Sketch Journalling: One scene at a time

Now that the new v3 D*I*Y HipsterPDA is out, I thought it’d be fun to give you all a new project. Sketch journals become fun, quick and quirky projects that capture and distill certain elements of your life down into fast and simple drawings. Leonardo daVinci kept one, Danny Gregory keeps one and now you can too. Keeping a sketchbook is a great way of keeping track of creative ideas and getting in the habit of regular drawing, as well as being a useful, visual brainstorming tool for when you’re feeling short on ideas. More importantly, it gives you the perfect opportunity to put those new 1-up Storyboard cards from the D*I*Y HipsterPDA core pack to good use.

The only other thing you need is a pen. I recommend pens over pencils because like written journals, pencils makes it easy for your inner editor to force you to erase your sketches. And at this early stage in our sketching careers, we really want to minimize the time our inner critic has to kvetch about our pictures. Using a pen, on the other hand, forces us to keep every twitch and mistake on paper. We don't give our critics a chance to discourage us from creating weird and wild sketches. It's okay that they don't look perfect or seem “real”. Sorry to say...but a sketch journal isn’t about how real an image looks or how perfect one draws an object over another. It’s about developing your perspective; finding new ways to see the world.

For the next few weeks, I encourage you to try and use the Storyboarding cards to keep a sketch journal of your own. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t draw...this exercise will teach you how to see the world through a series of quick sketches. And by the end of this exercise, you’ll have a nice stack of cards that show your progress. Use a new card each day and use the picture space to frame your sketch. If you feel inclined, you can also write a few words under the picture in the lines provided.

Start by focusing on the everyday things around you. Grab your favorite mug and draw it. Take a good, long look at it and try and trace every contour, curve and line it has. You can even draw the same object over and over again. Try drawing your mug as it appears in the morning, afternoon and at night... as the lights in your home change with the rotation of the sun. Doodle the book you’re currently reading or trace your Moleskine journal.

When you think you’ve got the hang of things, draw a small grouping of things. Sketch out the items that sit on top of your desk. Or draw how the books sit on one bookshelf. Learn to capture the moment in your quick sketches. It’s okay if your sketches don’t look exact. You’re developing both your unique perspective of the world and style of drawing. How you sketch may and will probably look much different than mine.

And when you’ve run out of mugs, books, cds and shelves... it’s time to move onto sketching moments in a day. Take your hipster out to the park one evening and draw the swing-set and any kids sitting on it. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, the goal is to capture a moment of time, not recreate the Mona Lisa. "Drawing people in action is easier than it looks," a friend of mine once wrote, "humans are essentially just eggplant shaped blobs with appendages." You also don’t need to capture EVERY little detail, just try and get the essentials; the things that catch your eye the most.

Have fun with your sketches and allow yourself to explore new perspectives with this tool. Draw your Venti Mocha and coffee cake in the cafe. Draw in the library. Sketch while you wait for the checkout lady to process your groceries. Look busy in your department’s meeting by sketching your coworkers as they shift their weight in their chairs. I sketched the picture in this article while sitting at a table in a bar on "Open Mic Night". You don’t have to sketch alone, either. Grab your friends and take a sketch hike for a day. Sign up for the annual Sketch Crawl that takes place every year. Or create your own sketch meet. And if you’re really daring, post your progress online, share your unique views with the rest of us.

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Valuable as a memory tool also

I find that a Sketch Journal also helps the memory much more than photos or writing (but this probably depends on whether you are visually oriented or otherwise). It's the old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words". By putting yourself in the moment and noticing details that go into your sketch you can create a very personal memento of the place/event that recalls the situation/experience quite well later on.

With work it's best to just start.