The Sketchbook

The idea is pretty simple: The more you draw, the more confident you’ll become as a drawer. If you’re serious about cartooning or illustration, you need to be drawing pretty constantly.

The same way you can recognize someone’s handwriting by looking at it, through persistent drawing you’ll develop a quality of line that is unique and quickly attributable to you.  
Drawing whenever you have the opportunity to is easier when you have a sketchbook close at hand. When you’re in an idle moment, watching a movie or youtube, listening to a record, in transit; use these times to fill pages in your book.

Work intuitively -  Keep your pen moving with no particular direction in mind. Don’t overthink or be self-conscious about what images you’re making. Just make them and see where they take you. Work without a predetermined end. Try to surprise yourself.

Work in a physical paper sketchbook and draw in pen or another permanent mark making tool exclusively. (Ie, Brush and Ink, Sharpie, ballpoint pen, micron, muji pens, markers)

No digital drawing and No drawing in pencil.

I have nothing against drawing digitally – but there is too much temptation to self-edit while you work. Drawing in pencil can lead to similar patterns. Drawing on paper with a pen is honest and immediate. There’s no ‘Undo’ button. You’re forced to confront the drawings you make and do your best to adapt and develop them. Our goal here is to accept a the drawings we make as they are – not to manicure them.  

I’m a big fan of Moleskine 13x21cm Plain Journal Notebooks. They come in a set of three. They’re floppy and are pretty easy to stick in your coat pocket and bring anywhere. They’re durable, can survive a spill or a little bit of wet media. Their paper is archival. They don't take up a lot of room and can be easily stored and archived. You can collect and cross reference ideas from different volumes when opportunities arise for them to be utilized in larger projects.

There’s no need to seek out this exact brand, but something similar is ideal. I would choose something soft-cover and on the smaller side. Spiral bound sketchbooks are cumbersome and don’t allow you to utilze the whole spread. Sketchbooks with a hardcover and spine are poorly made and will fall apart. 

I like to treat spreads in my sketchbook as one composition rather than two separate pages. I think forcing this encourages creative use of the gutter space and more gestural mark making. When I give this assignment, I ask my students to fill four spreads per week minimum - if you embark on this journey, I encourage you to do the same.

© Patrick Kyle 2024
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