Why You Should Have a Sketchbook

comments (4) August 28th, 2008     

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CraftyChica Kathy Cano-Murillo, contributor
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Sketching can be a wonderfully useful tool.

Sketching can be a wonderfully useful tool.

Photo: Kathy Cano-Murillo

I never used to be sketchy. I used to pride my freestylin’ ways of crafting wherever my thread or glue would take me. Even when I began writing my newspaper craft column eight years ago, I preferred to make things up as I went along.

That changed last year when I was hired by Duncan Enterprises to design my very own Crafty Chica product line. All of a sudden, I was asked to provide three craft design sketches at a time to help with prototyping, advertisements, magazine spreads, and so on. This was crucial because people in different departments would use the sketch while working on different aspects of the line. Talk about intimidating!

At the same time, I happened to be starting on a sewing book for Potter Craft. My editor asked for a full-color sketch of each project. Gulp.

What was up with all these sketch requests? Couldn’t I just make something fabulous and hand it in, like in the good ol’ days?

My first reaction was very JLo-diva-ish. In my head I thought, “Ha! The chica does not sketch! The chica creates!”
But…I was too chicken to say that out loud.

Plus, I thought about fashion and interior designers. Their whole careers are built on sketches. Why not crafts, too? So I licked the tip of a newly sharpened No. 2, and doodled on a sheet of typing paper. I then added color with brush markers and jotted notes in the margin about variations. It was much easier than I imagined.

These days, I have a blank book dedicated to sketches. Every time I think of an idea for a design for my column, product line, or personal artwork, I devote a whole page to fleshing out the concept. Kind of like visual brainstorming. I used to just write down my ideas, but sketching reveals new opportunities I never knew of.

I love that sketching exercises my illustration muscles and the engineering process, too. I love using markers and colored pencils to bring an idea to life. Sure, there is only a 50/50 chance my finished project will look exactly like the original rendering, but that’s OK. There has to be some kind of spontaneity, right?

Tips for sketching:

• Don’t worry if you can’t draw well. You’re not going to enter your book in a contest; it is just a visual launching pad to get your creative juices flowing.

• Sketch everything, even if you know you won’t get to it for a while. When you are in a dry spell, you can just flip your book open and choose a project to make!

• If you see something you love at a store, sketch your own version.

• Only keep that book for sketching, that way you will stay focused.

• Keep a pencil pouch with an eraser and colored pencils handy.

• Keep your book close by at all times so you won’t miss any fab ideas!

posted in: sketchbook

Comments (4)

purplbutrflyjewelry writes: I just wanted to drop by and thank you again for this idea. I started my own sketchbook and found it extremely helpful! I linked my blog post re my foray into sketching to this page and your profile.

You can visit the post here:

Thanks again. =)
Posted: 11:22 pm on September 9th
purplbutrflyjewelry writes: I think this is a great idea. I sometimes use my organizer to stencil in some sketches but the phone stencil doesn't seem to make the marks I want to see. A sketchbook sounds like something I can work with - the question now is where do I squeeze it in my already full bag? =P
Posted: 10:35 pm on August 28th
Shannon_Dennis writes: I am so glad you posted this! Especially the part about not worrying if you're not a great artist. I have started doing this sketch book deal for each of the "projects" I am working on and it has help immensely this year. I also use it as a story board of sorts to remember where I gathered the inspiration so if I need a little pick-me-up during the design to product journey I can just glance through! What a great post!
Posted: 7:45 pm on August 28th
Minimeg writes: I had to keep a graded sketchbook for an art class and it was one of the best things I have ever done to boost my creativity!

It is also a great place to tape in things that inspire you, write down thoughts, and document how you did something and whether or not it worked, etc.
Posted: 2:59 pm on August 28th
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