…And a Happy New Sketchbook


Do you sketch?  I do.  A lot.  I have drawn in lots and lots of sketchbooks.  There’s such a good feeling of potential inspiration on the gaining of a new sketchbook.  But for me, doing so means involving myself in a bizarre sort of ritual:  I MUST decorate the cover.  Usually, it is with whatever I happen to be inspired or influenced by at the time.  But here’s the catch:  if the cover doesn’t turn out so well in my eyes, I have trouble drawing in that sketchbook, and it ends up being a total waste of perfectly good drawing paper.


I know, I know–that’s silly, right?  Well for me, it’s true.  There’s something to be said for making your surroundings, and the place you like to “nest” aesthetically pleasing.  It lights little sparks in your mind, gives you the warm fuzzies, and encourages you to try new creative things.  “Come on in!” it says.  “Welcome!  There are so many awesome things to see!”  But mess up the front of that sketchbook, and it says in a nasty little voice, “Those things you like to doodle?  They are not very good.  Don’t bother, because it will just look horrible.”

I have decorated new sketchbooks with a variety of doodles and paintings over the years.  These little tattooed “milk men” were from a time when I was very influenced by some vintage tattoo books.


And this octopus lady?  Well, I’m not sure WHAT’S going on with her, but I’ve always really loved her eyes.  And what a friendly smile, amIright?

octopus lady

One time very recently, our daughter saved a sketchbook from near doom.  I had been trying desperately to rescue this drawing by adding highlights and more “tribal” hair, and patterns and all sorts of whatnots, when she came over and asked me if she could help me by adding “highlights in her hair.”  Knowing what lay on the line, and the potentially sad fate of this sketchbook, I let her, and with three simple brush swipes of white in her hair, she completely saved it.

mylas highlights

As you can imagine, over the years, my ever-growing collection of sketchbooks had built up and was responsible for a fairly large chunk of our military moving weight. (For non military folks, a quick explanation:  the military allows only so much weight per family it will ship when you move to your next duty station.  My love of books and my sketchbooks have been a fairly decent chunk of that weight for a good part of our marriage….)  So much so that it was almost weighing ME down to keep those old sketches around.  In a way, some sketchbooks are like looking back at a snapshot of your life at the time.  You see the ups, the downs, the inspirations and the failed attempts at drawing, mundane grocery lists, mental notes, favorite quotes.  All the little snippets of day to day life that someone like me (who usually has a sketchbook within arms reach at all times) might have.

So one year, I decided that except for a few special sketchbooks, I would take only the highlights from all of the sketchbooks from all of the years, and make a scrapbook.  I took my favorite things, even the little snippets and sketches and notes, and compiled them into one huge scrapbook.  It was a little intimidating at first to consider throwing anything away, but in a way it felt sort of good to get rid of all of that extra weight, to throw it away forever, and have something to show for it; something that felt good.  Something that made that little voice say, “HEY!  Some of these are pretty good!  See–maybe you’re not so bad after all!”


…So it’s almost the new year!  And I have a new sketchbook.  And whatever I decide to put on the cover, I want it to be a good one.   I want it to make me feel happy, to feel good.  I want it to inspire me to do better, to be better.  …So, metaphorically speaking….what would you put on YOUR new sketchbook?

20 responses

  1. Just a thought, instead of throwing the sketchbooks out, why don’t you cut out all of the pages and sell it to people who would want a one of a kind sketch? Maybe even donate the proceeds to a charity? I mean I’m sure people would love to frame one of your pages and show other people your amazing work!

    1. That’s a great idea. I was going to say the same thing. My sisters sketches frequently and today as I was going through some of her work I said she should try an art show or selling her pieces. She laughed at me but I still think she should do it.

    2. That IS an interesting idea; I never at ALL considered that. Who would think that any of the little doodles I do could be worth anything? Definitely something to think about—thanks!

  2. I do draw, but not very often…I ‘paint’ with words instead. If I had to decorate a notebook to inspire myself, it would probably have pics/titles of some of the books I’ve read which have inspired me; quotes from authors I admire and ‘rules’ for writing I’ve found particularly helpful…I used to enjoy playing with different fonts, so any lettering is bound to be embellished somehow.

    1. Oh, I LOVE playing with fonts! I will takes “notes” on a font I come across sometimes, and doodle it quickly in my sketchbook. I keep all kinds of quick phrases or inspirational ideas in there, too…

  3. Great sketchbook covers, you are very talented. Love the blog.

  4. I love the idea! Although I’m not sure I could bring myself to cut anything out of my sketchbooks… Tend to get overly emotional about all of them, even the very bad ones. It feels to me like it takes a lot of courage to alter the cover of a sketchbook, just like you said, if the cover doesn’t feel right, then the whole sketchbook is a sort of wasteland, so I usually leave it blank or just put the date of start on it. Your covers are beautiful!

    1. Yep, there are some I save that I have a special “bond” with, but others that are filled with not much but a few doodles I like here & there, which are just taking up space, mentally & physically. I LOVE decorating the cover! It’s like, since you sort of DO judge a book by its cover, trying to come up with the ending before you’ve even written the story, in a way!

  5. I shudder at the thought of you throwing away your fascinating sketches. If nothing else donate the whole lot to a local thrift store. I can only imagine how thrilled someone would be to stumble across them while thrifting!

  6. I adore all of your covers here, especially that one that your daughter helped with. I can totally relate to your hoarding of sketchbooks over the years though– I have such trouble throwing mine away too, even if the art is less than fantastic haha. But I love your scrapbook idea :]

  7. Do Not Throw Your Work Away, Please! Give it away to people that would appreciate it, you have an awesome talent, I love your work, and your daughters’ too, it’s inspirational and refreshing, one of a kind work, I love, love, love it!

    1. Thank you very much! I think I may have confused people though–I cut out all the good stuff and only throw away the false starts & scrap doodles. I save the good stuff! I never thought of selling pages but if I do have any that aren’t more than a scrap line, I’d definitely give it a try!

  8. I like the way you colour the complete drawing 🙂 ….looks like it has just one author! What type of colours and paper do you use? Love your style, the shading…so cool

    1. Thanks! Well, the sketchbook covers are all done just by me. As for the collaborations, I’ve been loving to use tinted paper–Strathmore has them in gray and in tan (my favorite). I use Prismacolor markers and acrylic paint for highlights.

  9. What sketchbook do you use? I like the natural coloring if the pages rather than the normal white I often see in sketchbooks

    1. I love them too! Strathmore has tinted tan and tinted gray in different sizes, and they’re awesome. For some reason I’m more find of the tan…

  10. I loooooove your stuff! How did you do the white-on-black effect on the sketchbooks? What did you use?

    1. Thank you! I used white acrylic paint and sealed it with gloss varnish (either paint-on or spray-on)

  11. The Tom Waits one made my heart jump with joy! I rarely decorate the outside of my sketchbooks, but you’ve inspired me to decorate my new agenda! Thank you!

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