Jan 2, 2017

Sketchbook Project - Week 52 and Final Reflections

This week I wanted to created some "best of" pages. For example, I love painting food, so obviously a piece of fruit was necessary.  I like surprising patterns, so I painted creek bed rocks full of color inspired by a hike the previous day.  I wanted an animal in the mix, and I saw a kingfisher on a Christmas day drive, so I really wanted to add that to my sketchbook. The last page is an homage to the tools and supplies I've been using all year--a bit more on that below.  Have a look at my final pages of the year, and then continue on to read about my reflections for this project.
Left: Acrylics                     Right: Watercolor and Gelly Roll Pen
Watercolor, Micron Pen Colored Pencil

Visit weeks 1-52 of the project here.

Why a Sketchbook Project?
My year began with a blank sketchbook and no intentions of making my sketchbook art a public project.  My only goal was to add something (anything, really) to a sketchbook in order to fill it. I've always had a pile of sketchbooks that have just a few pages with drawings, but none that were full.  For some reason, I would use a few pages and then move on to another book.  But, I wanted a sketchbook full of art. To make the project "easy", I didn't make any sort of rules.  I didn't have to add a full page each day.  I could just add a small doodle if I wanted. But small doodles apparently aren't my style.  Each day, I ended up filling a whole page or an entire two-page spread.  The sketchbook I started with (a Moleskine Art Plus sketchbook) has 81 pages, so it only took two months to reach my original goal of filling one book.  After the first book was full, I just continued into the next one, eventually filling seven sketchbooks. As I mentioned earlier, this wasn't going to be a public project, but I posted a photo to Instagram, asked for opinions, and a public project with built-in accountability was born.

When I peruse the finished books and flip through the pages, I can remember general feelings or even details of what I was doing, where I was, maybe what was on the tv, what podcast or music I was hearing. Sometimes these moments are infused into the art.  It's kind of a crazy feeling to be taken back to that specific moment, but flipping through the pages does that for me. In a way, these pages serve as a journal.  I'm not a writer, but I can throw some feeling in the form of color and strokes onto a page and remember what was going through my mind at the time.

When I began this project, I did not have much confidence in my artistic ability with other mediums. Aside from felting and working with wool, I just never invested the time in other mediums.  I felt like such a newbie with everything. But with practice, I had (what I would consider) success with my most used mediums of watercolor, colored pencil and acrylic paints.  Before this project, I had never even painted with acrylics.  As it turns out, I love them.  Diving in to a new medium is daunting with no experience and a perceived investment, but I've learned that jumping into the shallow, less expensive end of the pool is just fine. To explore acrylics, I bought an inexpensive set with a large range of colors in small tubes, and these are what I'm still using.  I've had to buy another tube of white (if you paint, that's likely not a surprise), but I'm excited to explore higher quality paints when these begin to run out. I'm also ready to invest in better brushes.  But for this project, a super inexpensive set ($8 for 12 brushes) and a $3 plastic palette were the only additional tools I needed to give acrylics a fighting chance.

Things that helped me keep my commitment:
-I found a sketchbook that I liked and continued with that brand for the whole project.
-The sketchbook was on the small size--great for not having to invest a huge amount of time and for traveling.
-Keeping an album on my phone of favorite photos, subjects or screenshots for inspiration.
-Being okay with the idea that some day's projects will be random lines or blotches of paint.
-Being okay with going back to a page to add or rework in some way. Art is not permanent, and these are my books, and I'll do what I want.

Struggles I encountered (because it wasn't all rainbows and glitter):
-Lack of time--especially toward the end of the year when I was prepping for multiple shows.  Occasionally, constraints on time made this project stressful, an unfortunate but usually avoidable problem with proper time management.
-Lack of ideas or inspiration to even create art--this is why sometimes the pages are plain, or simple, or messy. Because I needed to get something down on the paper, and anything would do when I felt very unmotivated.
-Failed ideas--sometimes an idea wouldn't pan out. Sometimes my abilities failed me.  Sometimes I left the failed piece, and sometimes I covered it completely, like it was never there.
-Lack of daylight in the winter (for filming flip-throughs).
-Sticky pages (If facing pages were both covered in acrylic paint, they'd stick together. I keep a piece of paper between them.)

Supplies I used throughout the year:
Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook
Sakura Koi Watercolor Pocket Field Guide Set of 24 (Most-used medium by far)
Pelikan Gouache Pan Set of 24 (surprisingly delightful set)
Crayola Markers
Copic Markers (only twice because they bled through the pages)
Watercolor Colored Pencils (two or three times)
Mechanical Pencil
Art Gum Eraser
Prismacolor Pencils
Dick Blick Acrylic Paints
Japanese Brush Pen (until it ran out of ink)
Micron Pens
Gelly Roll Pens
Graphite Pencils (once, twice maybe)
Gold Leaf (once)
Scissors & Glue Stick (once)
Assorted brushes for watercolor and acrylics
*I'm probably forgetting a few things, but this is likely 98% of what I used all year.

So, what benefits have I gained from this project?
First of all, the blissful feeling of accomplishment of having completed a daily project for an entire year is wonderfully rewarding.  I'm SO proud of myself.  But this project has served me in many other ways. I got to spend time creating art for myself and built my skills in other mediums. I've discovered new (to me) mediums. I realized my penchant for realism in art.  An unexpected outcome is that I've become a more careful observer--of people, of my environment, of color.  I'm sure this is a result of those days when I'm scanning for an idea or banking ideas for future use.  

Where do I go from here?
You might be wondering if I'll be continuing this project into 2017.  Yes, I will.  BUT, I'm not holding myself to a daily commitment. Right now, I can't imagine not keeping a sketchbook and adding to it regularly.  I feel it's likely that I'll be doing this for the rest of my life. As I've mentioned before, daily sketching is time consuming, and right now I've got a few other (very important) projects that need all the time I can give them. But rest assured, I already have shiny new sketchbooks on hand (one of my regulars, one a bit larger, plus a few that I've had lying around that need some love), and my art supplies will never sit idle for more than a few days. I've been sharing my flip-throughs on Instagram every Monday, and those posts are hugely popular.  I hope to share these again in 2017, at least on a monthly basis, but hopefully more frequently.

Because of this project, I will likely be expanding on some of my favorite subjects and creating small series of paintings (actual paint even, not wool). Obviously, I'm going to be creating more food art, and I really loved the illustrative quality of pen & ink with watercolor, especially for plants and wildlife. I also hope to explore oil paints soon (more food art? lol) and working on my realism abilities in all mediums. I also plan on building up the Fill Your Sketchbook community and launching that newsletter with prompts and ideas very soon.  Join here if you'd like.

I appreciate the support you've given me with the project.  Your words of encouragement, your likes and shares on social media, your expressions and stories of your own sketchings mean the world to me.  If you've been considering starting a project like this, I definitely recommend it.  ANY time you invest into growing your artistic side will benefit you immensely--I truly believe that.  If there's anything I can do to help you on your journey, please don't hesitate to ask! Now, go Fill Your Sketchbooks!!


  1. Uhmmm... just wanted to say how awesome this idea is and now I want to do something like this! I've been in a creative rut for a few months now and this seems like something that could fuel me. Love your IG feed! Very inspirational and colorful! Keep up the awesome work and Happy 2017!
    My IG is @hannahwingatedesigns

  2. I've been following you for the last few months on Instagram and have really enjoyed your flip through posts! You've inspired me to start filling up some of the sketchbooks I have lying around. Can't wait to see what you post this year! :)