How to keep a Sketchbook

How To Keep a Sketchbook by Chad Townsend
How to Keep a Sketchbook
How To Keep a Sketchbook by Chad Townsend


About sketchbooks:

I’ve noticed that a lot of guys don’t sketch in them. They will buy a really nice new book and tell themselves: “I’m only going to put my best sketches in it.”   In doing so, they psyche themselves out and only do a couple drawings and then forget about the book altogether. In reality, the point of a sketchbook is to make ugly drawings – pieces and parts of things that aren’t finished and/or really fit together. It’s not meant to be pretty, but then again, sometimes it is. Those gems can be used as ideas for later projects. It becomes a place to practice or get your idea down – a place to wander and think.

It is very important to get in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with you. Athletes spend part of every day practicing and training for their sport. If you want to draw and paint for a living you have to train as well. This article will hopefully give you a boost and give you some ideas and challenges for your sketchbooks.

What to carry:

Nothing fancy! To get started, It doesn’t have to be a high dollar sketchbook. Remember, you’re going to wreck it anyway. What you DO need is something small and portable – you are going to carry it everywhere you go and it will need to fit in a bag or be easy to grab and go.

You only need –

  • 1 pencil
  • 1 pen
  • 1 small pencil sharpener
  • 1 eraser (I prefer a kneaded eraser for many reasons. notably, so it can mold into my pencil box. Also I dislike eraser boogers. Messy).
  • Pencil Box:  I spent years hunting for the perfect pencil box that was metal and could easily slip into my front pocket (see photo).  I dislike carrying a lot of stuff, so this was perfect for me. All that fits in my pocket. (other than the book) Fortunately, I managed to get a few of these boxes as gifts from a company that no longer exists. Unfortunately, I have never seen any like them since. UPDATE: A kind reader sent me a message and managed to find these exact pencil boxes HERE
How to Keep a Sketchbook
How To Keep a Sketchbook by Chad Townsend


< About This Sketchbook:  In case you are wondering, this leather sketchbook cover is made by a company called Oberon.  It’s a cover for those cheap hardback sketchbooks you find at Hobby Lobby, Michaels or Barnes & Noble like these Hardbound Sketch Books. it’s sturdy and I can switch out sketchbooks when I’m finished with them. And they look cool on your bookshelf. (I date and number mine.) I bought this cover about 18 years ago and it has traveled with me everywhere. My wife refers to it as my security blanket! This option helps overcome the mental hang-ups brought on by the investment in the book itself.  If you are going to commit yourself to sketching, I highly recommend these Oberon guys – expensive but a good option. Note: I rub baseball glove oil on it to keep it in shape.


Sketch Wallet created by Ralph Thomas


< Sketch Wallet: Here’s something new and cool to check out! This portable sketchbook created by Artist Ralph Thomas is going a step further and making it much easier for you to carry a sketchbook in your Pocket. Now there is no excuse to not carry one.

What I like about it is It’s always with you. it holds 1 pencil, all of your cards, cash and I love the ability to replace the books when you’re finished with them. It looks and feels nice too. I’ve been carrying mine a while now. I promise I’ll write some thoughts about my experience with it. You can check out videos and pictures on this awesome addition to your toolbox here SKETCH WALLET.


What to draw:

Believe it or not, you are sitting somewhere with loads of things to draw smacking you in the face and you still feel like you have no ideas or nothing to draw. I do that too. you aren’t the only one. if you’re like me you might not find what’s around you as exciting subject matter, but let’s get real for a second. if you ever become a work for hire artist, there’s a good chance you might work on something that isn’t exciting at all and you will have to adapt. I draw lots of day to day items for the productions I am on. I have gotten to the point that I now really enjoy the challenge of drawing each prop in the most interesting way possible. especially if it is something I haven’t drawn before.

I recommend keeping and making a personal list of things to draw. maybe things that you haven’t tried drawing before, or if you’re like me and you work in Games, animation or comics, keep a list of characters to draw. but in case you don’t have a list I’m going to start you off with one.

  • Nature – Tree’s, Plants, Flowers, water, clouds, hills, mountains, Potted plants.
  • Animals – Dogs, cats, horses, birds and bugs. get animal and bug dictionaries and draw each animal in order.The Eyewitness Books in the Children section of your local Bookstore are pretty good visual aids. or just do an image search.
  • People – Portraits, Heads, Quick poses, Hands, Feet, Shoes, eyes, ears, noses, hair, clothe’s and costumes. My pal Will Terrel is probably one of the best guys I know at this. He likes to go over and sit in the Mc. D’s at the local Walter Marthas and draw. everyone that walks through there is a virtual library of interesting characters.
  • Household Items – TV’s, Couch, chairs, tables, shelves, fans, coffee maker, Pot’s and pan’s. Eating utensil’s. bottles, cups, office supplies. Lawn mowers, shovels etc. Ikea Catalogs are pretty good to hang on to.
  • Vehicles and Mechanical items – Cars, Trucks, Cranes, Dump trucks, garbage trucks, planes, helicopters, tanks, boat’s and ships. Robots, space ship’s, rockets.
  • Architecture – Streets, shops, houses, apartments, townhomes, greenhouses, tool shed’s, skyscrapers, monuments, Castles, Historical buildings.
  • Last but not least look at movies, comic books, cartoons, tv shows for characters to draw. Copy what you see or create your own version of what inspires you.

Places to Draw:

The Zoo, Parks, Museums, Monuments. Your local Coffee shop. Look and see if there’s a local sketch group in your town or city. if not, start your own through Facebook and meet at a location like a Coffee shop. they don’t seem to mind people hanging about and they usually have a lot of tables, wifi and oh yeah…. coffee.

Take photos:

Now with the age of smartphones, you have a great tool at your disposal for taking pictures for reference or objects that you think would be great for a project. It’s also a good way to practice laying out camera angles in your art. or snapping pictures of books and tools you’d like to get later on.

How to Keep a sketchbook:

Sketchbooks are not only places to draw but also a good place to write down ideas or tell a story. I know a guy that drew his entire comic in his sketchbook and just scanned in his panels. use it as a journal so you don’t forget that cool moment. Tape down that concert ticket on a page or that wine label of a brand you found you like. jot down notes, reminder’s and contacts if you need. keep lists in your sketchbook. Keep one just for to do lists. make this the main go to place for everything. If you are lost for something to do, I have found unfinished pieces of art in my books.

Personal Sketchbook Challenges:

  • Challenge #1 – Draw at least 30 minutes a day. squeeze in an hour if you can. do it while watching TV or something. remember this is your daily exercise. This is your artistic workout. take it with you.
  • Challenge #2 – See how fast you can fill up your sketchbooks. Start off with an easier expectation like say 6 months. then see if you can work your way to one sketchbook in 30 days. this is one of my goals.
  • Challenge #3 – Fill every square inch of a page if you can. drawing in a confined space and using different shapes can help challenge your creative thinking.
  • Challenge #4 – The EASY challenge. I added this for you guys that just feel too overwhelmed with stuff. So do this. Draw ONE doodle or sketch a day. for a month. that’s it.
How To Keep a Sketchbook by Chad Townsend


I highly recommend joining a social network like Deviant Art or Instagram for posting your art and sketches as a daily practice. It’s a great way to get feedback, Learn and belong to a community. It’s real easy to feel a bit lost and on your own. Sometimes just a “Good Job!” from someone is enough to push you forward. Instagram is by far my favorite social network for sharing my art with people. It receives my top recommendation.


Sketchbooks are for just that. Sketching. it’s not meant for perfect works of art, it’s supposed to be messy, ugly and fun. you have thousands of ugly drawings to make before you start making good ones. so get them out as fast as you can. I can’t remember where I heard it first but it takes a person 10,000 hours before they become an expert at something. so get going and make 10,000 bad drawings! if you need permission, then you have mine. go. NOW!

I hope this article helps inspire you to carry around a sketchbook and start wrecking it. Please comment. your thoughts are welcome!

Written by – Chad Townsend

Edited by – Madeline Townsend 🙂

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