Why Every Artist Should Have an "Experimentation Sketchbook"

Monday, September 05, 2016

Every artist should have this one type of sketchbook in their arsenal. Having a specific sketchbook for experimenting will prevent you from limiting yourself and stressing yourself out over producing something good - which means more room for trying new things and finding creative inspiration!
Peony clip art from Zakkiya of Inkstruck Studio
I don't know about you, but I used to always have this mentality that everything I drew/painted had to be a finished piece. I was never the type to have messy sketches in my sketchbooks, I always went straight into a final piece. For that reason, I think I created this mindset that everything I made had to be good. Obviously, that's impossible! There's no way every single thing you make is going to be good. Logically, I knew that, but I think I restricted myself subconsciously because I didn't want to create something bad.

Then one day, I simply shifted my mindset. I set aside one sketchbook and designated it as my "experimentation sketchbook" (Perhaps, I am just a bit too rigid and particular about things because of my need for organization, but I tend to have different sketchbooks for different reasons/mediums/subject matter as opposed to one sketchbook that I just fill willy-nilly. Anyone else relate?) I decided that this sketchbook could be ugly, it could look childish even, because I wanted it to allow me to be completely free from pressure and just create whatever came to mind. 

Which brings me to the reason behind this post. I figured I would explain the benefits of having a sketchbook like this, along with showing pages from my own sketchbook with explanations of ideas that I gained from this method .   

Why You Need an "Experimentation Sketchbook"

  • When there is no pressure, you allow yourself to be more creative instead of unintentionally limiting yourself
  • You won't be waiting for inspiration to strike, you will create your own inspiration
  • You will begin to be more observant and make connections 
  • It's stress-relieving!
  • You can try out new mediums/practice mediums that are difficult for you   
Now that you know the benefits, I'll show you my own personal pages and explain how I specifically found them helpful.

Every artist should have this one type of sketchbook in their arsenal. Having a specific sketchbook for experimenting will prevent you from limiting yourself and stressing yourself out over producing something good - which means more room for trying new things and finding creative inspiration!

In the picture above, I was testing out different marks that could be made with one type of brush (a filbert brush). Then I somehow ended up coming back to this page weeks later and adding random doodles over top with paint pens. The result? I ended up discovering a pattern that I was particularly drawn to. I absolutely loved that stripey pale pink pattern with the green dot groupings over top! Now, I can always experiment more with that pattern and even incorporate it into future artwork.

Every artist should have this one type of sketchbook in their arsenal. Having a specific sketchbook for experimenting will prevent you from limiting yourself and stressing yourself out over producing something good - which means more room for trying new things and finding creative inspiration!

Now this picture is really the perfect example of not having any set plan. I actually created these pink brushstrokes because I had leftover paint that I didn't want to waste! After I just threw the paint down in this circular composition, I added the black dots over top because if there's one thing I learned from this sketchbook, it's that I REALLY love dot patterns. Later, I shared this photo of the pattern on Instagram and so many people loved it! And I kid you not, the page probably took less then 5 minutes, drying time aside. Funny, huh? :)

Every artist should have this one type of sketchbook in their arsenal. Having a specific sketchbook for experimenting will prevent you from limiting yourself and stressing yourself out over producing something good - which means more room for trying new things and finding creative inspiration!

For this page, I was testing out different shades, tints, and tones of Ultramarine Blue. Now I know what pretty blues that can be created with this color and can reference this page whenever I want to include the color in a painting.  

Every artist should have this one type of sketchbook in their arsenal. Having a specific sketchbook for experimenting will prevent you from limiting yourself and stressing yourself out over producing something good - which means more room for trying new things and finding creative inspiration!

Lastly, are these two pages, which I actually made when I first decided to try my hand at acrylic paint again. I had always struggled with this medium and as a result, hated it. I had given up on them in childhood and hadn't touched them again until I took a color theory class this year. Since I had to buy a bunch of acrylic paints for it, I wasn't going to let them go to waste! This first page, admittedly, wasn't actually done in the book, but on a scrap piece of thick Bristol paper. I created these funny little paint palette and paintbrushes as my first attempt at actually creating a representation of something with acrylic paints. Sure, they're primitive and flat looking, but I thought they came out kind of cute and decided to tape them in here. The second page was an abstract painting that came about as a result of color testing and trying out different brushstrokes with a flat brush. I decided to add some black dots over top (Probably the exact moment of the beginning of my dot obsession) to finish it. But I also ended up discovering that I liked the black and sea foam color combo.

Not to be dramatic, but I cannot tell you how much of a difference this sketchbook has made in my life! I definitely noticed feeling more creative since I started using this method. I often just go in blindly and end up coming up with new ideas based off it; whether it be a composition, a color combination, or a pattern, I always discover something new.

So I would love to know whether you already have a sketchbook for this purpose, or if not, would you try it? Let me know in a comment below! 

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2 comments

  1. These are brilliant! Owning a sketchbook is sooo important. I started my first proper sketchbook last year after realising that even being an artist for many years I never really own any and now I've just finished my fifth. It really helps me practise and experiment.

    Katrina Sophia

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    1. Yes, I was the same way! I never really used my sketchbooks and just went straight into the finished piece. Now I'm making an effort to play around and experiment more, which I think has helped me creatively

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