Art teachers often give sketchbook assignments to their students. Sketchbooks are great tools for trying a new technique or jotting down ideas the artist wants to remember for future reference. Unfortunately, many younger art students do not yet appreciate the importance of the sketchbook. As every art teacher knows, some students will awaken the morning before sketchbooks are due and realize they need to do ten more sketches. I know this because I was once that student and I am now the mother of one of those students.
I offer here a number of ideas for making a sketchbook the real learning tool it is meant to be. Teachers and parents may want to look at these ideas the next time their young art student says, “I can’t think of anything to draw!”
Everything Old is New Again
Find an old sketch in your book and redraw it using colored pencils or oil pastels. For a unique effect, make a photocopy of a picture, cut it into two-inch squares, scramble the squares, and sketch the resulting picture. I once cut my sketch of an owl into two inch strips, glued the strips on paper again while staggering each strip about an inch, and sketched the result-a distorted but still recognizable owl. Finally, consider zooming in on one area of a sketch and drawing the magnified view of just one portion of the sketch.
Come to the Dark Side
Play with light and shadow. In a darkened room, place an item such as a vase on a table. Put a small light near the vase and draw the vase showing shading and shadows. Try illuminating the object from the top or from behind. A variation on this idea is to look at a daytime picture and try drawing what it would look like at night.
Last Minute Sketches
Look at your immediate surroundings. Everything you see is a potential sketch. Sketch various items on your desk, in your purse, or in a kitchen drawer. Draw your bed, lamp, or toothbrush.
Draw a bird’s eye view of a common object. Notice how different an aerial view can be compared to the street-level view. What would your yard look like from the air? For a different twist on this idea, try drawing something from a worm’s viewpoint.
Do a study in colors. Divide the paper into several sections and draw the same thing in each section using a different color scheme. For example, draw four views of the same tree to depict winter, spring, summer, and autumn. If you enjoy fashion, draw the same outfit in multiple color schemes.
Keep Those Sketches
I still have my high school sketchbooks from 1980 and use them for inspiration at times. Be sure art students understand that their sketchbooks are not just another assignment, but will become a valuable resource for future reference.