Mining Sketchbooks for Inspiration (Again)

April 18, 2009


Above: This is a cropped portion from a page spread I did during the recent SketchCrawl. The bottom right hand corner is the penguin sketch I'm interested in. It was the last penguin sketch of the day and the most successful, and I was sad that I'd run out of space on the spread, but the sketch was to have life in another way too. This sketch was made with a Staedtler Pigment Liner and Schmincke gouache, in a journal I made with Nideggen paper. Read about it below.

Regular visitors to the blog will remember that for SketchCrawl on the 11th I went with a group of sketchers to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. (If you would like to see all my pages from this SketchCrawl they are posted at Twin Cities Sketchers.) I focused on the animals, which is typical for me. The above image is a sketch I made while at the zoo. There was one very sick looking penguin and he was standing still, so I sketched him.

090411BPuffPen Left: the entire page spread can be viewed by clicking on this image. The journal is approximately 6.5 x 9 inches. The top half of the page spread was used for puffin sketches. I then moved on to look at the pengiuns and those sketches are on the bottom portion of the spread beneath the dashed line.

When I am out sketching at the zoo I'm not worried about trying to get a finished painting of an animal or bird, I'm just trying to notice things about whatever it is that I'm sketching. I believe that everything I notice will be useful to me later when I try to make paintings of any of the animals or birds. I didn't have any plans to do a painting of a penguin anytime soon, but that very day these sketches were useful to me when it came time to do the next entry for my International Fake Journal Month journal.

I decided that in keeping with the bird theme of my IFJM journal a sketch of a penquin would work out nicely. Also, I was pretty beat from a day of sketching already, so it was a relief to turn to my regular journal's pages and find something to engage me.


Above: The April 11 page spread from my IFJM journal. I used the sick penguin sketch from that morning as a reference. I did this sketch in my Alvin Field Book with water resistant pages, using Ziller Acrylic ink, a dip pen, and Schmincke Pan Watercolors.

Normally I would have more notes in my regular journal about the sick bird and how disheveled it looked, but I was distracted talking with a friend as we sketched, and getting ready to move on to the next subject. Happily it was only hours later when I decided to mine this sketch for another use, and I could remember, with just the small amount of detail I had noted, that he was very disheveled and very brown (or liver colored as I noted at the time).

Setting my regular journal up on my work table to use as a reference, I set about drawing this pen and watercolor sketch. A painless and quick process. Another example of how my journal saved the day for me and one of my on-going art projects (the IFJM journal).

Sometimes it's a gesture that we capture, sometimes it's a detailed sketch, sometimes it's only a foot or a toe, or a claw. There's a lot we can find in our journals that we can use as a basis to move our other art projects forward.

Go through your recent pages with an eye and mind open to new possiblities for a painting, abstract, structure, even a basket (all of my basket ideas have come out of looking at my sketches and thinking about things in nature that I have observed). The smallest details can be used as the focus to generate an entirely new structure, image, or painting—or as in this case, your sketches can be all the reference material you need to finish a task. Use what you have observed.

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