Blog / 2023 / The Problem with Pristine Sketchbooks
August 22, 2023
My perfectionism has been a major source of pain and frustration throughout my life, but, when I look back at who I’ve been, like in this video, I’m glad to see that I am generally getting better—even if it doesn’t feel like it’s happening quickly enough.
If you want to see more of my sketchbooks, there’s this vlog in which I flip through some high school notebooks. This video about my daily rituals as an artist shows more of the sorts of drawings I make in my old planners.
I’ve got a weird relationship with sketchbooks. The prettier they are—I’m talking hard covers and luscious, thick paper—the more I fear them. I’ve never been a really bit sketcher, but, when I need to plan an idea out on paper, I usually turn to my old planners. I prefer these half used notebooks, with their lines and their scribbles. I like the idea of using up the extra space on a page that’s already “ruined.” It lets me feel free in precisely the way that trying to draw in a pristine sketchbook does not.
But then I found a really nice sketchbook in a giveaway pile, and I thought: “This is the one I will be able to draw in!” Someone else is treating it like garbage. They had put it out on the sidwalk. Like, this...I will be able to do this.
Except I couldn’t.
And that’s when I had to confront the fact that it wasn’t the expense of high quality sketchbooks that was keeping me from using them: it’s my perfectionism.
So I decided I had to fill this book. I had to prove to myself that I could get past my need for all my drawings to be perfectly pretty and right.
I decided to draw the road trip I took this summer. My partner and I drove out to the west coast for my father’s memorial. We both took a ton of photos along the way, knowing that when I got back to my studio I’d be drawing from those photos and from old photos of my dad, as a way to process the trip and also get over my perfectionism a little bit more.
So now the sketchbook is officially full. I’ve been a professional artist for two decades, and this is the first time I’ve ever been able to say that about such a nice sketchbook. And now that I’m on the other side of this—now that I’ve actually filled a really fancy sketchbook with some okay drawings as well as some terrible ones that I will not be showing you—the idea that I managed to do this difficult thing is making me feel pretty good.
I don’t think I’ll ever be big into sketchbooks, but at least now I don’t have to feel like my perfectionism is in charge.
This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!
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