Artist Sketchbook

page from artist sketchbook by christine mitzuk with notes from stephan orsak
Here's a page from my sketchbook during the workshop. Stephan made some notes in different colored inks (one of the tools he uses in his own journals) to show iterations.

Keeping an artist journal or sketchbook can be tricky sometimes. Or maybe it feels like a difficult, lengthy chore. Stephan Orsak shared some insights into the artist journal and making it a fun part of the creative process in a recent workshop.

I'm not a consistent scribbler. I'd like to incorporate it into my process and I realized I had some obstacles in my way. Stephan Orsak offered a workshop in January titled "The Artist’s Journal: The Quiet Link Between Idea and Masterpiece" through The Atelier so I gave it a shot. It was worth the time and money and I hope he runs it again so more people can take it.

Some of the things he showed us were examples of sketchbooks from the likes of John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, and Constable

Sargent doodles (you can browse the Harvard Art Museums collection, search for Sargent Sketchbook):

Pablo Picasso:
I can't seem to link to a specific image so go here and search for sketchbook, sketch, or journal

John Constable:
Stephan pointed out this one for how Constable treated the people; they're just dots.

Some Takeaways from the Workshop

I have a lot of unwritten rules that I've accumulated about what an artist journal ought to be. A lot of them are getting in my way and can be trashed. Now I need to figure out how to trash them or overwrite them.

Artist sketchbooks don't need to have "finished", "beautiful", "perfect" works. They can be messy. They can be clean. They can be more of an incubator for ideas, a workshop to experiment, a place to put quick observations or little bits of ideas. (I like the idea of it being an incubator and a place to note random thoughts or observations).

Artist sketchbooks can be anything and contain anything that is useful or of importance to each individual artist.

It is O.K. to play, explore, ask "what if?", or "if this then what?". Trying out different options. Instead of drawing what is, maybe ask "what could it be?"

A drawing doesn't have to be OF something, it could be an experiment with mark making, just scribbles.

Stephan suggested asking (and I'm paraphrasing) "what's important to you about the thing you're seeing? What about it makes an impression on you?" and then "does it seem like a line would translate the idea or tone or a combination of the two".

Putting something down on the paper doesn't need to take an hour. It can take 5 minutes or less.

An artist sketchbook doesn't have to be shared.

Thank you Stephan. I hope you do the workshop in the future so more folks can benefit from your findings and explorations.