This is the second in a series of posts that addresses some of the most common reasons why we can't just sit down and draw. In each post I will discuss a real reason that I have avoided drawing and attempt to offer some actionable solutions. My hope is that these posts will be helpful to you if you are struggling with developing or maintaining a daily drawing habit.
Fear: Ruining pages in your sketchbook.
Why you should draw anyway: Sketchbooks are a place for you to practice and develop your craft. They are for YOU, not for anyone else.
I used to have all of these blank sketchbooks. At any given moment I carried three in my purse along with an assortment of technical pens and pencils. I kept them handy so they would be ready when I needed them, but I could never get into the habit of drawing in a sketchbook. In college, we were supposed to keep "idea journals" as part our grade for Creative Advertising. At the end of the semester I always found myself playing catch up trying to make a semester's worth of entries during the week before finals. I just found it really difficult to put things down in a sketchbook.
Every time I went to the art supply store I bought a new sketchbook, thinking maybe I hadn't found the right one. I bought handfuls of pens and pencils that would go home to die a lonely death in a desk drawer. I wanted to draw, but I was afraid of ruining a nice sketchbook or wasting nice pens and pencils on bad drawings.
Tip 1: Buy cheap sketchbooks so there is less pressure to be perfect.
One day I came across an old spiral sketchbook, with a flimsy paper cover, that I had stashed away in my closet. I started using it when I needed to work out a design problem or anytime I needed to draw something that wasn't "worthy" of my other sketchbooks. I found that I felt okay about making bad drawings inside this sketchbook because it was cheap and I didn't really like it.
I had all of these nice Moleskine leather bound journals with thick paper and it was hard for me to experiment in them because whatever I put on the pages needed to be worthy of the notebook.
So, I started buying cheaper sketchbooks that I didn't care about and eventually I was able to start filling them up. Don't get me wrong, I love Moleskine notebooks and I still buy them for sketching, but now I choose this kind.
Tip 2: Remember that most artists only post their best work online.
I have always had this idea that any artist who is any good probably has stacks of sketchbooks filled with pages upon pages of gallery worthy art. When Instagram became a thing, my sketchbook anxiety reached an all time high when I actually started seeing the insides of sketchbooks belonging to artists whom I admired. I became so frozen with fear at the idea of having an ugly sketchbook that I really couldn't even open one.
If I did draw something, I would do it on lose printer paper so that if it went wrong, I wouldn't have to tear pages out of my sketchbook to destroy the evidence.
We have all heard that social media can be deceiving because most people present their best selves online. Remember that this holds true for art as well. It is easy to get down on ourselves when we see so much amazing art online, but just because you are not seeing someone's failures posted online doesn't mean they aren't happening. Don't hold yourself to an unrealistic standard.
Tip 3: Use sketchbooks for research, exploration and getting down your ideas.
About a year ago, I was listening to a Stories Unbound interview with illustrator and character designer Ovi Nedelcu. He said some things that resonated with me and changed the way I think about sketchbooks.
"Sketchbooks were never meant to be finished, polished gallery art, but the research and development behind it." –Ovi Nedelcu [Tweet this]
He says he used to have trouble filling up sketchbooks until he made a conscious effort to stop caring what people thought of his sketches. He says his sketchbooks are meant to help him grow as an artist and they don't need to impress anyone. He uses sketchbooks as a place to get down ideas, solve problems and explore shapes, compositions, etc. Once he embraced this idea he began to fill pages in his own sketchbooks. And the more pages he filled, the more his confidence as an artist grew because each of those pages represented time spent developing his craft.
Do you have blank sketchbooks lying around?
What is stopping you from filling them up? Or have you overcome your own sketchbook anxiety? I would love to hear about it in the comments. I hope this first post on developing a drawing habit has been helpful to you. Stay tuned for more posts in the Developing a Daily Drawing Habit series.