Sketchbook Skills

Hi all! The LoD is the first formal art training I have ever embarked upon. I have been working on it slowly but consistently in my home on the evenings and its structured approach resonates well with my personality. However, I’m having trouble finding a place for my sketchbook. How do most of you use your sketchbooks effectively? Do you find general “doodling” throughout the day to be a useful and effective means of increasing you skill as an artist or are there better ways to employ its use, such as doing abbreviated versions of the LoD exercises in it. I have tried the latter approach but found the lack of easel to be challenging. Anthony lists it as one of the necessary items in the artists kit, so I want to use it. I just feel like time spent with it so far has been ineffective. Any advice would be welcomed. Thanks!



I’m in a similar situation in that I work on the LoD program at night and on the weekends. I keep a small sketchbook at work and copy stuff that catches my eye on pinterist and I also keep a sketchbook in my car that I take to my local art museum and parks. I put all my structure/self discipline into the LoD and do whatever I want in my sketchbooks. I try to work from life when I can. You are right its hard to work without an easel. I don’t generally show anyone my sketchbooks. For what its worth, I don’t think your wasting your time.

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When I was sketching somewhat frequently for a drawing course, I found sketching to be useful in improving my ability to “eyeball” spatial relationships more quickly and accurately (rather than a careful academic approach using measurement and relative positions). That being said, for that positive benefit, I would imagine one would have to be at least somewhat deliberate in trying to achieve such a goal while sketching and while reviewing ones work.

Sketching was also somewhat helpful in representing forms in a simplified mass (light/dark) way, though I focused less on that aspect while doing it.

Sketching will not develop the same skills as certain LoD exercises which train mastery/automaticity of establishing various gradients using charcoal.

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Greetings Jason and all, great question and great responses here. Aside from use as a potential expansion of your practice arena, the sketchbook/journal can serve as a very effective conceptual development scratchpad to document, test, and grow creative ideas during your technical development. I urge my own students to jot down ideas whenever they come, and then grow the idea within the sketchbook through analysis and experiment to uncover how best to manifest that idea visually (with both communicative and aesthetic considerations.)

I can’t tell you how far some student’s ideas have grown past an initial concept in this way—leading to a concept that is personally meaningful and engaging enough so as to maintain strong interest in spite of the trials and frustrations connected with early creative projects.


One of the things that I do during my commutes to and from work in Boston (45 to 60 minutes each way) is to print out Barque plates from the Charles Bargue Drawing Course book. You can find samples on the internet that you can print out. I like to cut and paste them into Microsoft Word and that way I can resize them so I’m actually using the Sight-Size method to reproduce them into my sketchbook.

Other times I sketch people on the bus and train itself. you have to work fast because you never know what stop that people are going to get off at. Any time drawing is not wasted but by doing the Bargue plates, you can do measurable sketching so you can consistently improve and see that you are improving and what you may need work on.

I like to convert pictures to grayscale and print them out and then I sketch those into my sketchbook. I like to do a lot of experimenting in my sketchbooks and try to challenge myself. I feel that my sketchbook is for stepping outside of my comfort zone. If there is something I have a hard time drawing or painting then I might challenge myself to drawing nothing but that for an entire week or month. I believe that if you go with the understanding that only you will see your sketchbook that you’re more inclined to relax and just enjoy your sketching time and you’ll experiment and challenge yourself more.


I’ve found this to be true with a lot of LOD students. Personally I find it important to keep an active sketchbook. I posted about this at some length in the Sketchbook Nook so I won’t reiterate all that, but my advice is to make the time and do it. I agree 100% with John though – like anything, it’s useful insofar as you make it useful by applying deliberate practice. I sketched for years when I was younger and didn’t really get much better. I just repeated the same bad habits over and over again. A sketchbook is a great place to start breaking your bad habits up and experimenting with different things. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful Instagram-ready Moleskine Masterpiece. My sketchbooks are full of garbage, every other page is a disaster. But you’ve gotta work through that. Just try to learn something from every sketch, however brief.