Lets take a look at all the amazing sketchbooks from our students that got filled during our 2021 Sketchbook Practice Series and also some from our Figure Drawing and Painting Series! We asked G Caruso, our artist-instructor for Sketchbook Practice Series and Figure Series, to talk about how they started filling up their sketchbooks, what is a sketchbook to them and why it is important to finish a sketchbook!
Why did you start using a sketchbook?
G Caruso: A Sketchbook for me growing up was a friend, and I didn’t have many friends. The Sketchbook and drawing was there to help me relax and I found that it was also a social crutch. I enjoyed drawing people and I got to interact with them. They would feel a sense of being seen and not ignored but I didn’t have to talk to them.
Once I started studying painting and drawing the sketchbook impacted me in a different way. I wanted to paint on canvas so I asked my teacher when I could start painting on canvas, and he said “You can’t start painting on canvas until you finish that sketchbook“. I then carried my sketchbook everywhere! This was pre-smartphone, and pre-google image search. My sketchbook became like what a smartphone is to us now. It was the thing that I constantly had in my bag with me. Every time I had an idle moment I would be taking out my sketchbook and drawing whatever was in front of me. It could have been someone sitting in the train, or a bag left in the corner of the room, trees or landscape, I wasn’t really drawing from imagination. It was mostly from observation. I finished the sketchbook and as time went on I realised that the practice I got with it was so important. The feeling of filling something up and finishing a sketchbook was also an impactful moment and left a strong imprinting.
Why do you encourage people and yourself to finish sketchbooks one at a time?
G Caruso: The reason why I encourage people to focus on only one sketchbook at the time is this: when you manage to fill up a sketchbook, you know you can do it. You know you can be consistent and finish a project. And once you know that, nothing can stop you. That is what powers you through so it is important. It’s important you start one and if the paper sucks its doesn’t matter, tape in a different paper, be creative find solutions, finish it up, and then you get another one and then you get another one. The cycle of filling up sketchbooks is important to keep your practice going.
What is a sketchbook to you?
G Caruso: A sketchbook is a space of practice.A sketchbook is a sketchbook, not an artwork, it’s not an artist book. It’s not a portfolio. It is a space of practice, and as such everything can exist in it, all the mistakes all the messy stuff that time you poured your coffee over the page that time that your cat walked over your watercolor, the time you were having a bad day and every line you were pulling looked awful. All of that needs to exist in the sketchbook because that is part of the process its part of your learning curve. And the fact that you don’t rip pages out that you don’t cover the mistakes and you just embrace them as part of your process is that. It is the thing that also helps you build up the confidence to develop your art practice because the moment that you embrace everything in your art practice you can then sit on your table and draw without being terrified that what your going to do is not going to be good enough, this what I try to inspire my students to do. Go ham in your sketchbooks, and do what ever and not to apply the static social media standards to something that its suppose to be ugly..
A sketchbook is also a record of time. Accept that your sketchbook can contain anything and you don’t need to plan it in an aesthetic way. It becomes a record of your time and existence and presence in different spaces. I had a student that used the daily sketchbook practice during lockdown as a way to mark the time and her presence in the world she was like “I get evidence that this time existed, I have a sketchbook full of drawings to prove that” I was still existing, even if isolated and in lockdown. So there are many different ways to navigate a sketchbook practice.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by wanting the sketchbook to be too pretty. Or you decide: I’m going to start a sketchbook just for hand drawings, and then I’m going to start a sketchbook just for watercolor and then I’m going to… by then you have started 5 different sketchbooks and you’re not finishing one. If you don’t finish, then you don’t get that nice dopamine rush that comes upon completing a sketchbook. And that is a pity.
Why do you think people feel the pressure to make sketchbooks pretty?
G Caruso: People right now are sharing these hyper aesthetic sketchbooks on social media, people applying for art universities are sharing what they applied with. They make these sketchbooks where they cover up the drawings that are not good and glue pages together. They’re super edited to be as pretty as possible. In the end they are not sketchbooks they are portfolios, and then people look at them online and think that is what a sketchbook is suppose to look like. Then they try to start one and are frustrated because their sketchbook don’t look like that starting out. My sketchbooks don’t even look like that! But they are not suppose too because in the end what you are seeing in these posts are portfolios not sketchbooks. Originally a sketchbook is a space of practice. Drawing in your sketchbook to make sure it isaesthetic enough to get social media likes it like asking a dancer to never fall when they are practicing in the dance studio, and using stage standards for practice and wanting the exact level of performance and perfection. You need to make mistakes to be able to grow your skills.
Any final Sketchbook wisdom?!
G Caruso: There are many different way to interact with a sketchbook and everybody can find their own way, don’t be afraid to explore, be creative, and make a mess. Just keep drawing and filling up your sketchbooks!