Why to Keep a Daily Sketchbook
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My Daily Sketchbook Project


My Daily Sketchbook Project and Why I'm Doing it

We are one week into the New Year and It’s been a week since I started my daily sketchbook project.

A week in which I have sketched something every day.

My goal?

To sketch something—anything—every single day of this year. And to make this small but catalystic act of creation and creativity as routine as brushing my teeth and writing my morning pages.

So far, success!

(She said, knowing full well she was only one week in… But hey! Baby steps, right?)

I’ve tried keeping regular sketchbooks and art journals before and fizzled out failed miserably.

Why did I fail in the past?

Lack of time (that convenient and over-arching excuse that works for just about anything), lack of self confidence, setting my standards too high, and not being serious about making it work.

So, you might ask, what am I doing differently this time to ensure that I’ll stick with my new sketchbook habit?

  • I made it a goal and New Year’s resolution to do one sketch or page a day in my sketchbook.

A quantifiable but modest goal.

My Daily Sketchbook Project - I suppose its good to have room for improvement

  • I am (trying) to remain gentle and nonjudgemental with myself and my drawing abilities while still attempting to improve in skill and creativity. (Just as I want my children to be gentle with themselves and their drawing abilities.)

The point is to sketch every day, not to turn out masterpieces. The daily sketching will surely improve my drawing abilities, but at the same time, I’m thinking of it like my morning pages—rough and tumble drafts and a way to prime my writing/art—but not necessarily anything I need to share with the world.*

*Except that I’m sharing these photos here. And on Instagram. Silly me. The hazards of being a blogger with a perhaps compulsive need to share.

Keeping a Daily Sketchbook

  • I’m keeping this flexible.

Besides sketches and observational drawings, I may include elements of zentangle, art journaling, doodling, and/or drawing exercises such as continuous line drawing.

My Daily Sketchbook Project - I am grateful for my mornings

  • Here’s the biggie. I’m making the daily sketchbook a part of my morning routine to ensure that I do it.

I draw something first thing in the morning, after writing my morning pages and while drinking my pu-erh tea (I’m experimenting with being a tea drinker instead of a coffee drinker. The jury is still out on whether or not that one will stick.) If I wait until later in the day, I know from experience that I’ll get busy and I’ll find excuses not to do it, or at least not consistently. So I’ve incorporated the daily sketchbook into my morning routine and I’m excited and impressed with how well it fits in.

My Daily Sketchbook Project - January 5 Sketch of Living Room

  • I limit the time I spend.

I don’t spend a lot of time on my daily sketchbook page. Maybe 15 to 20 minutes tops. I tell myself I only need to sketch for five minutes to get myself started but once I’m in the process of drawing, I usually stick with it for longer.

Sketching by candlelight…

Jean Van’t Hul(@jeanvanthul)님이 게시한 사진님,

I feel GREAT about this new sketchbook project of mine. (I can’t exactly call it a habit yet, since I’ve only been doing it for a week, but that’s the ultimate goal.)

The rest of the day feels so good knowing that I’ve done my sketch. It feels like such a gift to myself and my creativity. I’m hoping that this small act will help me to align better with my ideal self.

Sketchbooks with the Kids 2

Another big reason I’m doing this (besides improving drawing skills, priming my visual creativity, and becoming who I want to be) is that this is something I want to model for my daughters. I want to model creativity, I want to share my (new) daily sketching “habit” with them, and I want them to see me doing something that I value.

Sketchbooks with the Kids

My morning routine happens before the kids wake up (ideally/usually) but what I’ve been doing is leaving out my sketchbook with the page open to that day’s sketch—sometimes unfinished. And also leaving out their sketchbooks and drawing materials—as an invitation for some morning drawing and doodling time. I’ll sit down with them for a while and finish my sketch or add a background or border or something while they do some drawing, too.

It’s working great so far!

A few days into my new routine, I signed up to take an online sketchbook class from Craftsy to help me improve my sketches and to give me some ideas and guidance as well as accountability.

(They were asking me which class I’d like to try for my next sponsored post. Perfect timing!)

Taking an online sketchbook class

The class is called Sketchbooks :: Drawing the Everyday with Paul Heaston and is one of my favorite Craftsy teachers and classes so far. He shares so much great info about sketching, sketchbooks, and drawing materials!

My Daily Sketchbook Project - The first week in sketches I was resistant to taking a sketchbook class at first because I thought, “There’s not that much to it. Just draw. In a sketchbook. Period.”

And yes, that’s basically what we need to do. But! It could be a whole lot more.

Paul shows us lots of his (amazing) sketches and sketchbooks. He shares different formats and mediums, subject matter, viewpoints, and ways of recording surroundings. Plus lots of great insight into the art of seeing.

“All you have to do is let your eye communicate directly with your hand. And your sketchbook is your place to record that.” – P.H.

He shares tips on putting objects into perspective, ideas for making images pop, and ways to make items appear closer to the viewer.

Some of this I already knew at some level. Some of it I didn’t. And all of it was and is welcome.

“Sketchbooks are a way to document the everyday experiences.” – P.H.

I was committed to doing the daily sketchbook before starting the class.

Now I’m excited.

Excited about what is possible for myself and my sketchbook project. Excited about recording the world around me in different ways. Excited about learning to see better. And definitely excited about learning to draw better.

“Experiment and explore options as you find your style and your voice.” – P.H.

Would you like to join me in keeping a daily sketchbook this year?

I really think that even a five minute daily sketch or doodle could work wonders for our creativity!

Online Sketchbook Class with Craftsy

Sign up for Sketchbooks :: Drawing the Everyday

Note :: As with all Craftsy classes, you can sign up now and then take the class at your own convenience. That means you can dive in immediately if you want and rush through it or you can wait a few weeks or months until you’re ready to take it and it’s waiting there for you. You can take it at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home.

Why to Keep a Daily Sketchbook Whether you take the class or just explore a daily sketchbook habit on your own, welcome.

I love the idea of us artful parents (as well as teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles) joined together in sketching, doodling, and journaling our days, lives, and ideas and giving this gift to ourselves and our creativity while setting a good example for the children around us.

I’ll keep you posted about my new daily sketchbook project as time goes on…

Happy sketching!

By the way, here are a few of their other drawing classes that I’d really like to try ::

This post was sponsored by Craftsy; all opinions expressed are my own. 


  • Reply
    Clara Crosby
    January 7, 2015 at 9:42 am

    What’s this about morning pages?

  • Reply
    Debbie G
    January 7, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Thanks, Jean, for sharing your journey. I have wanted to develop the same habit for years. I am spending more time sketching and hope someday it will be daily. Currently I am parenting a special needs child who generally wakes up early and must have close supervision when she is awake. I take my sketchbook with me and do sketching while waiting… in restaurants, at her swim class, before meetings and appointments, and sometimes at the park. Your commitment and sharing are encouraging and I will keep looking for snippets of time for my sketching!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      January 7, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Debbie — What a wonderful way to use your snippets of time!

  • Reply
    Christine Carter
    January 7, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Wow! Sounds great. Especially leaving the sketchbook there on the table to entice the kids to draw a bit. I like the idea of taking the class as well, and what a great price! We’re moving at the end of the month, so finances are extremely tight, but I hope I can catch the deal. If not, thanks for the info on the class and I’d like to look it up at a later time.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      January 7, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Glad you like the idea, Christine! And you can always just start a sketchbook without the class, of course! Maybe add it in later on if you want more inspiration and guidance…

  • Reply
    Ashlea Walter
    January 7, 2015 at 10:42 am

    This is wonderful! I just finished an Artists Way course with a great group of women and finally started painting again. I am attempting a “create something every day” habit, which is a bit more flexible than the “painting a day” I had been thinking about. The girls are incredibly intrigued with mama creating her own art again.

    Here is a tiny glimpse into the reality of it! https://besquirrely.com/2014/12/30/painting-again/

    I’m loving your sketches!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      January 7, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Awesome, Ashlea! Thanks for sharing!

      How did you like your Artist’s Way course? I took one a couple of years ago and loved it.

  • Reply
    January 7, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    That’s funny – I’m in the middle of the same course. I agree, Paul Heaston is great!
    I love your idea of sketching every day, I need to establish the same routine.

    • Reply
      January 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Also, I wanted to add- Craftsy has an app and you can watch the lessons on your phone anywhere. You can pre-load lessons so you’re not using data while out and about.

      • Reply
        Jean Van't Hul
        January 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Awesome, Inna! Thanks for sharing. I’ve used the app on my iPad but didn’t even think of doing it on my phone.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      January 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      That is funny! Great minds think alike… :)

  • Reply
    January 7, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    What a lovely post, and I agree about going gentle on oneself. I started my ambitious project this year where I create a new paper cut piece if art every day for 2015. The paper cuts are based on my daily intentions that I set each morning. I too have only been working on this for a week, but I am really loving the routine. I find I am in a better mood all day and have much more clraity as to the purpose of my day. Here’s the link to the description of my project.https://cutoutsstudio.com/original-art/365project2015/ Would this count as a sketch a day? I would love to officially participate with you.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      January 7, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      It absolutely counts, Julia! I love your paper cut outs and love that creating them puts you in a better mood all day!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    What a wonderful goal, Jean! And so inspiring!
    I started drawing a little bit last year and was amazed how much better I get when I’m not judging my drawings and do it just for fun. Sharing was surprisingly beneficial too. I will absolutely try to sketch more this year (I only made two drawings so far), already packed my purse with a tiny sketchbook and a pencil case for “on the go” attempts, in case I don’t get it on the page at home.

  • Reply
    Kim O'Brien
    January 8, 2015 at 4:48 am

    I thoroughly agree with this aspect both for students and parents AND artists. I used to do daily sketching with my classes I taught in primary schools in Tasmania, Australia. It was amazing to see the improvement, the concentration and confidence the students gained throughout the years and when they went to high school the art teachers often said my students were never afraid to draw, make a ‘mistake’ ,keep those ‘mistakes’, learn from experiences and were never afraid of challenges. The challenges you can set yourself inside and outside the classroom are limitless. I also used to show the students exemplars of artists sketchbooks, sketches and drawings of different styles and every time artists drawings of the subject they tried and discuss and analyse aspects of the drawings. Study of artists work from all epochs is most important as is to show students artist drawings fro their state, their country and with different media as well AND from the world wide artists exemplars. Mr Kim O’Brien.(Retired) Primary teacher (37 years) former lecturer Visual Art Education – U Tasmania (3 Years), Visual Art Consultant – Education and artist (current).

  • Reply
    January 8, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Dear Jean

    This sounds amazing, but a huge challenge in terms of discipline. I would like to have some creative/ reflection time before school/work. I am a researcher/university lecturer so I dont start really early, but I literally run to get my two daughters to school in time. Would you mind sharing a little about your rountine. You must need to cut out a lot of other activities to get enough sleep etc… Sorry about the ‘practical’ questions but I really am inspired by your mindset and practice ad would like to emulate at least in part!

    Thank you Jennifer

  • Reply
    Katie Harding
    January 8, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Love this idea, with three little boys I definitely could use some stress relief and a way to decompress each morning.

  • Reply
    January 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you for the inspiration, Jean! I was doing pretty well in terms of creating art and then December came…. after hosting my parents for the past month, I’m getting back into the swing of things and looking forward to creating more art again. Keep up those sketches! They look great!

  • Reply
    Mel Brammer
    January 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    What a lovely idea. I have so many great intentions to journal daily, get some book written daily… do anything daily! Then my son refuses to get dressed or my daughter changes her mind about what she’s wearing six times before breakfast and somehow all my intentions get washed away in the crazy world of parenting.

  • Reply
    Amber Ferrero Laub
    January 8, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Wow! I’ve had so many of the same thoughts… and now that my son is a toddler I feel like I’m running out of time to model creativity. He’s watching my every move already. I need to start soon, ha! I’m working through the “One Zentangle A Day” book, and I Just signed up for Paul’s class. Thank you!! :)

  • Reply
    January 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I love this idea! This year I started a one sentence a day journal and my 7 year old daughter did as well but she just absolutely loves to draw so I shared this with her and she wants to do this instead of the one sentence a day! I know that she will absolutely love doing this everyday and it will be wonderful to look back at the progress she makes through the year and have these wonderful drawings recorded. I might give it a try as well! I’ve never been a very good sketcher but maybe I will improve as well! Thank you!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I just feel like you are a kindred spirit. I’ve been trying to add more creating to my life and following your blog and Facebook has been so motivating! Thank you.

  • Reply
    kelly polizzi
    January 15, 2015 at 12:05 am

    GAH! I missed the deadline by mere minutes. Poop! This looks so good and i love your sketches. was thinking of getting into sketch journalling.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2015 at 9:47 am

    You have ignited it!!! The first step of my year was to sort my studio which I’ve done. I thought it was about time seeing as my daughter is now 3 and it was built in the weeks following her birth. I was happy with the fact it wouldn’t be used too much in the first year or so but by now, I am soooo ready to work in there. I’ve been considering doing an art journal online class to really get started but you’ve given me the incentive to do it this way – each morning … All your reasoning for doing it, I can totally relate to. OK, I didn’t start on January 1st but I DID start the process by sorting my studio. Now is the time to start a new sketch book for 2015! I can’t wait! I might even start the “Craftsy” class to get some good ideas and inspiration even though it’s at the full price (I’ve only just sat down to check my emails from the last few weeks as I’ve been focusing on the studio so I missed the 50% off deadline) … I’ll have to see if that’s American Dollars or not first as I’ve run out of savings. Thank you for the inspiration to get me started! There’s no excuses to not draw now.

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

    What a wonderful habit to form and get your children involved. Mine are all grownup now but my daughter picked up the love of crafting by watching me and I often find her in my studio when she is home from college. I have a desire to sketch but can’t seem to make it a habit but you have inspired me to pull out my book and make the time. I enrolled in the same Craftsy class in early January to help me and absolutely agree Paul is great! Just need to make the time. Pulling out my book today. Thanks

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