The One Thing that will Help You Grow as an Artist

The One Thing that will Help You Grow as an Artist

Life can get busy, and I often don’t have time for extended drawing or painting sessions, but I can always fit in five to ten minutes for my sketchbook habit. And I do — every single day without fail. It keeps me fluid, it enhances my observational skills, gives me a place to try new things, and it gives me a record to look back on. My hope is that you will begin a daily sketchbook habit, too.

If You’d Like to Start a Daily Sketchbook Drawing Habit, Here’s What You Need to Know


  • A sketchbook. My preference is something sturdy with a good quality mixed media paper that can take many different kinds of materials. I love the Strathmore 500 Mixed Media Journal Not too small, not too big — 9″ x 12″ is just right.
  • Pencils, pens, colored pencils, watercolors, watercolor pencils, gouache. Whatever you have and whatever you love. Even a ballpoint pen will do just fine, if that is all you have.

That’s it! We want to keep things simple. Put your sketchbook along with a small box containing your supplies into a tote bag and keep it some place where you will see it every morning.

Make it a Daily Ritual

The most important thing I can tell you is to resolve to show up to your sketchbook every single day. Rain or shine. Good mood or bad. Busy or bored.

For me, I prefer to sit down to sketch first thing every morning, with my coffee, and then feel great that I’ve committed to my daily practice and can get on with my day.

Ten to fifteen minutes is what I allow, but even five will suffice. I would bet that once you get into your routine, you will want to find a little more time. And you will!

What should You Put in Your Sketchbook?

Right after “I don’t have enough time,” the most common excuse I hear is, “I have no idea what to draw.” I have solutions.

The great thing about a daily sketchbook habit is that it is only for you, unless you choose to share it. So anything goes. Even the most ordinary things that surround you in your daily life. In fact, it’s the ordinary things that make the best subjects.

Remember, keep it simple. That is the key to success. Here are some great ideas to get you started. Try one or all of them and you will be on your way. The more we do something, the more ideas will come. It’s a fact!

Blind Contour Sketches

This is the best exercise I know to train our eyes and hands to work together and to improve our observational skills. I do these every single day and I choose any old subject that is nearby, often my coffee mug or my breakfast. I also often draw my cat, so if you have a pet, they make great subjects, too.

Here’s how:

  • To begin, position your sketchbook to your right if you’re right-handed or to your left if you’re left-handed.
  • Pick up any drawing tool and then settle your eyes on your subject.
  • Choose a starting point; for me it’s always the center of the top.
  • Now, let your eyes follow along the contour, or outline, of your subject, moving clockwise. Go slowly and really notice the outermost shape of your subject.
  • Now begin to draw that outline, without looking at your paper, starting at the top and slowly moving around the entire shape. Don’t lift your pencil or pen off the paper (you can backtrack later to fill in details).

The aim is to begin and end at the same place. There should be no detail whatsoever, simply the outline. The trick is to look at your subject, but never at your paper, moving your drawing tool and your eyes at the same speed, a very slow pace.