Sketchbooks and Organizing Inspiration

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I am often asked how I come up with so many ideas. I love to design and believe I have been blessed with a talent to create. Trying to organize and systematize my ideas has been a challenge. However, over the years, I have created a logical approach to cataloging my designs.

1. Always have a sketchbook close at hand. Whenever inspiration hits, I sketch a quick image and add a few notes. Rarely does the finished product look exactly like the quickie drawing, however, it is the idea that I want to capture. Because of this, I find that spending a great deal of time with a “perfect” sketch is rather a waste. Besides, I like to keep my options open just in case my mind wants to travel in a different tangent.

2. Buy a nice sketchbook. I use a standard 9” x 12” Sketchbook. There is something inspiring about having a book full of blank pages just waiting for ideas. I have used scraps of paper, but a sketchbook is more professional, consists of quality paper, keeps every idea in one place and encourages entries.  Besides, little pieces of paper seem to disappear.

3. Purchase a small travel size sketchbook. A 4” x 6” fits perfectly into my purse and is always handy whenever inspiration strikes. It is amazing how much time we spend waiting. Why not spend idle time, being creative?  It would be nice to be able to sit down and simply pour out ideas onto every page, but not realistic!  The smaller pages can either be removed and taped into the larger sketchbook or re-sketched.

4. Sketch every idea, or at least jot it down. I am sure that many, many designs have fallen through the cracks of my memory. Nothing is worse that knowing it was a great design, if only I could remember!

5. Don’t be critical. I would be the first to admit that most of my hurried sketches are very poorly executed and would be embarrassed to show them to anyone. However, these are my ideas and not intended to hone my sketching talent nor for show and tell.

6. Gather themes together. I have a three ring binder and hole punch. After I have a multitude of sketches, I punch them and file them in a binder. I have a binder for Christmas, spring, fall, everyday, etc… When I get ready to create a new design, all I have to do is flip through my catalog of ideas.

7. Once an idea has been used, it is not outdated. I have sketchbooks that are so old that they are curled and yellowed!  I have sketches ten to twenty years old that still inspire new designs. It is amazing to realize how many ideas result from a simple sketch, even old ones!

I have re-used many ideas as they can be updated with trends or change of color. I am sure we can all look back on projects from the early days and see how far we have come. A simple sketch from twenty years ago may be a solid design, all it needs is tweeked using some of the skills acquired over the years.

8. Let your mind be free. I truly believe that we are so regimented with adhering to rules and regulations that it is difficult to loosen up and try something different. Dont be afraid to experiment.  If it doesn’t turn out…oh well, but if it is amazing…aaaahhhh!

9. Play in your sketchbook. If you are trying to figure out a color scheme, painting strokes in the sketchbook will make it much easier to visualize. I have saved much grief by testing on the pages of my sketchbook, after all, I don’t have to sand and start over on paper!

10.Get in the habit of using your sketchbook every day, or at least several times a week.  Even if I don’t sketch, I get excited just looking through my pages.  I can almost guarantee that by the time you turn those pages, you will have at least one or two ideas to add!

11. A sketchbook is the perfect remedy for painting blahs.  If I ever get out of the painting groove, browsing through my sketchbook will revive my spirits.  Sometimes, painting just won’t fit in my schedule, but I can peruse through my designs, select what I will be doing next and mentally get everything in order, such as surface, colors, mediums, etc…  Doesn’t always mean that I will stick to the original plan, but it is enough to get me going.

12. Write notes.  Just because it is a sketchbook doesn’t mean that it is for sketches only.  I jot down what colors I may want to use, background info, additional embellishments, anything that may work for this project.  Often I overload the project with suggestions.  This give me plenty of choices when I get ready to paint.  It also gives me optional ideas for the same design.

I love to paint and my sketchbooks are my source of inspiration.  My sketchbooks are near and dear to me and I have a stack.  I probably spend more time with my sketchbook than I do painting.  Several years ago, I was working on a new book and the publisher asked how it was coming (which means “is it almost ready?”).  I told him it was finished except for the painting!  LOL!    To me, the designs, colors, and surfaces are the biggest obstacle, the painting is the fun and easy part!

My advice is to purchase a nice sketchbook and have fun filling up the pages.  It is an enjoyable and exciting adventure.


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