Tag Archives: sketchbook skool

Sketchbook Skool: Watercolors

For most of my life, the only kind of watercolor I’d ever used was the little bricks you’d use in elementary school. Until recently, I didn’t even know watercolor paints came in tubes. So for this assignment, I purchased a 12-color set of Niji Water Color paints and a little aluminum palette, and set to work.

The colors were far richer and darker than I’d expected. The little color bricks were always pale, and you have to use a whole lot of watercolor pencil to get things this dark. The assignment was to do a contour drawing of a still life, then use watercolors to fill it in. For my still life I used a perfume bottle, a little plastic maraca, and my poor ceramic moose who’s missing an antler.

The moose is overworked but I kinda like the body of the perfume bottle. I’d like to work more with watercolors but it’s a difficult setup since it requires additional materials. I’m pretty spoiled with the compactness of my watercolor pencils.

Sketchbook Skool: Birds

I live in a fairly typical suburban neighborhood: cookie-cutter townhouses, curvy streets, small trees. When I was given the assignment to draw the birds around my house, I had no idea it would be such a challenge. For three days I sat on my porch. I could hear birds. Lots of birds! But I could see nary a one, save for the occasional millisecond glimpse of one as it flew by in the distance. So I ended up drawing the hostas and the little rabbit that’s taken up residence under our neighbor’s porch. All the same, I kind of like how this spread turned out.

Sketchbook Skool: Selfies

Danny Gregory on (drawing) selfies:

I draw self portraits because my model is

A) super handsome
b) poses for free
c) always hanging around

Self portraits have show me how I draw how I feel as much as what I see; they’re a constantly shifting reflection of the inner me. Each day I change and so does my drawing.

I’ve never given much thought to self portraits, but they make sense if you want to practice faces. Koosje Koene draws some of the most amazing selfies I’ve ever seen, so I suppose it’s not surprising that this was her assignment. We drew three kinds: contour, photo, and mirror. I really like how my mirror selfie came out, but the contour is probably the most accurate. The photo ones amuse me because I drew my badge photos: terrible drawings of terrible photographs!

Contour (top) and photo selfies

Mirror Selfie

Sketchbook Skool: Drawing Fast and Slow

In my current Sketchbook Skool course, I learned a technique called drawing fast and slow. You start with a fat medium, like a big brush of watercolors, and draw an object very quickly. Then you take something finer and draw in the details. I chose to draw my mixer. I didn’t have any paints handy, so I used a Zig Clean Color Real Brush waterbase marker. For the detail work I used a Prismacolor Premier 08, which is larger than I usually use, but felt right for this.

Try Sketchbook Skool for Free!

I took a couple of Sketchbook Skool “Kourses” this year and found them invaluable. They were full of inspiration, instruction, and encouragement. I’ve just found out that you can take a sample klass for free. It includes bits from all the kourses, so even I, as a two-time alum, got something new out of it. I highly recommend you give it a try. What do you have to lose? It’s free!

Click here to sign up!

Sketchbook Peek: Kitchen

The final week of Sketchbook Skool: Beginnings was taught by Tommy Kane. He taught me patience and persistence. He believes in capturing every detail, taking ages to finish a sketch, and finishing every drawing he starts. I drew my kitchen, which took me 90 minutes and far longer than I’d ever taken for any other drawing of that size.

I’m pleased with how this turned out, but it also taught me that even though I thought I was slowing down and taking in every detail, I definitely rushed over some parts. That’s okay; this probably won’t be the last drawing I do of my kitchen.

Learning from Danny Gregory

In July and August of this year, I took an online course called Sketchbook Skool: Beginnings. I’ve always been enamored of the idea of keeping an art journal, and this course struck me as the perfect introduction. I was right.

Danny Gregory taught the first week. His was the name I primarily recognized, famous for Everyday Matters. He explained how he started art journaling, and probably had the most influence on me of any of the teachers. His technique of drawing the entire outline of an object (or objects) before filling in any of the interior details was not something I’d tried before. I also particularly liked his purpose in drawing: not so much to capture the image, but to connect with the subject of his drawing. His example was of drawing his son’s shoes, and how while he was drawing them he was thinking about his son.

For my first assignment, I drew a stained glass bird that my grandfather made. I’ve blurred out my writing, since this is still a journal, but I did find myself remembering Grandpa as I drew. I don’t always feel that connected to my subject, but drawing does teach me to see things in ways I never did before.

This was my first foray into drawing in ink. I’d always been a pencil kind of gal, but Danny’s reasoning – that it helps build confidence because you can’t go back and erase every little flaw – was sound, and I found it really helped me get more comfortable with finishing my drawings. It’s also easier on the paper to not keep erasing all the time.

Danny also introduced me to the idea of laying down a wash of color on the page before drawing anything. Sure, they’re kind of garish and it tints the rest of the objects on the page, but I find I really love these spreads.

It’s no wonder that Danny’s inspired so many people to start keeping a sketchbook of their lives.

Pumpkin Pie

One of my assignments in Sketchbook Skool was to illustrate a recipe. I’m no cook, so I wanted to do hard-boiled eggs. My husband said that was a cop-out, and made me draw pumpkin pie. So here it is, the recipe off the side of the can of pumpkin:

If I were to do this over, I’d make the ingredients larger. I underestimated the amount of space I had to work with.

Happily, while I finished up coloring this, my husband actually made the pie. It was delicious.

Art Journals, Sketchbooks, and Diaries

I’ve kept a regular paper diary since 1991, and in that time I’ve never really varied in format: handwritten, text only. For years I even used a special ten-color pen, using a different color of ink each day, though these days I use whatever pen is handy. It’s rare for me to paste something into it, with the exception of the occasional random sticker. When I do paste things into journals, it’s a special book, like a journal set aside for a single trip, or my current GST book. When I draw, that goes into sketchbooks, some of which are separated into specific types. For example, I have one book dedicated entirely to faces drawn with #2 pencil. Everything has its place.

I’m torn on the matter, however. Separate books work well when you only want to do one thing at a time, but that often means packing a bunch of stuff when going somewhere, just on the off chance that I might want to do one thing or the other. And I really love the idea of art journals. I like the idea of writing about your day/life amidst the doodles and collage. I like the pages created by Daisy Yellow, Seaweed Kisses, and iHanna. I’ve even gone so far as to sign up for the gorgeous weekly prompts from Journal52 (and have as of yet completed only one of them).

Some people combine their art journals with commonplace books – collections of interesting quotes and information encountered in books and everyday life. These are usually worked into the art in some fashion, rather than organized into a repository of wisdom, but they share the notion of saving these sorts of things in a central location.

I also like artifact journals, like those of my friend KateKintail, where she glues in one item from her day, as a memento, with often no more than a few lines describing the story behind it. Often she doesn’t even cut it up – just pastes in the whole brochure or whatever in a way so you can still unfold it. No Tetris-esque collages necessary, and there’s still plenty of room to write more if that’s what you want to do. It also doesn’t face the limitation that my GST book has: that is, if there isn’t enough to fill a page, it doesn’t make it into the book at all.

A while back, I came across a nifty set of scans from Austin Kleon’s tour sketchbook (hat tip to Notebook Stories for the link). This in particular really struck me:

I’m on the move a lot, so I don’t have a lot of time to sketch while I’m walking around, but I do have time to collage when I’m back in the hotel room, so I’ve started carrying transparent tape, Japanese Washi tape that my wife gave me, and a pair of safety scissors (TSA says under 4 inches is okay).

This probably sounds strange, but it never occurred to me to just carry around the tape and scissors with you and do your journaling on the go. If you look at his pages, they’re a mixture of writing, clippings, and sketches. The only time I’ve ever come close to this sort of beautiful hodgepodge is in my trip journals, and even with those I only did the collage at the very end, after I got back home. My Japan journal is a good example. I also made journals for my trip to Amsterdam in 2010, Disney World in 2012, and this past April’s Eurotrip. At Disney World in particular I did a fair amount of drawing, something I almost never do in my regular diary.

I think my biggest issue is a feeling of required perfection. The only place I ever feel comfortable in freewriting or doodling or jotting down little notes is in whatever beat-up old spiral notebook I have going at the moment. Diaries are for the chronology of my life; sketchbooks are for completed drawings (not even, perhaps ironically, unfinished sketches); gluebooks are for collages of clippings. And yet, I don’t want to glue stuff into the spiral notebooks because they are so ephemeral (and often too fally-aparty). That’s the place for my first drafts, for straightening out my whirling thoughts, for mock-ups and grocery lists and calculating my hours. If there’s anything worth keeping, I copy it out elsewhere.

So now I’m trying something new. I’ve signed up for the first “kourse” of Sketchbook Skool. Aside from their somewhat irritating obsession with the letter K, it looks like a neat concept: lots of well-known art journalers, such as Danny Gregory and Andrea Joseph (from whom I learned about this), are teaching about illustrated journals and drawing more often in general. I hope it’ll help me figure out what works best for me, as well as give me the kick in the pants I need to get out of this creative rut I’ve been stuck in.

Do you keep any kind of journal? How do you organize things?

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