in front of me



Final update: 30 drawings in 43 days

Today I have drawn the last of my 30 drawings. Didn't really draw every day but with an average of a drawing every 1,43 days, it is a real improvement :-).

My main concern now is that I had time for that because of my sick leave. I went back to work begining of july, but only part time so far, I'll work full time starting the first of july. So the real challenge still to be acheived.

During this period I have learnt a few things. First, I am not sure that the random thing to pick a new drawing idea every day is really working for me. I need to improve myself and it means working on the same topic during a few days. So I think I'll keep the magic bowl for the days I run out of inspiration, and then work on that topic, trying different things every day as long as I keep interest in it.

Second, and there is a link with my first point, I think about using the daily sketch practice as a preparatory work for larger projects. So I won't really need sketch ideas as long as I have projects.

Third, that question "how long does it take to create an habit" really intrigued me. So did a little research and found that amazing book "The power of habit" by Charles Duhigg. It gathers a lot of information about how our brain is working when it comes to create an habit or to change a bad one. There is also a lot about habits impact on the corporate and social level. A really exciting and instructive reading, I recommand 100%.

At last, here are those 28 remaining drawings:

3/30 : Characters - Raccoon


4/30 : Elephant


5/30 : Words that inspire me - Dreams come true


6 : Every day object - Coffee maker



7/30 : Houses


8/30 : Houses again


9/30 : Every day object - Mug

I made this one on my ipad with the procreate app.


10/30 : Portrait - Selfportrait


11/30 : Toys - Stuffed squirel


12/30 : Things in my junk drawer - masking tape


13/30 : Songs I like - Stand by me


14/30 : Every day objects - Tooth brush


15/30 : Feelings - Love you


16/30 : Imaginary creature


17/30 : Fashion


18/30 : Character


19/30 : Places I want to go - Bali


20/30 : Flowers

This one was made on my ipad too


21/30 : Feathers

One of the ideas I added in my magic bowl


22/30 : Dancer


23/30 - Pattern


24/30 : Sea creatures - Starfish


25/30 : Wild animals - Owl


26/30 : Portrait


27/30 : Pet


28/30 : Portrait again


29/30 : Monster


30/30 : Trees/branches




Please sign in or sign up to comment.