Books About Sketchbooks

I went to India last week for work. It was an AMAZING trip. When normal people make a trip like that they come back with jewel-toned scarves and golden bangles or delicious tea and spices. I unpacked and realized I brought back six new sketchbooks*.

You could say I have a problem, yes.

I’ve been obsessed with notebooks and sketchbooks pretty much my whole life but it’s really taken off in the past four or five years. I do all kinds of work in my sketchbooks — I write, I draw, I do collage, I paint. I have quite a few sketchbooks that I use to do art exchanges with friends. I have a couple I use to practice painting — one for watercolor, one for acrylics. I use one for a bullet journal, with notes and to dos for everything going on in my life. I keep another one in my bag for random notes or drawings (I got this idea from Austin Kleon). I keep a journal in a Moleskine daily planner.

A lot of my inspiration for sketchbooks comes from, well, books. Books about sketchbooks. Seems like there are just tons and tons of these out there. Sometimes they’re focused on other artist’s sketchbooks, sometimes they’re about visual journaling as a hobby, sometimes they are solidly in the memoir space. Most are beautiful — lots of full color photo spreads showing the range of styles and techniques that artists of all kinds use in their personal practices.

Here are some of my favorites:

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers: This book is what really jump-started my sketchbook obsession. Each of the 50 or so featured artists is given a few pages to show spreads from their work as well as tell stories of their work and lives. Author Danny Gregory makes drawing accessible and fun and if you’re the slightest bit interested, you should start with him to get going. I also highly recommend his first book, Everyday Matters, the first of his memoir sketchbooks.

Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists: Gorgeous little collection of work from different artists. I like this one because it introduced me to Julia Rothman, a wonderfully-talented designer and author, and her on-hiatus site Book By Its Cover, which has a great archive of reviews on art books and interviews of artists about their sketchbooks.

The Sketchbook Project World Tour: I am a big fan of the Sketchbook Project, a crowd-funded project that includes more than 35,000 sketchbooks that are housed in a dedicated museum in Brooklyn and regularly tour the US in a van. This book has an overview of the project plus a selection of entries from artists around the globe. I don’t love the organization –by geography — but it’s still lovely to flip through.

Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers: This is one of those books that is a precious object in itself. It’s a big, beautiful book that I keep next to the couch and find myself flipping through often, enjoying all of the bold photographs of more than 100 designers’ sketchbooks. There’s very little text, but there’s enough visual inspiration to make up for that.

Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art: Smaller than the other books on the list, I find this to be a great source of quick inspiration. Each page shows a different art technique with an example from an artist’s sketchbook. This is one of my favorites and a really great little gift.

Do you have any favorites that I’ve missed?

*To be fair I bought three of the sketchbooks during a very short layover in Rome. Groggy after a ten hour flight from Delhi, my heart nearly stopped as I walked past a Fabriano store on the way to the gate for my next flight. It was all I could do not to buy one of absolutely everything.

3 thoughts on “Books About Sketchbooks

  1. So do you have any suggestions for someone, like myself, who is not visual-arts inclined but loves the idea of having some sort of sketchbook/art journal? I do love them, but I can’t draw well at all and just don’t consider myself arty enough for it. Still, because I am stubborn, I would like to try doing one. But I don’t know where to start short of just copying other people’s ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, for sure. But first I feel it’s my duty to remind you just how awesomely creative you are. Don’t psych yourself out before you start.

      For me, Danny Gregory was the key. I came across him because of the Illustrated Life book I mentioned in my post, but reading his very short, very lovely graphic memoir Everyday Matters next got me hooked. In it, he talks about how he started drawing all of the normal objects around his house to get back to being creative. There is something so beautiful and rough about his drawings that it made me feel like I could do it, too. (I’m not particularly good at drawing or painting, but that doesn’t really feel like the point for me — it just feels good to make stuff.) Or you could start with just writing in sketchbooks, either by writing morning pages like Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist’s Way, or more accessibly, keep a log book the way Austin Kleon does (https://austinkleon.com/2010/01/31/logbook/). I think anything that motivates you to start filling up pages without fear is the best way to start on a sketchbook obsession. You can easily expand into other materials as you go.

      Like

      1. You sent me a copy of Everyday Matters a long time ago, and I did love it. It was inspiring, like it made it seem just that easy to start a sketch journal. But then, like I said, I can’t draw (really, I’m almost as bad at drawing as I am at math), so it’s intimidating. I like the log book idea, though. Going to give this some thought. Thanks! By the way I think your drawing and painting are amazing, for real

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s