Monday, April 4, 2011


There are many ways to describe a sketchbook. This is only natural since sketchbooks existed long back into mankind's history. Do we start from the primitive cave painting as an early sketchbook?

Perhaps I should just talk about sketchbook from my own point of view; then sketchbook is a free form drawing record of my feeling, my reaction to what I see, where I've been. It is as much a record of my own experience as my expression of, and my interest in art. At the end, my sketchbooks are traces of my life's journey.

My sketchbooks are drawings in either pen or pencil or both. All sketches are done on site, indoor and outdoor, taking from 10 minutes to half an hour at most. Some of them are washed over with watercolor or rub over with wax pastel, either soon after the on-site works or stay black and white line works. I really hardly come back to work on any past sketches.

I use all kind and size of sketchbook, from 10x15 cm to A4 size, as long as they are blank without lines. I also make my own simple sketchbook from thin watercolor paper, at time; wrap the cover with left over cloth. I use this thicker paper as watercolor sketchbook as if they are my painting, color painting over sketches of line work of ink or ink work of brush pen.

To me, there's nothing mysterious or ritual on starting a sketchbook. I'd just pick up some pencils (2-6B, soft pencil) or a few pen (fine line, 0.2-0.5 fine felt tips but not ball point pen) or brush pen (pre-loaded brush tip pen that looks like Chinese brush) and a sketchbook and go! There can be nothing easier than to enjoy sketching on a sketchbook.

For sketchbook beginners, it is most important to have a clear awareness that a sketchbook IS a private diary of an individual. Unlike a piece of art work, sketchbook is not necessarily for sharing, not for advice or improvement, neither for comments nor praises. It is absolutely private and it is entirely up to each sketchbook keeper if he or she is happy to share the sketchbook among friends who enjoy, appreciate and value such viewing.

My personal advice for a good start is to get the BEST sketchbook you could find. If this is your first sketchbook at all, a reasonably thick and the most appealing sketchbook on the shelf is what you deserve. Look for a strongly built book with reasonably thick, nice to feel at papers that you could open up flat on both pages. The best quality is one with thread stitches spine that holds several stacks (called signatures) of papers into a book that will last you years of enjoyment. Sketchbooks with spiral metal wire spine also allow you to open a full flat 180 degree but sometime do not encourage a double fold (pages) drawing while the one with glue instead of thread spine might split over times.

Some good sketchbook might cost more but it is wise to start with a good one that make you feel good to carry around. Never mind even if your first few sketches are not up to your own expectation but that's the best start and, best advice I could ever give. Be proud of your first good to look at, good to feel at book, you can always have another less costly one to go along and to trash out along side your best looking one!

Below are some of the sketchbooks that you might come across in department store or art supply shops. Shown here are ranging from homemade metal wire spine to simple black hard cover, the legendary Moleskine sketchbook, hand-made book from China, the elegant looking hand-made lotus leave cover from Thailand and a robust functional double volume, two in one hard cover sketchbook with cloth covers.

However, it is perhaps fair to take it easy and just have another look at this starting issue here, before we run out onto the street. It seems to also make sense as a brushing up exercise for those who are familiar with drawing but had let it rusted over a long period of time as much as a primer for those who by now only vaguely remember how a pencil look like.

We will start with pen drawing on the next post.

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