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How to Use a Sketchbook


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Partial Video Transcript, Julie Benbassat

“So, these are my sketchbooks. They’re used for a variety of things. This is from my daily drawing assignment I did for myself 2 years ago in which I challenged myself to draw something everyday for a year. I called it the ‘teadle’ challenge because it was a combination of tea and doodle, and all the illustrations I did everyday were based on tea, which I love to drink. I am part tea.

It was a lot of fun, I have to say it was really hard though to keep myself motivated to keep trying something every single day. It also helped me a lot with conceptualizing ideas and thinking of themes. If you have one overarching idea but you don’t know how to express it in only one way. I had Starbucks as an empress, an imperial empress, encouraging imperialism because Starbucks is imperialistic but has good tea sometimes.

So, this is my planner sketchbook. I use it for planning or working with paint. I’m someone who frequently uses pen and ink and that’s really good, but sometimes learning how to paint and how to use value in color in a different way, not to define but rather to capture, is a really effective way of just trying to organize the world through your artistic vision.

You can also do some cute lil Pokemons, you don’t have to, I love Pokemon. But, when you start working with nature you kind of learn the rules of how things work.

I also tend to really like working with green, so you’ll see a lot of green sketches here just because it’s my favorite color. You can also do really cute fantasy or planar studies of your breakfast. You know, what you eat may not look good but it will taste good visually to the people looking at your sketchbook.

This is what I call my mess up/shit notebook. I basically just take my notes in here, so I just put in the stuff that’s happening every day. If there’s a boring lecture I can just doodle it all away. it’s just really good to have some loose paper to just express yourself in without worrying about what people think. I also put leaves in this one. I just tend to be happier when I mess up in it, I just think ‘hmm… that’s okay.’

I start my Sketchbook the opposite way and it’s easier to just draw from the opposite side so I don’t have smear marks as I do when I’m in this right handed world. I just go at it with a pen and have some fun. it also allows for great medium diversity so you can work with really really detailed ballpoint pen but then you could also work with very loose brushwork.

I really love nature so I end up taking a lot of notes about trees because they’re amazing. if you mess up on a sketch I recommend putting another picture over the picture and taping it so noone will have to know, well other than you. You can just put stuff in from things you’ve done like this photo, or you can just really funny wacky things you see in the museum.

So, this is a sketchbook I did during the summer. it was a really good relaxing point of letting your mind unboggle all the ideas you wanted to do during the school year but you really couldn’t because it’s the school year. Summer allowed me to just kind of explore ideas with color pencil. Colored pencil is really good because it’s very soft, but it also allows you to do a lot of shading. I think summer is a really good time for you to really explore some weird stuff, and you can also just write weird little notes you take about life.

I took a trip to Venice and I decided to bring my own sketchbook so I could really record my own finding some thoughts about the actual country in just one entity. Here’s one entry and some sketchbooks come with these little pouches but you can honestly make it yourself. It kind of makes it a little bit of a scrapbook without actually having a scrapbook so, yeah, memories.

Sometimes, we go to these really cool art museums so I made little cute sketches of the glass and beads.”

Partial Video Transcript, Julie Sharpe

“Hi, I’m Julie, and I’m a high school student from Missouri. My sketchbook has meant a lot of things to me; I write my personal thoughts in them, I write my comics in them, I also use them as observational sketching books. So, I just use them everyday to record my thoughts.

This is a pie chart I basically made to document how I spend my time with my sketchbook. So the majority of my time is spent flipping through old drawings, just trying to find ideas for what to draw next. The next part of my time I spend doing angry rants, and I actually do the large majority of my angry rants in, like, Spanish or Esperanto, and I also write them backwards because I don’t want people to look over my shoulder and see what I’m drawing.

If I’m drawing my friends and I want them to see (the sketch), I’ll just say, ‘“Hhey, look at this drawing,’” and then it’ll just be another form of procrastination so I don’t have to think about what else I should draw. I also feel kind of ashamed for just drawing the same thing. I feel like I draw way too many portraits a lot of the time.

I just spend time thinking about how I do that, but then I don’t actually change what I draw…which is kind of bad. I also spend some time thinking about what I should actually draw, trying to break away from the habit of just drawing portraits, and then the small portion of time is actually spent drawing.

This sketchbook spread is a combination of my observational drawing and a comment that I made the other day. So the observational drawing was done in paint marker of the people on the Bboston subway, I think. I was trying to sketch them without making eye contact with them, which is kind of hard, because I was trying to focus on the facial features.

This one is a comic about how, whenever Ii have a lot of stuff, I’ll procrastinate by just lying down on my bed and being on my phone.

This is a combination of observational sketches done at the airport. That was when I was travelling to Boston. I tried exaggerating lots of the facial features in this one. So, for example, this person has a huge nose, and like, a ridiculously big ball cap. But, that’s not actually how they looked in real life; I tried to capture their figures.

This is just a comic about how whenever I’m sitting and just doing nothing in my room and my mom knocks on the door, I have to pull up my SAT math book and look like I’m actually doing something.

This is a gouache painting, –it’s a self-portrait that I did from a mirror. I tried to capture my colours, –like, the colours on my face, –but also exaggerate them just slightly. Since it is a sketchbook, and I didn’t want it to be a finished piece, I wrote some thoughts that I was having that day.

This page is just a collection of random scribbles that I think i did while I wasn’t looking at the page. Sometimes I do that to get my mind flowing, and then I’ll try to make shapes out of it.

I started a sketchbook I think on the first day of school. it’s whenever I met one of my best friends and I just started off by drawing her, and she got really creeped out first, but then I don’t know we just slowly became friends.

This is a little page or, like, a little portion of a page that my friend and I drew during psychology class. I think we were trying to capture our teacher’s facial expression, ‘cus she was very angry at the time, so we just drew a really, really angry person.

I always feel really awkward drawing people, especially my friends, but then I think they’ve gotten used to it, because I’ll be known as the person who draws people during lunch. This sketchbook page was originally a colour study for a piece I was doing at the time, but i didn’t exactly like it, so i covered it up with a brush pen I was using.

This was just my friend, and she’s at the computers at the time. This page mostly consist of notes I was taking during portfolio class, but then my friend here was just sitting and looking at her phone or her Sketchbook, I think.

This is a spread of thumbnails that I did for my illustration class. Our assignment was to make fourty thumbnails based on an illustration prompt we were given, and so here I’m just testing out all the possibilities for the class.

This sketchbook is called ‘Tthe “Dan Bible’”, and it’s basically a big comic book that my friend and I made over the course of a month. We illustrated two point five pages every single day. It’s about this RA that we had during a camp, and his name was Dan. He looked like a heroic figure; we wanted the comic book series based on him.

This is the scene whenever the hero meets the villain in the story. So, you can see here that the villain is basically beheading a bunch of people and putting their heads on strings. That’s supposed to be the height of the action, and in this scene, and then in this scene, they’re supposed to look really terrifying while they hold the hero in their hand.”

Partial Video Transcript, Catherine Huang

“A lot of the sketchbooks I keep are really small, just because I feel they’re more convenient to put in my purse or my school bag or just carry around in my hand. I feel a sketchbook is a safe place. You don’t have to show them to people. They’re just for you sometimes. I start a sketchbook usually thinking ‘oh it’s going to be the best artwork in the whole world’. But, it’s not going to be ever.

I first started out simple. I draw little trees, I draw a little things that are a little bit finished like that, or maybe I draw from observations such as these Rodin Sculptures I looked at. However, the longer I work in the sketchbook, the more these discrepancies started to pop up such as notes or just little doodles to help me think about my next project. And that’s totally fine, I think it adds to the charm of this sketchbook. It’s just what my brain thinks essentially.

For instance, this was also planning for a school assignment I had to do. You can’t tell what it is in my sketchbook, but I understand what is going on so that’s totally fine. Sometimes you can see some more finished things in my sketchbook. I know not everyone’s sketchbook is like this and again, you do you.

Another thing I like to do is just work in different mediums in my sketchbook. These are pen and marker drawings. There was some pencil in there too and colored pencils. Sometimes I draw people, sometimes I draw places. Here is a place I drew and here is a person in comparison. These are also a bunch of notes I had to take in class. I didn’t have a notebook so I just used my sketchbook. I also have a really bad habit of never finishing the last page of a sketchbook and I don’t know why.

This is a more recent sketchbook I’ve been working on. When you first open it up, you can see somebody having a party and it’s obligatory that you have to have fun with your sketchbook. Some notes in class. This is a very very boring class and I ended up drawing the classroom. It was a very fun class to be in, just because the teacher always talked and never gave us a chance to talk. If we did listen that would have been helpful, but it didn’t make or break the class. You could do whatever you wanted in that class, so I just drew the classroom.

Sometimes things will come in the moment such as this parking lot. You might not think a parking lot is the best place to draw, but after I did the line drawing for the parking lot, I went back to my home and just colored it in and look what turned out. Sometimes I do more finished images, again this is something where I drew it in front of this building and then I took it back home and I colored it in.

There is some things that just aren’t finished. If the feeling strikes you, you can just draw whatever you want. I tend to draw more realistically, but sometimes I like to draw cartoons.”

Partial Video Transcript, Monika Hedman

“I have two different types of sketchbooks. The first one is the smaller sketchbook that I use for little doodles and then the bigger two, I use for planning school projects or bigger projects. I really like my small sketchbook because it allows me to just draw without thinking and let out a lot of different ideas that I have without having to create final pieces.

I like my bigger sketchbooks in a separate way because they allow me to plan out the composition and color scheme of my pieces and really think through all of my ideas so my final works are really strong and  can stand on their own. These two pages in particular mean a lot to me because I was going through a lot of really stressful things in my life when I drew them. I felt like I was being pulled in a lot of different directions.

This one is a pretty stylized portrait with some hands coming at her, really sharp fingers because I felt like a lot of people were asking me to do a lot of different things. Then this one, the girl is dark but she’s cut up in two different pieces because I really felt like I was in a lot of different places. Making these really helped me cope with this stress that was going on in my life at the time.

I actually drew this during English class in December because it was the first Christmas we had without my grandfather. It was a really tough time of year for a lot of people in my family. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of everything going on, I decided to draw a more whimsical portrait of him with Christmasy doodles coming out of the back to kind of make the season a little more cheery again and think about the good things going on.

Over the summer I made a life-size sea turtles out of plastic shopping bags to make a statement about plastic in our oceans. I used this sketchbook to plan out what to do for that project. So I learned about different types of knots and different ways to melt plastic bags in a safe way and then I also researched different artists, techniques to use in that project. So i used this sketchbook as a way to experiment so the final project looked good.

For my AP art concentration last year, I really wanted to look at other artists work to see what kind of style and what kind of work I wanted to create for my portfolio. So I took images from many different artists and glued them into my sketchbook and wrote about the work they were doing to see what kind of work I wanted to do and experiment with things I’ve never tried before.”

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