In Context—I’ll Sketch On Any Bit of Paper

September 8, 2017
“Scan” from my day planner which sits at my side on my computer desk. I used “Scannable” which is an app on my iPad. Years ago someone came over to use my art scanner and put a wire bound book down on it before I could stop him. It scratched the glass and led to all sorts of retouching work before I could get the glass replaced. I’ve been looking at options for “scanning” wire bound items. Scannable is OK for text documents but it doesn’t have the ability to get crisp detail. Fine screens drop off. Details can look a little burnt out. It’s great though for text and if you have to send a document quickly—or if you want to protect your scanner. It also only provides low res images. (I only scan wire bindings on my printer which has a scanner top. And I always cover the wire with masking tape and place the wire right at the edge of the glass so it is off the glass.)

I suppose you could call it a doodle, but I think of it as a sketch.

It isn’t in my journal, it’s in my day planner, which sits beside me on the computer table.

One of my students alerted me to a new Peregrine nest cam and I turned it on. I grabbed what was next to me—it was either yellow legal pads or my desk calendar. (Now you understand why I’m always sketching on legal pads—they are all over the house.) There is a table at my side where there were watercolors and brush…

When I sketch from the nest cams I don’t stop the action. I like to pretend I’m “right there.” Sometimes in one sketching session I’ll have multiple sketches running along the bottom of the entire week as I capture the birds’ movements. 

Ten minutes of sketching makes for a great break before you get back to work. On this day it also helped wake me up! My allergist had recommended a new allergy med for me and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. This sketch helped snap me out of it.

I recommend sketching whenever you need to shift your energy—it helps you focus, reenergizes you, and it’s rather fun to look through your day planners from past years and see the sketches. It provides additional context for your work day.

Take a moment and sketch something right now! You pen stand, Your desk lamp. A piece of memorabilia you have near by. Don’t worry if you make the perfect sketch, just get something down on paper and let yourself feel the energy shift.





    • Cathy
    • September 8, 2017

    I love this post! I am always sketching on bits of paper when the mood strikes! Envelopes, left over mail, etc. Never thought to leave yellow pads around. You are right, it does change your mood, never really thought about that consciously until you posted this!
    Roz, I tend to sketch one thing, or several, but I don’t seem to have the knack of
    incorporating a background, any hints?

    1. Reply

      Thanks Cathy. I hope you are keeping your pieces that are on scraps. Date them and put them in a big box. You can sort them later and decide if you want to keep some or all of them. It seems to me you have a loose sheet journal building and it would be good to have them as a record.

      As far as backgrounds go, I would ask yourself “Why Do I feel I need a background?” because that hits at the heart of why you do your pieces. Some people are object/subject sketchers, some people are scene sketchers and like a context within which something is created. What/which is important to you and what you are trying to express when you sketch?

      If instead of background as in scene you mean background as in texture—well, leaving legal pads around means you’re going to be sketching on lines! That’s a texture. I also have gridded papers all around the house to sketch on. And I advocate in many posts on this blog for the prepainting of journal pages. Then when you get there you have a background whether you wanted one or not. In fact I have a class in creating background textures, “Textures,” which will be offered again in 2018.

      Here is just one of many examples of blog posts where I talk about using a pre-painted/decorated page.

      I was ill, didn’t have much energy, wanted to sketch and paint (with the stabilo tones), didn’t want to miss an opportunity to make something because I know from years of practice that a little bit of activity like this will shift my energy. So I worked on a page with pre-stamped sentence. It allows me to play with texture (what emerges and what recedes), color, line making, strokes of color, composition. All those things that keep our minds functioning.

      So my answer to “hints” for developing a knack to incorporate a background would be to start setting up your life so that it supports you drawing practice my leaving you with the materials at hand that you can use at any moment. It’s a mental shift that takes practice, and you may find that you hate 90 percent of the art you create on pages with backgrounds when you first start simply turning the pages over and finding a texture, but over time your eye and your approach will welcome the play and it will all fall in place.

      Enter “backgrounds” or “textures” (without the quotation marks) in the search engine or look in the category list under pre-painted backgrounds and you’ll find dozens of posts about how I approach working with background textures because I am a portrait artist, whether it is a portrait of a rock floating in space to create the isolated definition I’m looking for, or people against something wildly textured which shows through and creates puzzles for me to solve.

      It all starts with the question of “Why do I feel I need a background?” Maybe you don’t, maybe you do, maybe you just crave one? Answers to these questions will tell you the direction you need to go to start supporting that creative need. If you don’t address it on that root level it will never form an organic part of your art.

      And I think I’ve just written a new blog post!

    • Mary
    • September 8, 2017

    Great post, Roz! I love the idea of the energy shift and will be working to pay more attention to it. Like Cathy, I have bits of paper all over with sketches ( and many mostly empty sketchbooks). It’s almost as if the bound page keeps you……..well……..bound! And good question about the background, Cathy. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Glad you like the idea of energy shifting, I believe it’s at the basis of all creative effort. And we can shift it to enhance our creativity, not be a slave to “waiting” for the shift.

      Bound journals can be binding to many artists. That’s one of the reasons I’ve advocated loose sheet or unbound journals for years.

      Here’s an early blog post on this topic

      In addition if you use the blog’s search engine for unbound journals, loose sheet journals, you will find tons of examples where I am doing this. Typically I do this for something special and of a short duration such as going to the Fair with journal cards, or on specific trips e.g.,

      But I also keep an on-going loose sheet journal for the 9 x 12 inch sheets that I use in the studio when I am sketching at home.

      Let your journal evolve and be what you want it to be. If you have taken my class at Sketchbook Skool you might want to review the video I present there about how the journal can take many forms.

      The journal is meant to support your creativity. Your creativity doesn’t serve your journal, that would be too constraining.

    • Lydia
    • September 8, 2017

    Thanks Roz! Perfect post for today! Just did a quick sketch…and…amazing “a positive shift of energy”
    Happy Sketching! Lydia

    1. Reply

      I’m so glad to hear about the energy shift Lydia! I’m just pulling out the journal to get in a quick sketch before my late morning meeting!!!!

    • Tina Koyama
    • September 9, 2017

    I don’t use a planner like this, but your peregrine cam reminded me of this: I keep a small notebook next to the kitchen window with a mug of colored pencils. When I walk past the window, I always look out, and if there are birds dining at our feeder, I sketch them very quickly. Tiny sketches about 2 inches tall. They take only a minute. I feel refreshed, then move on to whatever else I should be doing.

    1. Reply

      I love that you have a bird feeder drawing station! It’s good to check in with the outside world in the midst of our day!

    • Cathy
    • September 9, 2017

    Roz, thank you very much for this post!! I never thought about whether or not I was an object/subject sketcher or a scene sketcher! You’ve given me a whole other context for what I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll be able to capture an object with just the right lines and the color I add enhances what I’m drawing instead of taking over, then I’m very happy with it. But I don’t think it’s anything anyone will want to frame! You are right about the loose pages, I have about 5 sketchbooks, but when I draw it’s not usually in my journals.

    1. Reply

      I’m glad I was able to give you something to think about from a different angle. Here’s another thought, why is the criteria of whether someone will want to frame it or not come into your journal? If you are creating images that you want to be frameable wouldn’t it be easier for you to simply work on loose pages? And I’m not sure what you mean about not drawing in your journals? I use the word Sketchbook and Journal interchangeably so maybe I’m just misunderstanding. But do you mean that when you sketch you don’t write next to your sketch? You draw on pages without any accompanying text? That’s also something that you need to follow your own needs on. What works for you!

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