Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sketchbook-a-Week Challenge in August

Honestly, I'm a bit reluctant about this challenge. It's super ambitious. (But also kind of exciting!) I picked up a book from my library called The Sketchbook Challenge, which offers prompts and technique ideas to help spark your creativity. Even before reading more than 5 pages of the intro, an idea hatched in my brain: fill 1 sketchbook a week, for 4 weeks in a row.


My idea is to completely immerse myself in drawing/writing/doodling/listing/collaging in my sketchbooks to the point of delirium. Then, after the challenge is over, my hands will automatically grab a pen and flip to a new page in my sketchbook to start thinking through drawing. I'll have done it SO much, that I just can't help myself. The habit is stuck. Right?

That's the idea, anyway.

It could also go the opposite way in that I completely hate doing the pages. I struggle daily, angrily scribbling something meaningless page after page, just to fill my quota for the day. But could I hate it, day after day? Rarely am I mad at something for more than a couple of days. Usually (sometimes slowly), I get over my stuckness, and release whatever is dragging me down. Wouldn't I also do that throughout the weeks of this challenge? Isn't that the point?

My relationship with sketchbooking is rocky. I've almost always kept written journals, and even when I take a long break from writing I still return to it pretty regularly. Sketching is love-hate. It's always been an assignment in art classes. It's advice I hear again and again from artists and other creative people: "always keep a sketchbook!" "I can't live without my sketchbook!"



I love sketchbooks. And I love all my old sketchbooks. But there's a persistent block I have when it comes to actually making marks on paper. The pages are too clean, the book is too precious, my ideas are too unimportant, my dreams too crippled to be recorded, my hands and mind too distracted... But I see their potential, and I believe in their power. It's like knowing that eating vegetables is good for your health and body, but instead passing on the veggies in exchange for junky potato chips. You know better, but that doesn't mean it's easy to do better.

Lately, I've started watching all the old episodes of Project Runway from the beginning of the show. They push those designers, over and over again. It's a fashion designing marathon for the duration of the show. Yeah, they struggle with every challenge. They come close to having breakdowns, they second-guess their vision, they tear the garment apart and start over again, and run into creative problems at every turn. Yet, the designers who push through and are persistent and work hard to listen to their gut and deliver again and again, are the ones who win.

I guess this is my Project Runway of sketchbooking. In the end, there can only be one winner and it can only be me. But I'm not guaranteed a win unless I keep up on completing my pages each week. My plan is this:

Fill one sketchbook per week. In order to fill the book by the end of the week, I divided up a rough page count per day that I should aim for. It's about 20 pages per day. Um, yeah. This is why I'm reluctant about this challenge.

I have 4 sketchbooks. One is brand new (minus a few pages in the front), and the other 3 are old and have been sitting in storage for years. YEARS. I figured this is a good time to try to fill them up. And if I completely tank and spew a bunch of pointless crap on the pages, well, at least they got used instead of staying blank forever. Even drivel is more interesting than nothing.


For experimentation and variety, the books' dimensions vary. And their page types are different: 2 are lined, 1 is gridded, and 1 is bare. I prefer bare, but we'll see what happens with the lines. In a way, having it be lined helps me overcome that "block" a little bit (instead of seeing pristine pages). It feels less like an expensive, fancy artist's sketchbook and more like a kid's crappy, boogery school notebook.

"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way operating."
~John Cleese


This quote sums up what this challenge is all about. How can I expect myself to be creative, day after day, if I'm not in the habit of one of the most basic of creative activities? It's not about being perfect or producing amazing pages; it's about showing up. Keeping a sketchbook and downloading my thoughts and ideas into it daily is a tool I'm confident I can wield successfully and that will only help to enrich my creative life and work.

I start Friday.


  1. Awesome! I am doing a 30 days of writing challenge starting on Friday! Let's check in with each other to help motivate!? Here it is: http://www.andreabalt.com/30-days-of-writing-challenge/

  2. That writing challenge sounds awesome! I can see it fitting in really well with my sketchbook challenge... doing at least 3 pages of "Morning Pages" first thing in the morning is a practice I used to be pretty good at, but have let slip away recently. Want to get back to it!

  3. This is my kind of crazy. I think I am going to steal your idea and do it too :)

  4. Do it! It can be your "make art everyday" challenge :) By the way, your Project333 outfit-a-day drawings are awesome. I might try to include some outfit drawings in my sketchbooks in August - I'm not doing Project333 right now, but maybe making a drawing will encourage me to wear some of the sweet clothes I do have, instead of wearing ratty PJs every day!

  5. I will! I gathered a small stack of sketchbooks to use. What media are you going to use? I am thinking of limiting myself to Pitt pens and a small palette of watercolor, to make it as portable as possible!

  6. Oh and, thank you! I'd love to see some OotD sketches from you!

  7. I'm open to using whatever art supplies I have on hand. Rolling ball ink pens are my favorite, but I've also got a drawer full of watercolors, colored pencils, and even pastels and crayons. Anything old I can use up (just like my old sketchbooks)!


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