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How to Prepare an Art School Portfolio: Artist Sketchbooks

Updated October 27, 2019

By Clara LieuAdjunct Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design

Your sketchbook is an opportunity to show your thought process

An art school portfolio benefits a lot from having a slide or of  to show an image or two of a sketchbook spread. The advantage of showing a sketchbook spread is that it’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate your thinking, sketching, and brainstorming process in it’s raw, unedited form.

A sketchbook should be a place where literally anything can happen, where you can feel free to make that space your own.  Every artist has their own way of keeping a sketchbook, watch the videos below to see all of the diverse ways that artists work with their sketchbooks.  Then figure out what is going to work for you!

A sketchbook is where everything begins

A sketchbook is one of the most important tools that an artist has, it’s one that you should be carrying with you all day, every day.  If you don’t have a regular sketchbook practice, it’s time to run to the store and get a sketchbook.

Or better yet, make your own sketchbook using our Lotus/Meandering or Coptic Stitch tutorials! Choosing your own paper for the interior of your book, the color of the string, the book cover materials, that entire process of building your own sketchbook from scratch is fun and super rewarding.

Mix up the media in your sketchbook

Visual journaling is a really easy, relaxing and fun way to approach your sketchbook practice. Using collage, markers, pens, stamps, stickers, anything you can think of, mixes up the process a bit more and gets you thinking in a more graphic manner.

Watch Lauryn Welch demonstrate the visual journaling process in this video on the left. She has tons of tips and tricks to finding stimulating collage materials and ways to blend all of the different art media together to create dynamic compositions.

10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, it all adds up!

If you truly are serious about being an artist, maintaining a lively sketchbook practice should be a given, the absolute bare minimum that any artist should be engaging with at all times.

A quick sketch here, jotting down an idea there, and you’ll notice very fast how critical your sketchbook will become to your artistic thinking process. Think about your sketchbook as the primordial soup of your artistic practice, it’s where ideas begin, grow, and mature.

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