My sketchbook system: 4 is the magic number!

(If you take a sip of water every time I use the word “sketchbook” in this post, you should be quite hydrated by the time you’re done reading!)

Like many artists, I have suffered from constantly craving a shiny new sketchbook. I would often buy a new one before finishing the one I was working in, leaving the old one to collect dust. This is why one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2022 was to finish filling 3 of those partially-filled sketchbooks, and at the beginning of July I was able to achieve that goal! Yesterday I went above and beyond, completing a fourth!

Through my Art Supply No Buy I have come to accept that I am not a “sketchbook monogamist” and that variety of materials is important to me. Tidiness and a minimalistic lifestyle are also important to me though, so I have come up with a system: I may have 4 sketchbooks active at any one time, but they each have their own use. These four categories of sketchbook are as follows:

  • One medium to large, white paper, dry or mixed media sketchbook.
  • One medium to large, black paper, mixed media sketchbook.
  • One watercolor paper sketchbook, of any size or color.
  • One pocket size sketchbook, of any media or color.

These categories allow me to have just enough variety for all the mediums and sizes I want to work with, while also giving me a hard limit on sketchbooks to prevent over-purchasing. When I run out of sketchbooks in one category at that point I may purchase one new one for the same category. So for example: if I fill up my black paper sketchbook I may buy a new black paper sketchbook, but not a new sketchbook of any other category… No matter how tempting the options may be!

My No Buy rules allow for replacements and refills when necessary. Because of this, depending on just how much I create this year, I could possibly find myself purchasing a new sketchbook before the year is over. Black paper is the category I am most likely to actually go all the way through, because I only have one small pad of black paper in surplus besides the sketchbook I am currently working in. We will just have to see what happens, but that could be quite exciting!

I decided to take an inventory of all the sketchbooks I have left that are waiting to be filled:

  • 2 in the medium to large white paper category, the larger one is about half-full and the other is completely empty.
  • 2 in the black mixed media category, one is about half-full and the other is a pad of removable paper I have only used one sheet from.
  • 2 in the travel size category, although they are a bit bigger than I’d prefer. In the future sketchbooks of this size will be in the medium to large category, I just don’t want to buy anything right now so they will stay put. The smaller one is about half-full, the other is completely empty.
  • 1 in the watercolor category, with a few pages full. You would think I might find myself needing another before the end of the year, but with a crazy almost-9-month-old it is hard to find time to watercolor.

Between filling up 4 sketchbooks and donating a few others, I have dropped my surplus numbers into the single digits! This is very exciting for me. I now see a number of sketchbooks I could imagine myself filling in the next 12 months, maybe even less, especially if I keep drawing as often as I have been lately.

I have to attribute a lot of this success to my change in lifestyle choices. I have not been playing video games for 42 days now, and over the last several years I have been working on cutting down on my internet consumption and overall screen time. Forcing oneself to allow for a healthy dose of boredom works wonders for increasing creativity and productivity, at least in my personal experience! Now I find drawing to be fun, a time for play and exploration, when previously it mostly felt like work and a chore compared to the instant gratification of the digital world.

Obviously technology still serves me, as I am currently writing this blog post on my smart phone. It has just become more of a tool than an entertainment device! I am currently very satisfied with my relationship to my tech and my art. It’s such a pleasure to be able to deliver such news!

It’s nice to get another post out again so soon, last night’s achievement has given me some momentum! My next post may take a while longer, but I will see you all there when it’s done. Stay safe and healthy!

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