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!

Art Supply No Buy: Mid-year check in!

Last week I let you all know that I had made a mistake and broke my No Buy rules. I never really laid my rules out in a list, so I’ll give that a go now:

  • No purchasing new art supplies, duh!
  • Replacements and refills ONLY and only when genuinely necessary.
  • Borrowing is only okay occasionally, prioritize using owned supplies.
  • Buying things that aren’t necessarily art supplies with the intention to use them as art supplies is NOT allowed.
  • Upcycling trash is allowed, but buying something you wouldn’t have bought with the intention of upcycling the packaging is NOT allowed.
  • Trying free digital art programs is okay, taking free traditional art supplies is not.
  • Organizational items (such as pencil pouches, desk organizers) don’t count as art supplies and are okay to buy if there is a genuine need.
  • Art supply gifts should be discouraged, but if given by someone ignorant of the No Buy may still be accepted. Don’t use gifted items until 2023 unless they would become unusable by then.
  • Buying art merch from fellow small artists, such as stickers, prints, or pin buttons, is ok and actually encouraged.
  • Don’t look for loopholes, if it feels like it would violate the rules then it would.
  • If you stumble or fall just pick yourself back up and keep going. You haven’t failed unless you give up entirely.

(All instances of the word “you” in that list are referring to myself, but feel free to follow my rules if you like them and think they would apply to your own No Buy!)

Now that I’ve laid down the rules, we can see that I have violated the first rule once by buying a phone stylus that doubles as a ballpoint pen. Since this is my first and only slip-up this entire year so far I am actually quite proud of myself! This whole thing is turning out to be a lot easier than I expected.

Since I am not buying any art supplies until 2023 I started a shopping list for when the No Buy is finally over. Only items I think would truly benefit me made this list, there have been many temptations but these all feel like logical purchases!

  • Pentel pocket brush pen
  • Magnetic drawing board toy
  • Top coat for acrylic painting
  • Base coat for acrylic painting
  • Button press machine

The Pentel pocket brush pen is something I’ve only heard good things about and definitely suits my art style. I love using brushes, I love refillable things, and I love things that are very portable. It would definitely be great for limiting my supplies for my travel sketchbook. I have had black brush pens before, such as the Sakura Pigma brush pen, but never ones with bristles and never refillable. This may actually be the item I look forward to most, though it is small and simple I think it will be a game changer.

The magnetic drawing board will be perfect for my daughter and I to get creative together as she will be just the right age to start doodling when the No Buy is over. I also just want one for myself to revisit childhood memories and make some low-effort art without the guilt of “wasting” paper!

Painting rocks is something I’ve really wanted to get into for a while now, especially because a local park we go to actually requests you paint rocks and leave them there! It doesn’t feel right to start now though, as I have so much paper to get through, and it really is advised to use a top coat to seal the rocks so they will last longer outside.

The button press machine is a big pricey investment, especially since I don’t plan on selling pins for profit, but it is something I have wanted for over 5 years. The first time I got to use one was at a pride festival and since then I have always thought it would be awesome to make my own pins and help others make some too!

The shopping list definitely soothes my anxiety about things I think I “Need To Have” because I know I can survive another 6 months without them and I won’t forget anything important. I can always add or remove items as my needs change as well. It gives me lots of time to think about the item and I won’t make any impulse purchases. I really think this shopping list is probably the thing helping me the most through this challenge so far, otherwise I may have slipped up (in a more serious way) by now!

I don’t really consider buying that stylus pen a true slip up because it was a genuine accident. I was rushing to get in and out of the Dollar Tree as fast as possible, I didn’t take time to look at the item thoroughly, and honestly my No Buy was the furthest thing from my mind that night. Accidents happen and there’s no point in dwelling on something so silly. Nonetheless I still found it important to hold myself accountable, I can learn from my mistake and avoid doing the same thing again in the future.

Recently I have decluttered even more art supplies that I haven’t touched the entire first half of this year, many of which suited my mom’s needs so they went to her. Anything else went to the local charity that will give them away for free to families in need. I started my minimalism journey in 2019 and since then I have come to believe if I am not using something it is selfish of me to hold on to it when someone else could be using it. I still tend to hold onto things for quite a while before deciding to get rid of them, because sometimes things do come in handy later on.

I find it incredibly rewarding to pass an item on to someone who will value it so much more than I do, especially because I understand exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end, I grew up very poor and the same charity I donate to now served me and my family back then. The markers I regretted buying probably made a huge difference in a child’s life, and because of that I no longer regret buying them. When I end up donating something I regret purchasing. I just keep in mind that it’s like buying a gift for someone else, and that puts my mind at ease. I won’t let the sunk cost fallacy keep me prisoner any longer!

In summary, so far so good. I look forward to finishing this year out strong, hopefully with no more accidents! I will not let one tiny mistake ruin all the progress I have made over these last 6 months. I hope the lessons I learn from this No Buy will stay with me through the rest of my life, and maybe I won’t have the need to do No Buys in the future. I already feel that I have learned a lot about myself, my art, and my shopping habits through the first 6 months of this challenge.

My next No Buy check-in will be in a few months, probably around the beginning of Autumn. There should be plenty of new posts between now and then, so I’ll see you in the next one. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Art supply No Buy: 1st check-in

Wow, it’s already March! How?!

Well first of all, I’ve decided that I’ll be on a sketchbook No Buy for the foreseeable future, not just until 2023. If I run out of a specific-use sketchbook, say I fill up my watercolor sketchbook from front to back, at that point I may buy ONE new watercolor sketchbook.

I had to implement this rule because I have 4 really tiny travel sketchbooks (the pages are 5.5cm x 10cm!) that are specifically for putting into my purse so I can doodle when I’m out and about. If I wasn’t allowed to buy ANY new sketchbook until 100% of my sketchbooks were completely filled… That just wouldn’t work out well for me. I like to work in different mediums and at different sizes.

In the future I’d like to have active at any time: 1 travel sketchbook, 2 medium or large sized sketchbooks (one with white paper and one with black paper!), and 1 watercolor sketchbook. This is how I tend to work anyway, but I have a lot of excess in the medium/large white paper sketchbook department!

What’s tempted me in these last few months? Not too much! I’ve been avoiding watching product reviews (unless it’s something I already own) and I don’t let myself step into arts and craft stores. When passing the arts and craft isles in grocery stores I literally put my hand up to avert my gaze and say aloud, repeatedly: “DON’T LOOK AT THE ART SUPPLIES!”

Ironically as I was typing up that last sentence, I found myself thinking about the fact that we are going to Home Depot today. My brain started to fantasize about buying pieces of wood or tile to paint on. Facepalm!

Something that really tempted me though is a magnetic drawing board toy. I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, because I have a Boogie Board and it reminds me of those. I really want one so I’ve put it on a list of things to buy in 2023. The 2023 shopping list is a great idea that I got from Kindra on YouTube.

Speaking of Kindra, I really recommend checking out her channel if this No Buy topic is interesting to you because she is doing one too! She’s not a huge YouTuber and I actually really enjoy that, her videos feel very down to earth and relatable. And I just love her voice, I find it so soothing. Her No Buy videos have been so inspiring and motivating for me!

Another temptation I had but has since passed is getting a new drawing program for my computer. I fiddled around with a free one that worked pretty well (I think it was Krita?) and decided that was just fine. I haven’t even done any digital art since. (Unless you count building in The Sims 4 haha!)

I know that here and there I’ve found myself interested in a product I’ve watched someone use, but all of those temptations were very fleeting and I don’t even remember any of the products! So thank goodness I didn’t cave, in retrospect it is so clear I didn’t need any of those things.

In a moment of weakness I even found myself eyeing the free ballpoint pens at a pawn shop. Nothing tempts me more than shiny and new but also FREE! I really do not need any new ballpoint pens. They aren’t even my favorite art supply! It’s just my bird brain, wanting to collect and hoard.

But in terms of genuine temptations to buy something and break my No Buy, the only things that’ve really fallen into that category are the magnetic drawing board and the art program for my computer. All those other things were just silly little whims that were easy to write off immediately.

So far I have finished filling two previously half-filled sketchbooks and I haven’t bought any art supplies. I would say that I am doing very well!

So thanks for reading and I will check in again in another 2 or 3 months, unless something crazy comes up and I really need to blog about it!

Happily Reorganized!

My art desk, plus one cubby under the TV, for drawing and watercolor painting supplies.
My acrylic painting station, and the “overflow cabinet” in the hallway.

After I was done decluttering my supplies, I took the opportunity to give each item a new and more productive home.

I wanted to keep supplies closer to where I’d actually use them, so I grouped my drawing and watercolor stuff together as I generally do both of those at the desk. I also moved my purse from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet to make room for my acrylic supplies so they could be close to the easel!

I counted and I have a total of 14(!) sketchbooks, not counting the 4 I have fully filled. Out of those, 9 have been drawn in already. I’m only keeping the ones I’ve been most active in lately in the bedroom, I’m hoping that focusing on a few specific ones will help me fill them up faster.

With everything nicely organized, and plenty of supplies that I know I like just waiting to be used up, I think 2022 will be off to a good start 🙂

May the coming year be full of creation! Happy New Year everyone!

Everything in one place

So I decided not to make a written catalog of all of my art supplies because the idea was extremely daunting, especially after seeing the pile.

I included both my and my partner’s art supplies because we share with each other, even though some things are more mine and some things are more hers.

I ended up doing most of the decluttering as I removed things from the cabinet in the hallway. So what you see in that photo is pretty much just what was left as my “keep” pile. There were a few things though, like the Zebra Zensations mechanical colored pencils, and the 6 sheets of Canson XL watercolor paper, that went bye bye after this photo.

I decluttered all of my tempura paints (because I’m now using acrylics instead!), a Winsor and Newton Cotman travel watercolor set (I have every color in that set and more in my custom palette), several sets of Crayola crayons, and quite a few other miscellaneous little things. And that’s just the art supplies! I also donated a bunch of baby stuff that our daughter has already outgrown, some clothes that don’t suit me, and other random household items we no longer need.

This has been the biggest declutter since my first big purge back in January of 2019. Hard to believe I’ve been pursuing the minimalist lifestyle for so long now! I’m hoping the No Buy can help me do better now and in the future.

Although I’ve been fighting my hoarding tendencies over the last 3 years, I hadn’t really combatted the real root of the problem: my shopping addiction. I’ve learned to let things go when they stop serving me, but I haven’t learned to stop acquiring things in the first place. This lead me to buy things only to declutter them a week or two later!

I’m really happy with how I ended up reorganizing everything, made the whole process worth it. I’ll be back shortly with a separate post about that!