The Importance of Sketchbooks

I seriously sketchbooks

I seriously sketchbooks

Yesterday I mustered up my courage and ventured to unknown places to do one thing. Draw. Since I moved to Nashville, I’ve been nervous to wonder around by myself, and as a consequence my sketchbook has suffered. Back in Florida, I spent a lot of my time in cafés and books stores, constantly doodling. Occasionally I would meet up with my dear friends Jen and Kiki after work and just geek out about art. I miss those days!

Now that I’m in Nashville, in the heart of downtown, it’s the prime situation to explore a new city on foot! But that didn’t quite happen. Upon moving in with Mr. Honiball, I immediately obsessed over work and turned down all fun activities. Work work work and essentially very little Tori sketchbook adventure time.

You maybe be thinking, Tori, you can do all those things now, the cafés and book store adventures. I sold my car since I moved up here and therefore it feels like my run away exit security has vanished. I have very short stubby legs and guarantee you I will trip and face plant while making this hypothetical escape.

Keeping a sketchbook is very important, it’s a sacred place for mistakes and discoveries to happen. As I mentioned before, a lot of my work now happens on loose leaf paper and it has to be presentable. I’ve lost the touch of being loose with my sketches and not allowing moments for bad drawings as I should.

Sketches at Edgehill Cafe

Sketches at Edgehill Cafe

Yesterday was a very strange experience but I’m so happy it happened. I checked out a café I’ve always been curious about, ordered myself some tea and loaded hashbrowns and, as luck was on my side, a pretty lady was sitting right across from me! I did ask for her permission to draw her (I have a rule to ask if they are within five foot radius of me). Yes I felt incredibly uncomfortable with what I was producing and totally felt like I was in a fish bowl. Ohhhhh an artist in the wild!!! I’ve lost my ways of sneakily drawing people in public! Of course I had those typical I hate what I’m drawing artists feels. But I needed a kick in the butt and to experience humiliation in my art. I took the first step in reconnecting with my sketchbook and reclaiming non-discriminating art time.

I can’t describe how important sketchbooks are to me. Most of you know I’m crazy obsessed with process work. In order to be efficient with process work, you have to constantly explore your ability in a safe zone, sketchbooks. My professor in college, Mr. Mike Hodges, always emphasized that you should practice techniques BEFORE working on a final piece. Trying something new on a crucial assignment is nerve wracking, the pressure to get it right the first time is immense and not knowing what to do is awful experience.


Sketchbook process work from Spring 2013

With that said, sketchbooks are essential to an artist’s growth. Make time with your sketchbook and make those mistakes!

I would love to hear about your sketchbook experience in the comments below. Everything about it! If you’re new to the sketchbook world or are struggling, we are in this together! Cheers to reclaiming sketchbook time!


  1. Hi Hi Tori!

    So glad that you are much happier with the awkward peeps that were watching you art at the cafe and how you are sharing your learning experience with us! I really need to focus on the points you made that sketchbooks are okay to mess up in and try techniques…I always get super critical and thing every page of my sketchbook needs to look polished and pretty but I shall keep doodlings until I am more okay with experimenting!! I am determined!! Anyway hope Nashville has some more sunny days coming up super soon!! Thank you and all the hugs being sent your way! =^.^=

  2. Scott Southall

    I’ve almost always been around artists, and I worked at Michael’s for a while, so I love to look at art and dream of making things. I had a good discount working at Michael’s, so I have art supplies everywhere and quite a few sketchbooks. The problem is that I can’t really draw and that I have no patience, so the first few pages has some random things on them, and then it’s just a bunch of blank pages. Which is why these days I stick to words and cameras.

    But you should go have adventures! Anxiety tends to hold people back from going out and doing things like sketching in public, but if you go out and do fun things, you can just take the anxiety outside with you and make it wait while you get things done. It’s better than sitting at home with it.

  3. I’ve been so focused on keeping my sketchbook pretty but you are right, get messy and practice. I don’t have many artists around me so I follow so many on instagram and try to learn. Tori you have taught me so much!! I will pratice more quick people doodles for you! Have fun on your adventures Tori, explore! Love you! ^-^

  4. I agree–sketchbooks are super great for mistakes/learning! My own sketchbooks are full of scribbles most of the time. And writing. The notes for my stories go into my sketchbooks, whether it’s character bios or plot points.

    In high school, I would go through a sketchbook a month. Looking back at those sketches, I definitely didn’t use the pages to their max, so that fact is a bit inflated in its amazingness. xD My sketchbook is my security blanket and my deciding factor on what purse to buy (so it can fit). I spend about 3 months on a sketchbook now, maybe longer if I’m doing a lot more finished work outside of it. It’s about half writing and half sketches, though.

    I think I have the opposite problem to you–you said you have more presentable work. My work stays in my sketchbook with no finished pieces to actually present! This year, I’m working on being more polished, though!

    Thanks for sharing your sketchbook thoughts! Sketchbooks 4 Life! 😉

  5. Hey tori!
    My sketchbook is extremely important and bring it everywhere with me. It got to a point where it feels weird not bringing it with me even though I know I won’t use it!
    Since I fill every little blank space there is, I don’t have multiple sketchbooks at once, but me being a perfectionist I often erase my mistakes and redraw something in my comfort zone ^^; That’s why this year I want to practice the stuff out of my comfort zone and experiment with new techniques.
    I sincerely applaud you with drawing in cafes and public places, I’m vey shy and even if I want to draw outside I’ll draw in a place with the least amount of people around. I feel like everybody is watching me and I feel suupper uncomfortable. I need to build up courage so that I can draw in places with people around me!
    Love your art and thank you for sharing your thoughts on sketchbooks!
    love ya!

  6. Tori, you never fail to inspire me with your art and words. Currently struggling to fill up my mountain of sketchbooks because of college xD but i do make sure that i carry a small sketchbook with me so i can doodle away in school. Im also struggling on “playing” with my sketchbook since i always want to do finished pieces in my sketchbook but after reading this post, i learned a lot and realized that sketchbooks should only be a place to jot down ideas and learn from mistakes.

    Thank you so much for constantly teaching, motivating and inspiring us Tori. *hugs*

  7. Wow you have a really lovely collection of sketchbooks! I have to admit I get caught up with trying to get every single picture to look perfect in my sketchbook and then when I get to a drawing that eventually looks not as good I tend to draw less and less in my book. It’s inspiring to hear that you actually try to get these kinds of drawings so you can learn from them and keep them in your collections! Thank you for sharing~

  8. Such an inspiring post. I would like to be better about practicing my art in the sketchbook before moving to the final piece. It’s a very important step in the process, and this post made taking that step a little less intimidating. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Hey Tori –

    I love how passionate you are about sketchbooks. I wish that I can share the same passion but, unfortunately, I am too hard of judge of my art that I can’t bare to let myself “go” and make heavy mistakes – even with a few strokes of my art tool of choice. I know myself, and I put a lot of strain myself when creating something. I believe that’s something that’s been keeping me from becoming a full time artist. I’ve never really had a mentor or someone to guide me as an artist. I think that you were very fortunate that for having a Mr. Mike Hodges to inspired you to make mistakes as a first step towards the last step.

    One the other hand, please, keep doing what you love along with your work. I don’t know if you do this already but maybe you can start a for-work sketchbook to show all of your paid jobs processes. I see these in art magazines all the time. It’s just a suggestion to soothe those sketchbook blues.

    Take care.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I’m a huge fan and you’ve really helped inspire me. I have a couple of sketchbooks and I’m getting into the habit of drawing free-hand, without any sort of guidelines, and with a pen so that I can get free-hand drawing practice and notice my mistakes and not feel the need to erase them. Thanks for all the awesome tips you’ve given both here on your website and on your YouTube channel.

    I have a question: Have you ever colored entirely with color pencils? If so, would you please make a video with tips on coloring with them? I mainly use colored pencils and Tombow dual brush pens. Also, please check out my website XD

    Thanks again and keep up the awesome work! Love ya! ^-^

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