What do Leonardo da Vinci, John Lennon and Tim Burton have in common? Apart from being creative geniuses, they’re also famous for preserving their ideas in sketchbooks and journals. “Maintaining a notebook you can draw and write in helps you process and release thoughts. This is especially helpful if you’re setting targets, making New Year resolutions, or going through a low phase or battling anxiety,” says Dr Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and author. “Also, the manual activity of drawing, doodling and even writing, as well as the use of colours (especially pastels) has been found to be soothing and calming.”
So, ahead of the new year, here are tips from artists on how to maintain a sketchbook of your own.
FOR THE BEGINNER / BUSY BEE
Mumbai-based artist Sameer Kulavoor uses his sketchbook to jot down ideas, and as a means to slow down. “Drawing and writing in a sketchbook is therapeutic. It gives me those moments when I can just focus on a page,” he says. For inspiration, he observes people, their features, gestures and behaviour, and uses a solid marker to sketch in his notebook.
Tip: If you don’t know where to start, try note-taking. Make entries about special moments, interesting people or things you’ve observed. You could add context or make a rough sketch to help flesh out the moment. The best part about making entries in a book rather than a phone is that, when you revisit the entry, it reminds you of all that was happening in the moment.
SCAN YOUR THOUGHTS
Artist and illustrator Indu Harikumar, best known for crowd-sourced art projects like 100 Indian Tinder Tales, says she often looks inward for inspiration. “Sketching and drawing my thoughts and feelings help me accept and engage with them. Often, we run away from thoughts that make us uncomfortable. But if you don’t listen to what’s in your head, who will?” she says.
Tip: Don’t chase perfection. Draw for yourself. Focus on your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Note them down in the form of sentences or shapes.
FREE YOUR MIND
The Mumbai-based artist and illustrator Priyanka Paul uses her sketchbook to note down ideas, which she develops into full-fledged works later on. “Because it’s very personal, it becomes a space of no judgement and one where you are free to experiment,” Paul says. She uses gel pens, water colours, colour pencils and acrylics. Sometimes, she also uses stickers and paper cutouts.
Tip: To start off, scribble simple patterns or shapes. Repetition of patterns creates interesting visuals. Check artists’ sketchbooks on Tumblr for added inspiration.
BUILD ON EACH IDEA
Cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty of the nature-themed comic strip Green Humour uses his sketchbook to doodle and make notes about animals and their behaviour. “Sketchbooks help me gather information and inspiration. I always keep them within reach; some of the best ideas hit me when I’m half-asleep,” he says.
Tip: Practice sketching different angles of the thing you’re looking at. Revisit sketches you’ve made, over time, and see if you can further explore or build on the idea.
EXPLORE SHADES WITHIN SHADES
Graphic novelist George Mathen aka Appupen says his sketchbooks (he maintains about three at a time) function “like nets that catch all the ideas running through my mind”. To get your creative juices flowing, he recommends observing things in one’s vicinity and then subverting them or giving them a twist. “For example, if I see a tagline on a billboard, I play with it to match my sense of humour or vision; or if there’s a man sitting in front of me, I might imagine him turning into a barrel. Note down all the cool ways you can depict a single idea.”
Tip: Don’t obsess over creating perfect-looking work in your sketchbook, or you’ll be so caught up in one idea, you’ll let 25 others pass you by.
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