Sketchbooks are an amazing tool to use however it best works for you. I use mine for everything including lists, ideas, drawings, writing, anything I really like I will put in my sketchbook. Though I try to use my sketchbook once a day, honestly that’s not always doable, so I just carry mine with me wherever I go and use it as much as I can.
I think it is sometimes misunderstood that a sketchbook has to be used for drawings or has to be done a specific way, but I think that is a real cock block for your creativity and you should just ignore people who think that. I believe that it is really important to figure out how to make your sketchbook work best for you, so I highly recommend experimentation because you don’t know if it helps unless you try it. I’m going to talk about how I use my sketchbook and what works best for me, hopefully it can inspire or help people who want to get more out of their sketchbooks!
Ideas: I write down every single idea for making work, concepts, etc. in my sketchbook. Terrible or genius, this is the best way I’ve found to work it out. Sometimes this involves small drawings or just writing individual words, but any way that feels best for me to get down what I’m thinking. A lot of the time they don’t turn into something that I make, but it’s a great starting point for working out the flaws of the ideas and brainstorming execution and concepts to go with it. Another thing I do is go back through my old sketchbooks and revisit some of my past ideas. This can be both humorous and helpful. Ideas that may not have had anything to them a year ago, could be usable now that you’ve had time to think about and mentally develop them or they could just be more relevant to your current work.
Lists: I love making lists, to-do lists, grocery lists, to-make lists, list of places I want to go, pretty much anything. This is one of the easiest ways to organize my thoughts and ideas, it helps me get focused when I’m starting something and it helps me feel more accomplished as I check things off. I like to spend a lot of time and effort on these lists to make them aesthetically pleasing, especially ones that I won’t necessarily be checking off. This is also a great way to organize your goals, either for the year or for some undetermined amount of time and if it looks nice I feel more compelled to look back at it or place it somewhere where I will see it often as a reminder.
Drawings: As someone whose medium isn’t primarily drawing, this is really where all my drawings live. Because I usually feel intimidated by good quality paper, my sketchbooks give me a place to draw freely without worry that it is going to be worth the cost of the paper. Connected with ideas, I will usually do small sketches to accompany them to attempt to get what is in my brain compositionally onto the paper. I find this very helpful then when I am out in the field, I have to think less about placement and composition because I already thought it out and anything extra is exactly that.
Writing: My sketchbook is also where I work out the beginning stages of artist statements as well as take notes about readings or even reactions about work that I can really only get down in the form of words. Of course a majority of them look like the ramblings of someone who has never heard of punctuation, but it’s a great starting point for something like artist statements which can sometimes be difficult to get started. I am someone who constantly checks out library books, and because you obviously don’t get to keep those books forever, taking notes on what I read can be extremely helpful later. Taking sections that I find important and then adding in my own ideas or reactions is something I have found to work for me. As much as I want to pretend that I remember everything I read, I don’t. So, being able to go back to the things that stood out and seeing my personal reaction or take on that information can really inspire new ideas and concepts.
Additions: Adding images of reference (if you have cheap access to printing or magazines) is something I absolutely love to do. When working on an idea I add lots of reference material so I can have lots of visuals when I am out in the field. Finding things with similar aesthetic helps me figure out the qualities and the compositions to get what I want, I can see what they all have in common that gives them that aesthetic so I don’t have to go through so much trial and error.
I hope this is a helpful guide to different ways you can use your sketchbook!