Start making art in your new sketchbook with these creative ideas. If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed by possibilities there’s something here to kickstart your new sketchbook, whatever is holding you back. These tips are how I deal with new sketchbook gremlins.

Scribbles in a blank sketchbook


We want our sketchbooks to be an inspiring archive of sketches, drawings and paintings and this aspiration can keep us from making any marks at all. This doesn’t mean you can’t have finished artwork in your book but if you have a goal of perfection, then it’s time to loosen the reins a bit.

There’s often a difference between the art we want to create and what’s on the page and it can be off-putting. Your sketchbook is the place where the mistakes happen and the learning too. Nobody has to see your pages except you. It can help to see your sketchbook as a record of your progress.

Worried about wasting supplies

I still worry about this sometimes. I was given many of my art supplies when I started and felt I’d be letting people down if I made “bad” art. But making good art means making some uncomfortable mistakes along the way.

I have periods of time where I really don’t like anything I make. Did I waste paint and paper each time? Not at all. Every time I make something I show up, I commit to try again, to play, to learn, and to make more art. That is never a waste so use the supplies, even the good stuff you’re saving for best. Use it all and appreciate the opportunity and the process as you do. Wasted supplies are the ones still sitting on the shelf.

On another note, we might not have the great art supplies we want because they are out of our budget. Please do not let this stop you. Use whatever you have and see what you can do when you lean into what’s available. Some of the greatest artists in the world started with next to nothing.

Facing the blank page

Fear of the blank page is common. Maybe you fear spoiling the book with something not good or don’t know where to begin. Do you fear making the wrong choice with materials or theme?

Here’s some ideas I’ve used for facing the blank page.

  • Start in the middle of the book rather than the first page.
  • Begin by swatching your paint colours onto the first page. Try labelling your colours or making notes about what you like.
  • Scribble onto the page with a word, quote or even a journal entry that can be covered up later. Don’t overthink your handwriting or materials, take a breath and start.
  • Add some collage to a few of the pages. This can be random and covered up but breaks the page.
  • Use the first page to write your intentions for the sketchbook. Add a date, theme or maybe a colour palette.
  • In a concertina sketchbook, draw a continuous line or mark through the whole book. This can be a starting point to work from or partially covered while you work.

Handwritten notes in a blank sketchbook featured

Creative block or procrastination

If you’re feeling blocked or you’re procrastinating, I have an article specifically about how I approach creative block.¬† It helps to be aware of what’s holding you back and consider what’s motivating you to start.

If you need to rest or put your art aside for a while, then do. If your sketchbook is therapeutic then use that to your advantage. Using a sketchbook can be a playful way to create but if it feels pressured it’s ok to step back.

Needing direction

Having a theme or limitation might seem strange when you feel stuck. But too much freedom can be paralysing and boundaries can help you to get going.

If you lack direction or your vision is vague, try these examples.

Choose a limited palette, a theme or even a technique to use in your book. Focus on mixing limited colours, layering collage or quick portraits drawn with a continuous line. Think of something that sparks your interest for now and follow that.

What if I don’t like where it’s headed?

No decision you make has to be permanent if it’s not working for you. If your sketchbook isn’t feeling good or isn’t challenging you, then be flexible and change direction. Add new materials, colours or content that interests you.

My favourite old sketchbooks are a mish-mash of styles, themes and colours and they look exciting. Mixing things together, especially unexpected things is the heart of creativity so this is a good thing.

Top tips for loving your new sketchbook

Give yourself the time you need. You might want to fill a book quickly but it’s also ok to take months or even years. Take the time pressure off and enjoy the process.

Change direction whenever and how often you like. It’s good to challenge yourself but if you’re not enjoying something then move on.

Try not to tear out unliked pages to throw away. Learn what you don’t like and keep a record of your progress.

Enjoy building an archive of sketchbooks. They are so satisfying to look back on and look so good stacked up, filled with colour. Date and sign your books proudly.

It’s ok to have several sketchbooks going at the same time if that helps you.

You will come to appreciate every sketchbook in your collection. So imagine how you want your empty book to be and make a start. Take a deep breath and dive in.

Part one of this blog series is How to choose a sketchbook.

1 Comment

5 ideas for filling your sketchbook - Kore Sage | Mixed Media Artist · 25th March 2023 at 8:08 am

[…] art then find your own way. If you’re struggling to get started, this article about how to start your new sketchbook and face your fear of the blank page, might help […]

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