Lesson 2: The importance of a sketchbook by artist Lillian Gray

Watch the lesson for free on our YouTube channel

Free Drawing Course by artist Lillian Gray

This is a video and blog series teaching the fundamentals of drawing in an easy to understand way. The series consists of 15 lessons presented by artist Lillian Gray.


Hi, I’m Lillian Gray, South African fine artist and owner of the Lillian Gray Fine Art School. Welcome to our drawing course. This is lesson two: The importance of a sketchbook. 

In this video, I will be covering the 7 reasons why you need to keep a sketchbook.  But first I would just like to cover what type of sketchbook I use and why..and a word of caution to this tale. A sketchbook is quite a serious commitment.  

First, I need to tell you that a sketchbook is quite a commitment. Do not abandon it, do not lose track of it, and keep that consistent flow of drawing and creating. I’ve had various sketchbooks throughout my life, I’ve tried different sizes,  different papers, different shapes. Currently, I have this one which is an old book that  I’ve reappropriated and this one’s full now. I’ve just bought myself this wonderful one from Reese and I want to tell you why I chose this sketchbook.

For me, most importantly, it fits into my handbag. Because this baby is always with me. The second most important thing for me is that it’s ring-bound. Ring-bound is really, really important so that I can open it completely flat. Then the next thing we need to know is the quality of the paper. I really like good paper because I like experimenting with different materials, so I might be painting with acrylic or fineliners or ink or whatever I can find, watercolours, and I want my paper to hold. I don’t want my paper to deteriorate or start wobbling. 

7 Reasons for keeping a Sketchbook

1. It boosts creativity

Sketchbooks help your ideas grow. Helps you develop new ones. It allows us to make random connections and juxtapose ideas. Tear images for magazines, draw over them, rip out half an image, extend it into something else. I’ve come up with amazing design concepts due to this randomness of my sketchbook. 

Flat sketchbook
Ensure your sketchbook can fold completely flat.

2. It is your safe space

Your safe space. My sketchbook is really, really private. I will never hand it over to somebody to just page through it. It’s my development, my ideas, my emotional state so, if they really want to page through it I’ll only show them certain sections. And trust me all these amazing sketchbooks you guys see on Pinterest, those people are only showing you what they really want you to see. The perfect pages! Not the oopses! 

3. Continuous Practice 

Continuous practice, keep your skills sharp. When I was young I had this idea that I wanted to be the world’s greatest designer, and I met a graphic designer at the time, which was quite, you know, successful in South Africa. He said to me, draw every day and draw from life. And I’m so happy that he did and I started my art career. I was hired immediately out of all the candidates because I could draw, and I could draw anything! 

A sturdy ring-bound sketchbook allows you to sketch anywhere at any time.

4. Emotional Download

For me a sketchbook is basically my whole memoir, in pages, it’s living, it’s visual, it’s what I feel at the moment. One day a sketch could be really negative, the next day it could be with joy and exuberant-like colours. It really is an emotional journey. So download your brain, download your emotions, so that your energy can be free to move on to other stuff. 

Explore with different mediums in your sketchbook.

5. Art breeds more art. 

Once you start creating the sketchbook, it flows to a new idea, the next idea, and before you know it, you’re brimming over with new ideas and concepts. So, the more you’re going to draw, the more you’re going to create, the more creative you will become. 

Keep your sketchbook with you at all times. It’s always a good time to draw.

6. Create your own inspiration.  

I think we can get so bogged down, and I call it the funnel effect, when we are so cluttered with ideas, we can’t actually get our own original idea onto the page. And we get Pinterest addicted, we just scroll through pages and pages of stuff. But what’s us? What is truly Lillian? What are  Lillian’s ideas? And my sketchbook is that for me. It’s my inspiration, it’s anything I love. I have curated. I never approach a canvas wondering what am I going to paint next? I just flip through my sketchbook, and I’ve come running over with ideas, of stuff that I’ve collected over the few months,  that I’m really inspired by. 

7. Overcome fear 

Did you know that there is a legit phobia for a white page or a white canvas? And writers, they call it writer’s block!  But how do we get over it? How do we take this sketchbook that’s so new and not ruin it? My thing is, take your first page and deliberately screw it up, ruin it, throw it with ink. Do whatever!

Skip the first batch, just get over your fear and just start drawing. Another thing I’ve realized is that I would abandon sketchbooks. And I thought about why am I doing this? I mean it’s my OCD, it’s my perfection. So if there’s something in that sketchbook that’s really ugly to me, or like I feel I failed, I’m would abandon in the entire book. Don’t do that, staple the pages together that irritates you, rip them out, stick them together, get rid of them. Move on. Keep what’s beautiful for you. Keep what nurtures your soul. But don’t ruin the relationship with your sketchbook. 

Thank you for reading. This concludes our seven reasons why sketchbooks are so important. I hope you guys have a lot of fun filling your pages. Below I’ve is a link to a sketchbook I really like, that you guys can buy online with us on our website. 

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