The Art of Patience Through Sketchbook Practice

Photo of sketchbook against a wall with a shadow of a window
 

Last month, I finished my first ever sketchbook. I can't describe how monumental this is for me. In a way, I've always known how to draw because of my desire to be an artist. But there was a valuable lesson I had to teach myself: refrain from distraction to hone a skill. I tend to jump to something new before I have a chance to complete my current project. If you're anything like me, you might recognise this tendency. I jump from sketchbook to sketchbook never finishing one, meaning I would have multiple sketchbooks on the go. A friend would recommend a sketchbook, or I would fall in love with the paper of another, and before I knew it, I'd bought another sketchbook without ever reaching the last page of my current one! This sketchbook is the first one that I was able to fill from the first page to the last. Unknowingly for years, this became detrimental to my creative process and my art practice. Read on to find out why.

 
Black and white photo closeup of pages of a sketchbook
Close up of a page in a sketchbook
 
 

Skipping ahead is not the best practice. Something had to change

Artists find inspiration and beauty everywhere. We want to capture the things that inspire us in the way we envision it. We apply this to our practice by trying out new techniques and new materials. I've seen this in my own life, reflected in my journey of frequently jumping into the next new thing. But, I realised that I have to take myself more seriously as I journey to becoming a professional artist. This means I have to commit to the page in front of me.

My entire life was spent skipping ahead, trying to achieve a result before I had even begun. This always resulted in frustration and the inability to execute my vision. This was due in part to my personality of pure stubbornness and impatience and part my desire to try so many things. I finally realised it was not sustainable. Something had to change. The lightbulb moment happened when I decided to go back to the basics.

Back to basics

I've been doing this by reading books from the 1920s and '40s. This has enabled me to learn about the fundamentals of design, drawing and painting from those who have honed their craft. In a sense, I'm learning the rules, so I can break them later, much like the masters that we still admire to this day, did.

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
— Pablo Picasso.

Learning from The Masters

There's a reason we still study the masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse, to name a few. They committed to studying the basics before creating their own style. They have drawn a million lines, squares and circles. They played with light and shadow on simple objects over and over again. It is on these pages and within these sketches that they mastered their craft. When I visit their exhibitions, it's this practice that I find the most interesting. Their sketchbooks give insight into their progression, which is a gentle reminder that everyone starts somewhere.



Limitations Can give you freedom

When you commit to one sketchbook, you're challenged to work with limited materials. It's good practice to work within a specific parameter for a while, in this particular instance, such as the paper type of your current sketchbook. Boundless options rarely challenge you; limitations force you to overcome challenges, and exponential growth is the result. Finishing a sketchbook from start to finish helps you focus on developing skills within the boundaries you set for yourself.

So although it might not seem like much, finishing my first sketchbook is an important milestone for me. I'm learning as an artist by committing to the practice, all the way to the end. I'm celebrating this, and I hope it will inspire you, too.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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