Sketchbooks: Continuing the Conversation

I published the last Sketchbook Conversation in December.

sketchbooks, art, art supplies, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

My initial motivation was selfish. Although I know the series has been popular, I don't have the time to commit to the interviews anymore. But I am hoping that ending the series can be good for you as well as for me.

Looking for outside inspiration for your art and other creative endeavors can be a good thing. But looking for inspiration, gathering ideas... that's not making.

UPPERCASE Magazine, Sketchbooks, watercolor, crafts, artist studio, workspace, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Eventually we need to stop thinking and researching and planning and get to work.

Perhaps the end of these interviews can act as a gentle push, if you need one, to move from thinking to doing.

watercolor, paint, paint palette, watercolor palette, color mixing, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Another thing I've been thinking about is the myth of the perfect sketchbook. I don't want you reading the interviews and looking at other artists' (carefully curated and styled) photographs and feeling discouraged about your own creativity. I tried to show a diversity of styles and perspectives and a number of the artists shared their thoughts about struggling with perfection and other challenges that everyone who works in a sketchbook faces, but I know a lot of what was shared in the series were great looking sketchbook pages. Great looking sketchbook pages can inspire, they can also intimidate. The only way around that is to stop looking and start doing.

sketchbooks, sketchbook, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And maybe that doing needs to be private. That's another thing I think a lot about. I even wrote a little piece about it that's in the current issue of UPPERCASE Magazine*.

To share or not to share? It's a good question. Sharing can help hold us accountable. Sharing brings us encouragement and helps us lend encouragement to others. But sometimes sketchbooks (and other creative projects) need to be private. To truly learn and grow we need freedom from outside influences, whether those are guilt or fear or even inspiration. We need time to play and try new things and experiment without self criticism and comparison. Learning is messy. Learning sometimes isn't pretty. Allowing ourselves the freedom for messiness and ugliness is essential.

And so, with the ending of (the original guise of) Sketchbook Conversations, I want to encourage you to be creative, whether that's working in a sketchbook or something else entirely**.

I want to help you shatter obstacles. I want to encourage you to be curious and playful and embrace creating for its own sake in whatever way(s) bring you joy. Your voice and your vision are valid. Trust them!

If you enjoyed Sketchbook Conversations and reading the interviews brought up even the tiniest spark of desire to work in a sketchbook of your own, dive in and give it a try.

Much of the past year I've been terrible about working in my sketchbooks. Since the beginning of the year I've been making it a daily habit again. I'm painting patterns with gouache inspired by Lisa Congdon's Daily Painting Challenge on Creativebug. For me it's just what I've needed. They're mostly pretty quick and dictated by classic pattern types. I haven't been sharing them daily on Instagram (although I did share the first 6 together in one post last week) and I find there's freedom in that.

I am FULL of ideas for continuing to encourage and inspire you to work in Sketchbooks. Here's a bit of what's been percolating:

  • I'd love to be able to facilitate collaborative sketchbooks (like the ones that Dana and I did), maybe even do a class. 
  • I'm thinking about doing monthly lists of fun artists to follow, either on Instagram or elsewhere. 
  • I'm also considering creating a collaborative sketchbook Pinterest board
  • I'd also love to invite YOU to post links to your sketchbooks here on my blog (something like this or this)

What do you think? What would YOU like to see? How can we continue the conversation?

*Issue 36 of UPPERCASE Magazine is all about public and private art-making. It is filled with inspiration and interesting points of view.

**I'll be back next Friday talking specifically about being creative with something else entirely, so stay tuned.


  1. Hi Anne, I have to say that I agree with your position regarding keeping some work private so that ideas have a chance to bloom. I also appreciate the feedback when I do post something on Instagram and Facebook. It’s nice to be recognized because we are so isolated as we paint and create. It’s a delicate balance but I feel that I need some affirmation for my time and effort.

    1. Hi, Janet. Yes, there's a delicate balance. It was so interesting to read what the other artists said in UPPERCASE Magazine about social media and creating. Getting feedback and encouragement (and community) is so important, but it can also make things tricky. I guess we just need to do what feels right and if something doesn't feel right, listen to that feeling.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I am sad to see the end of Sketchbook Conversations but at least I can revisit the old ones! I have just read your article in UPPERCASE and agree with your line 'A myth of perfection exits within social media.' I admit that I do compare myself all the time to the wonderful sketchbooks and know that I just can't 'compete' with the talent out there and so I become stifled and find it hard to create anything! I also agree that I need to stop looking and start doing! There is so much I want to do and fear that I may run out of time if I don't just start SOMETHING!!! Thank you Anne for this gentle shake up. I will be tuning in to see where the conversation continues. Have a lovely weekend from one of your friend's and cheerleaders! :)

    1. Hi, Simone. What you feel is so very common and something that can keep everyone from creating (or at least from trusting themselves, their vision and their creativity) at some point or another. Just make something. For the joy of it. The process, not the product, should matter most.

      Thank you for your friendship and cheerleading! And I hope that you can find some time for creating.


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