Sketchbooks: The Ultimate Escape

Everyone sketches. From the little doodles on the inside corner of your math textbook depicting your favorite band to even the caricatures of your boss in the bathroom stall, we as humans have this urge to express whatever is on our mind. From the routines and obligations we have in our daily life, we need outlets and hobbies to relax our mind and distract us from those pressures. Some folks play video games, others mellow out to music, and some meditate.

Whatever it may be, in this article I’m going to re-introduce sketching and explain why this simple process is important and why people should continue to sketch by providing examples and referencing two artists, Evan Worsham and James Sisti.

Sketching is the most important thing I learned from art school. During my undergrad, Ronnie Lawlor, an established illustrator and teacher made it clear to the class that sketching is important because 95% of the creativity and discovery happens in the doodles and playing around with ideas. I can remember during class and even at critiques she was very much interested in how each of the students approached assignments through their sketches. Imagine, you were tasked to visually represent the Invisible World. Where would you start? What would it look like? How can I make the topic personal?” With your mind racing to discover this Invisible World, you’ll soon notice that your sketches are trying to find this unseen place.

There’s a certain magic that happens while sketching. In the most literal sense, sketching is problem solving. Lets go back to high school algebra…we wouldn’t rush to the solution and say that x=3, right off the bat. You need to plug different possibilities into the equation and see if it works. Artist Evan Worsham has shown below how he arrived at the finish of his pieces Girl and Bush. Notice how, in his approach for Bush, he tried several times to get the desirable impression of Bush Jr. The point is, you may not necessarily make the Mona Lisa in one try, but you’ll learn what steps it takes make her.

What is a sketchbook?

A sketchbook is the physical collection of ideas. However your handy little moleskin isn’t limited to doodles and designs. What I find striking is that words, poetry and even scrap booking is found in a sketchbook! So in that case, why do they call it a sketchbook? It should be named something like “MY WORLD” or “THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD”.


A sketchbook isn’t exclusively a black covered book with white paper! Design the cover! Visit your local art store and explore the different options in paper. Don’t be afraid to ask the attendants either! They might be able to point out some fun surfaces to draw on.

One of the many beautiful aspects of a sketchbook is that it can be made out of anything! My friend and artist, James Sisti was nice enough to share pictures of his crafted sketchbooks, which are made out of various different weights of watercolor paper. The benefit of handmade sketchbooks is that the pages aren’t limited to the standard yellow or white paper. By doing this, you’re opening your book to a world of different papers, weights and textures. Try everything! Who knows, you may discover a liking to use hot press 300 lb Canson Water Color paper or even single ply cardboard.

A way into the Mind.

A sketchbook is a very personal space. I’m not advocating complete privacy, but as the author of such a piece, these pages are blessed with your personal thoughts. In the images below, you’ll notice how Evan Worsham plays with ideas. This is your space, have fun with it!

A sketchbook can also tell a story. In the images below, James Sisti recounts a tragic accident through words and imagery in a sketchbook he made during recovery.

Experiment man!

Your sketchbook is the one realm where no one can criticize you for the wacky and ridiculous ideas you may have. Keep in mind, “Nothing is impossible”. I remember a classmate of mine painted a portrait of a friend out of ketchup. Neat, huh? Below are more examples of Sisti’s work…notice how he isn’t afraid to try new things.

Don’t worry about erasing either. Maybe that misaligned pencil stroke is a mark of genius. Try cutting out a sketch and designing around it. Your sketchbook is the perfect place to have fun.

History of You, Volume 1.


Sorry for the caps folks, but those Picasso-esque sketches you have now may seem outlandish and irrelevant; however it may become the genesis for your next piece. To this date, I have all the sketchbooks I’ve ever drawn dating back since the freshmen year of high school. If you do the math, that’s about 9 years of my life as an artist.

By browsing, you may find the “behind the scenes” or “the making of” style books for artists and popular movies. The awesome thing about these books is that they offer you a glimpse at what the design team or artist was thinking while creating their work. If you treat your sketchbooks in the same manner, you can track the process and steps you took to come across an idea. A cool practice is to visit those old sketchbooks…you might become inspired again.

Another cool feature is how the sketchbook plays as a record of tracking significant changes in your artistic direction. Remember how Picasso had a cubist period? Well, you may find that point where you grew out of hyper realistic art and went towards a comic book graphic feel.


While using Stumble Upon I came across Sketch Swap, which is a neat web browser based sketch space that allows you to doodle and share drawings with people. You can check it our here.

Also, I highly recommend anyone who loves filling up sketchbooks or wants a challenge to participate with the SketchBook Project 2012. I’m participating and here is a brief blurb about the event, “Sign up to join the 2012 Sketchbook Project. Each participant receives a blank sketchbook that will be exhibited on the 2012 tour and cataloged permanently in the Brooklyn Art Library”. (Sketchbook Project)


I hope that after reading this article, you may appreciate sketching and personalize those sketchbooks. Just remember, to have fun and keep sketching!

Thank you to for allowing me to download their blackboard graphic. And a major thanks to my friends Evan Worsham and James Sisti for happily sharing their art for this article. I highly recommend that you check out their stuff.

About the author

Travis R Molina

Hello Folks, I'm Travis R Molina, a current designer who graduated from
Pratt Institute. While graphic design and illustration are my interests,
teaching is my passion. Thanks to Media Militia, I was able to share my
knowledge and talents to benefit the art community.


  • I found your post inspiring and intriguing. I am 42 and want to be an artist but sometimes, I doubt myself so much. Your post makes me want to try!!!!!!!!

    • Tina,

      Your response means alot to me.

      The truth is, we all have an inner artist with in ourselves, its more of a matter of appreciating and acknowledging that side of us. During my final year of college, I had recently switched art styles from water color rendering to comic book like graphics and I felt utterly lost, like a traveler in a foreign land. I had so much trouble sketching and coming up with ideas because I didn’t know how to get the idea across which lead to lack of art confidence. Luckily, under the guidance of my teacher, Rudy Gutierrez, he sat me down and had challenged me to doodle various topics (The Power of Music, War and Peace, etc) in under a minute. Being that my mind was racing with ideas, I eventually developed a new way of communicating…and to think it was from playing around with doodles and sketches. The point is to never give up on yourself. The particular manner or style you’re drawing with is your expression of ideas, much like a person’s rhythm or accent when talking. So with that in mind, keep at it, and I’d love to see whatever sketches you’ve produced!


  • Hello, i just wanted to say thank you for your article wich i will keep in mind and keep reading to inspire me. Im a student at a graphical Design school and i have choosen to explore illustration subjects. I love to draw and make illustrations, yet i never dare whenever i got something good going, to explore it more and keep myself on the safe side where i tend to not go further in my abilities.

    Your article motivates me to just sketch away and not care that much for the result in the 1st place but more for the practice.

    I’ll share your article with fellow students as well! Thanks allot!

  • This is so awesome. I’m a HUGE fan of sketchbooks. I have all of mine as well, and I like getting them out periodically and looking through them. I’m doing Sketchbook project and I did it last year too–it’s definitely interesting to go from aggressively sketchbook/scrapbook/poetry-ing all to myself and then doing the SBP and knowing it will be seen. I try to forget about that part.

    Anyway, thanks for the article!


  • hi ,i m not a trained art student but i always try to make my imagination with my efforts from my childhood now i want it to make it big for myself,i love to draw anything with ideas n Thanks for giving me as such ideas of sketchbook that encourage me to sketch with fun and to make my sketchbook or some other title i used to display my work with other artists like sb.

  • Hello,
    FIrst I say this its really very inspiring this for me.I really want to do sketcing daily, but by luck I live out of home (like hostel) so having so much daily work & having job as well,
    I m Graphic & web designer. I have my personal website

    I uplaod some sketches in below link.

    I really get such kind of idea to read this artical.

    I heartly say thanx to Author…

    Best Regards,
    Kalpesh Tudiya

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