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One suggestion would be to take the word sketchbook and treat is as an ipad, you can do what you wish in there you can have a shopping list, a sketch, a masterpiece, a picture, anything.

For example (in my humble opinion)

Some use their sketchbook as their Canvas like Mattias Adolffson

Some use it as their workplace like Kevin Cornell @bearskinrug

Some use it to share with us their progress like @MeaghanMcIssac (who drew 100 days of hands)

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Excellent observations.

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May 5Liked by Kyle T Webster

As a second career artist trying to find my way, this was the best reminder to receive today. Such a relief to hear actually. As much as I admire all those beautiful "sketchbooks" I see posted all over, it highly discourages me to post my own work. I totally had to pass this one on to my peer group/friends. Good stuff. Thanks Kyle.

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May 5Liked by Kyle T Webster

This might be more about ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’. Social media incentivizes performance. But, I take your point about how we describe things. I find the word doodle insulting to visual people, it sounds like something a 3 year old does as they twirl their hands in a toilet bowl. I have multiple sketchbooks, and maybe the one where I create a specific visual idea is a drawing book. Sharing the sweat and tears of drawing/thinking with students is critical. You are so right, this is the most pernicious aspect of perfect sketchbooks—-creating performance anxiety.

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author

I definitely have nothing against the artists - heck, I love their work and am amazed by their posts. I worry about students, though.

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May 5Liked by Kyle T Webster

Definitely. The unreal expectations makes them avoid process. I show my students how I develop visual ideas with really crappy, unedited messes, but the siren song of social is deafening.

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author

"The siren song of social is deafening." Wow - this is some true stuff!!!

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Kyle,

I agree with you about these "perfect" sketchbook pages and find them tempting my self-doubt to blossom. My shared pages truly are spontaneous black-line doodles, and this is why I decided to share them. I want to inspire the viewer to get a pen to scribble for fun and use their imaginations.

The world needs your book about "Walking The Cat." It's a brilliant idea, and I see more people walking cats than ever on my daily walks.

Thank you for writing such wonderful and thoughtful newsletters!

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May 5·edited May 5Liked by Kyle T Webster

I still have my sketch book from when I was in grammar school and junior high. They were where I experimented with ideas and character design and environments. But somewhere in mid teens I began to judge my sketchbook drawings and I haven’t drawn in one since - even though my career has been professional illustration. I’ve got several blank sketchbooks on the shelf that were bought with the intention of filling them. But I’m afraid to mess them up with imperfect sketches. I’m mostly retired now and my days and art are my own. I find I have to learn how to play again … experiment. I don’t have deadlines to hit or clients to please. I can toss art and redo it if I think I can do better. I didn’t always have the time to do that mid career. I appreciate your post. It is a good reminder of the importance of playing with pencil, pen and pastels… to explore and let go of that host of judgmental critics in my head. Putting pencil to the page is a low stakes adventure of exploration. They shouldn’t all be perfect if you are truly exploring. Exploring requires risk. Jumping. Falling. Interesting little sidepaths. Seeds to explore later. Thanks for the great post.

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author

Low stakes - yes! This is how it should feel but social media can make us feel like this isn't the case (even though nobody is forcing us to share everything we create!). Interesting times.

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Great topic, great post. Years ago I took a class from an artist who went into quite a useful monologue about what a "sketch" really is -- and at what point it becomes a drawing. As you did, he pointed out the very good reasons for not calling a drawing a "sketch." And his examples jibed with what a normal person would consider true sketches and true drawings. It's useful to remember that and spread that corrective.

Also: Another artist I know has two sketchbooks. One she calls a sketchbook (for working things out) and one she calls an artbook, and she treats it as an art piece into itself, where beautiful little paintings appear on each page. That sort of honesty is clarifying, and it's also a fun idea if one likes the idea of having part of their practice be the creation of beautiful one of a kind books.

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I like this idea of keeping separate books!

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I suspect these artists actually keep two sketchbooks, one to scribble in to work out ideas and the other strictly for show.

The late Kim Jung Gi could produce high-quality art on demand. He was one-in-a-million.

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May 5Liked by Kyle T Webster

Kyle!!! Yes!!! Omg yes! My sketchbook looks like shit and I love it that way.

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Kyle, thanks for your final comment and image. Your sense of humor and warmth are wonderful.

You know about Nala, the cat who sits in a bike and travels all over? I found the book at a Little Free Library. Been thinking of re-reading it. If I ever stop reading how to use this graphic program or that.

Just a girl and her cat. I would never laugh at this! I love love love cats. And your images and story would be wonderful cos you are so imaginative.

I'd love to see sketchbook pages with notes, scribbles, fast sloppy images, clip art, ideas, questions, feelings, anything. Then JUST POST THEM! That is the ONLY answer.

AND post public-domain or from museums/galleries allowing their usage sketches of famous artists! Lots of scribbles to be found. Or from how to sites or vids (with permission).

Like about how you really build a drawing or painting in real life. Blocking out values. Drawing, then tracing onto paper or canvas, blocking out values, building up from dark to light or depending upon media, adding details, etc.

Walk ppl through it. Show them who and what inspires you. Show them your process. People LOVE to see behind the scenes!

Just do it. And let the chips fall where they may. And be sure one's portfolio up to date.

AND show quick n dirty sketchbook pages that led to a final image! Let them see the steps!

I've been screenshooting a few of my complex Lightroom develop screens. Image in middle of LR screen. Left is History or a listing of the adjustments. Right are the various sliders in LR or ACR (Adobe Camera Raw for when I'm in Pshop).

Sometimes pasted smaller Before picture to the left of the larger After picture in the middle section.

I WANT people to see I'm not using AI to automatically create something. I'm tweaking the sliders. If asked, I can tell them what each slider does and show them.

I absolutely want to prove to people I'm still 100% hands-on. LR and Pshop use AI to help us manually tweak our art. Even if we use presets, WE decide which one to use and possibly modity any preset settings or its opacity or strength.

SHOW people how much work we do... and show them the final project.

IF they want to find that person who creates quick masterpieces, fine. Let them see what really happens! Sadly, too many believe the hype, waste their time and money, then stay silent. Cos who will believe them?

And we are gonna change that? It's a big world. Aim for people who pay heed to what you post.

Find people who value you. Do the work. Tell people. Stand firm.

You gotta take a stand. ANY time we say yes to a cheapskate or someone who thinks it's so easy, you are asking for trouble! Don't say yes to the low hanging fruit who believe it's all AI. All auto.

Just tell them if it's so easy, why hire someone? Do it yourself.

Hold out for quality customers. Train them how YOU work. From A to Z. Mention how much hardware, software, net, electricity, zillions of apps and programs cost.

Don't bore them ... but tell them about what you gave up, what you invested to create something to make them happy.

You don't have to include all the details, but I'm listing a wide variety.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

And if someone like Kyle has to justify HIS pricing, then ppl need to realize they are ALSO paying for his NAME, his expertise, his EYE.

IN the 19th Century, the camera was invented, with many tech advances during the last 50 years.

IN the 19th Century, the tube of paint was invented. Van Gogh could paint bright colors outdoors whereas Turner could not, about 50 yrs earlier.

So while the camera was improving technically, although barely by our standards, painting started to go through the MOST adventurous, wild rebellion ever!! Modern art was born when the camera was being utilized.

So your art will be born from sketchbooks, doing what artists always do. Wowing people with the result. And showing them what's behind the curtain ...

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May 6Liked by Kyle T Webster

Kyle, if we think it's sketchbooks that scare us off and teachers aren't doing their jobs, news flash.

It's not about sketchbooks. It's about Lack of Support from teachers and others. And our levels of often too low self esteem, self-confidence and varying levels of personal drive, motivation, dedication and inspiration.

It's about TEACHERS. So many are envious. Unhappy. Lack compassion and empathy. Don't have the calling as a teacher.

And if one has the calling as an artist, the drive to be creative, then comparing oneself to others MUST STOP. Now.

Sketchbooks are merely a distraction. A manifestation of the lack of support from others. The lack of confidence in ourselves.

Work on that ... create your own workflow. And most of all, be your own creative self. Learn to market effectively.

Be personable too. Being kind and friendly to people who follow. Show them what's behind the curtain ... but don't blame sketchbooks or think teachers will do their jobs.

Just lead by example.

I've been around too long ... but it's true that life is the best teacher. Always excuses for basic reality: we gotta believe in ourselves, keep improving, market, and create good work habits as well as art.

It works ... at least for what I do. Which is different than most. Art ain't easy. But so worth it!

I've taken way too many art courses in colleges, earned a few degrees (pre-digital), taught at colleges, sat in on other teachers (computer graphics, motion graphics, etc), exhibited, published, and learning everyday.

AND NO ONE other than ONE teacher ever encouraged me! NO ONE.

Fellow students praised my art. But ignored me.

Took decades of people raving about my early punk photos before I began to see what they saw. And when I look at my college and other art, I think, why did NO ONE encourage me? Support me? Believe in me?

So much was gallery worthy. And I didn't see it. Then.

Just one teacher who loved my adventurous spirit in wood design. Classes I took for the fun of it. Nothing serious. But it took YEARS to even realize how much he believed in me.

Believe in yourself. Do the work.

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I see the sketchbook as a gym, almost like a place.

It’s about showing up and seeing what happens, I think one thing people need to know is that for every pretty piece you see on social media there are so many others that helped get it there, and these are rarely seen.

Either in the form of undos or sketchbooks

And I think it’s great that platforms like these help demystify the process :)

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author

The gym - yes! 💯

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Reading this finally gave me the oomph to put a first sketch down in my sketchbook. I have had it for years. It’s chewed on one corner from a puppy. Not sure which of my puppies did it.

Didn’t know what to sketch, so I sketched my eyeglasses sitting on the table.

They are far from perfect and that is okay.

Thank you for your words. 💛

It doesn’t have to be perfect !!!

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author

Hooray! Jodi, I hope the glasses are the first of many little drawings in that book. ✨👍

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Thank you! That’s my intention!!

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May 6Liked by Kyle T Webster

Your words ring true, Kyle. I´ll share them today with my students.

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Thank you, Martin. I hope the students feel less pressure to deliver volumes and volumes of perfect work and can feel perfectly comfortable just playing around and learning in their sketchbooks.

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That´s my aim :) Slow, but steady progress, lots of experiments and lucky accidents.

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May 6Liked by Kyle T Webster

I’m glad you posted this. It’s so defeating to see these “sketchbooks” looking pristine when I was always taught that sketchbooks should be messy because it’s a safe place to practice. If those have to look perfect, then where is the place to fail and learn?

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May 6·edited May 6Liked by Kyle T Webster

Alongside the performative nature of social media, I think the preciousness of the books themselves has a lot to answer for. The Moleskinification of drawing; every page demanding something BEAUTIFUL or PRODUCTIVE. Sod that. I’ve recently switched to budget notebooks (similar to the exercise books I used to obsessively/distractedly doodle in at school), and have really noticed the difference in how I’m using them. More thinking straight onto the page without that split second hesitation.

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author

I had not thought about the preciousness of the books, themselves - you're absolutely right!!

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May 6Liked by Kyle T Webster

I agree, I have a 25.00 blank sketchbook and a 6.00 target sketchbook that is tattered, falling apart and the drawings inside are not coherent or pretty. I love it. Use it everyday at lunch.

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Isn't bringing a piece closer to the finish line its own kind of experiment? Trying mediums, colour, lines, shading, etc? Also, I quite enjoy the "pretty sketchbooks" I see from artists on instagram. They have shown me new mediums and have been aspirational for me. I didn't go to art school. I am entirely self taught. Without "pretty sketchbooks" I wouldn't have known what a person could achieve with things like markers. I just wouldn't have been exposed. As for messing up the page, I think young artists across a lot of creative industries struggle with this - look at writers! A lot of them are afraid to start a notebook because they'll mess it up with imperfect words. But at some point - you gotta learn to just go for it!

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I love the pretty sketchbooks. Nothing against the artists creating/sharing them - they are lovely. I just think the trend towards *not* showing what the average artist's sketchbooks look like, warts and all, has a misleading and often intimidating effect for students and aspiring artists.

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