10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook

Sketchbooks are also known as blank voids that consume the minds of any artists who have the urge to draw, but don’t know what to draw. This can make sketchbooks a pretty intimidating object, especially when your mind is as blank as the pages.

I speak from experience with this, as I’ve racked up a lot of ‘staring at a blank page’ time.

But as I try to get over my perfectionism when it comes to sketchbooks, I’ve found some fun ways to fill those pesky pages. Here are 10 ways that you can fill a sketchbook:

1. Gesture studies.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com
It’s important to stay fast and loose while doing gesture studies!

As artists, we should all do studies at some point, especially when drawing complicated things such as human bodies. And one of the best ways to learn how to draw fluid and dynamic anatomy is through gesture studies!

Gesture studies are great because you can just sit down with a pencil and your sketchbook and study from life. Or if you don’t have anyone you can use for studies, you can find tons of interesting poses online, especially on sites such as Pinterest.

Plus, gesture studies don’t have to be limited to just human poses and anatomy, they can also be used to study animal poses as well. Cats, dolphins, and horses all have very dynamic poses, so they’re a great place to start doing gesture studies from.

Remember to stay loose while working on gesture studies. If you find yourself getting too stiff, try giving yourself a short time limit for each gesture, that way you can focus on speed and staying loose.

2. Color swatches.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

I have difficulty working with colors, which is why I find color palettes and swatches so interesting and useful.

By swatching the colors that I have, and making small palettes of the colors that I think go well together, I get to learn how colors work together, and how some of my art supplies interact with the paper in my sketchbook.

This saves me from a lot of potential color mistakes later on when working on illustrations.

3. Illustrations from life.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com
Illustrations from life don’t have to take you a long time. This illustration took me less than five minutes, and it gave me a chance to practice perspective.

Studying from life is a great way to learn, and it’s pretty easy to do if you’re stuck on ideas. Just find an interesting scene, maybe make a few composition tweaks (if that’s a possibility), and then illustrate what you see and feel.

If you don’t know what to illustrate, setting up a still life is easy to do, and can be done pretty much anywhere. And still life illustrations don’t just have to be of some fruit in a bowl. Books, art supplies, and cups of coffee or tea can all be used in a still life, and are probably objects you have nearby as an artist.

Making a habit of doing illustrations from life can also give you the opportunity to see lots of interesting things you wouldn’t have otherwise, as you’ll begin looking for dynamic compositions and unique situations.

4. Thumbnails.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com
I like to add arrows to thumbnails to show where the face will be looking.

Thumbnails are small sketches that you can do to figure out the composition, lighting, colors, or values of a piece before you actually make it. This allows you to iterate over ideas and figure out the overall flow and feel of an illustration before diving into it, which can help strengthen your art.

And sketchbooks are the perfect place to do these thumbnails!

Thumbnails are also good when you have a sudden idea, but are pressed for time to write or sketch down that idea. With a small thumbnail, just a few pencil lines will be enough to get your idea out, and it only takes a few seconds.

5. Photos, souvenirs, and other small memorabilia.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

Sketchbooks don’t have to be reserved just for art. They can also be used to keep track of the things that inspire you!

Keeping things like movie ticket stubs, photographs, meaningful notes, paint samples, and all manner of other things in your sketchbook can help inspire you and increase your creativity.

6. Medium experiments.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

Sometimes we get a little too caught up in a specific medium, so it’s important to take breaks and experiment with other mediums.

For example, if you’ve been working with pencils a lot, try out some watercolors.

Switching things up can help your mind reset and teach you new things. It also allows you some time to experiment with combining different mediums, which can cause artistic breakthroughs or surges of inspiration.

7. Weird art experiments and exercises.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

A sketchbook can be a very personal and private thing, which is why it’s okay to get a bit weird and experimental with it.

Getting experimental with art can be a deeply personal thing, so my suggestion is to focus on trusting your instincts and intuition, especially if you’ve been ignoring them lately. Try out some automatic drawing, or start drawing the things the you want to draw, but feel that you shouldn’t.

8. Fan art.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

Doing fan art is a beautiful way to show appreciation for something you enjoy, and it allows you to play around with concepts using characters, places, creatures, or objects that have been designed already.

Fan art is also a wonderful way to work through strong emotions you could be feeling about a certain book, show, movie, game, etc. I certainly know that there have been times where I couldn’t get something out of my head, and I just needed some time to process my emotions.

I really love doing fan art, and I want to make more time for doing it. If you haven’t tried doing fan art for something you enjoy, then try it out to see if you enjoy making it.

9. Photo studies.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

Photo studies are studies that you do from a photograph, rather than from life. And with the internet being what it is today, you can find a photo of just about anything, meaning that you can do a study of just about anything!

I frequently use my Pinterest account to gather photos to use for studies and references, as it’s a great way to organize and gather pictures into one place.

10. Quotes and inspirational sayings.

10 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook - cozyrebekah.com

Again, who says that sketchbooks have to be limited to just art? If there are some quotes or inspirational sayings that inspire you then you should write them down in your sketchbook.

If you want, you could even use that as an opportunity to work on your lettering skills, or make some cool new fonts.

So go, grab your sketchbook and have fun filling it up with all manner of interesting things! If you’re still stuck on ideas, here’s a bonus one: I’m running an art course that gives you a few different kinds of art assignments each week. If you find one that you like you can participate, and you might even get your art featured here at the end of the month!

I blog about art every Friday, so check back next week for some new content. If you found this post helpful, please leave a like, or share it with someone else who’d find it helpful.

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