The Limitless Possibilities of Sketchbooks -- Continuing the Sketchbook Conversation

Thank you to everyone who jumped in the conversation about blogs and blogging both here in the comments and over email. So interesting to hear your points of view. I know there isn't an easy answer, and there definitely isn't just ONE answer. I'm working on MY answer, the one that will be right for me and also, I hope, for you.

My readers are important to me. I want my posts to resonate with you, to inspire you and encourage you. I want them to help you notice and celebrate this world's magic and joy. I am always open to your thoughts, questions and suggestions. Want to see something here on my blog? Want to start a new conversation around and through my posts? Let me know. Leave a comment or send me an email; I look forward to hearing from you.

My blog will probably stay fluid, but right now I know that I want to keep two types of posts going as monthly features (and others that don't necessarily fall into these categories; I plan to keep blogging at least once a week on Fridays). I will continue with The Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity posts because they have been helping to hold me accountable (and, from what I've heard from you, have been a source of inspiration). The other topic I plan to revisit monthly is sketchbooks. I'll share links to inspiring artists, to resources and books. And I'll share my thoughts. I hope you'll share your thoughts as well. Whether you work in a sketchbook or would like to work in one, let me know what would be most helpful or interesting for you in this series.

As always, thank you for being here. Now, on to today's post!

My relationship with sketchbooks is never constant. It is always changing, evolving, growing, contracting. I go through phases of inspiration. I go through phases of style. I go through phases of media.

Sketchbooks are never just one thing. And they don't need to be.

painting, gouache, sketchbook, pizza, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I recently realized that sketchbooks are an open door to limitless possibilities. Possibilities of experimentation and play. Possibilities of new directions. Possibilities of growth.

Maybe all of that sounds obvious, but realizing this, thinking about this, understanding this was a revelation to me.

sketchbooks, drawing, pencil sketches, nasturtiums, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Throughout the Sketchbook Conversations interviews I said, again and again, that there is no right or wrong way to keep a sketchbook. I tried to show examples of lots of different types of sketchbooks and ways of keeping them. I emphasized the idea that however YOU choose to keep a sketchbook is valid. And yet, in some ways the thought that each of us can use a sketchbook in different ways at different times went a bit over my head.

Limitless possibilities.

Think about it. Limitless. Possibilities.

color, paint, watercolor, sketching, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

That in itself is an inspiring idea. Where else do you have limitless possibilities? Where else can you totally be yourself in whatever way you choose without constraints, without criticism?

Of course, we often do put constraints on ourselves, sometimes without even realizing that we are. We have preconceived ideas of what a sketchbook should be, how it should look and what we should do within its pages (and even that it needs to be a book of bound pages -- it doesn't!). And whether we share our sketchbooks with others or not, we do face criticism. Perhaps the hardest of all to buck, self-criticism.

watercolor, sketches, painting, landscapes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

But what if we could leave those things to the side? Let go of any preconceived ideas. Set aside any critical thoughts and just CREATE?

Then we're faced with LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES.

Such a freeing, beautiful, inspiring thought, no?

gouache, sketchbook, painting, roses, Prussian Blue, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Don't know how to draw a bird? Spend some time within the pages of your sketchbook -- use pens and pencils and paper and paint and you can learn. How wonderful is that? Your first attempts might not look the way you want them to, but so what. Don't stop with your first attempts. Keep going. Keep practicing. Eventually you will be able to draw a bird.

So, today, I implore you. Open up your sketchbook with the idea that anything is possible. Open up your sketchbook with thoughts of play. Of practice. Of experimentation. No matter what happens on those pages, it's valuable. It's good. It's YOURS.

Be free, my friends.


  1. Thank you for all you do here Anne. I adore the sketchbook posts and I have read all of them! I have tried so many times to use a sketchbook and for some unknown reason I have not been able to sustain one. Until now. I now call my 'sketchbook' a self expression journal and am able to use it freely! How weird is that! It is still a sketchbook but I choose to call it something else! I love your painted. Pizzas. I have one tonight! I hope you have a wonderful weekend. :)

    1. Hi, Simone. I am so glad to know that you are here enjoying my posts and finding inspiration in them.

      So funny how names and the naming of things can mean so much to how we feel about them. How wonderful that you were able to overcome your hesitation and the challenge of "sketchbooks" by embracing your "self expression journal"!

      Painting the pizzas was so much fun. One of my favorite foods! :)

      Enjoy your pizza and your weekend!

  2. Oh my goodness...I can draw but I have always struggled drawing birds. But it occurred to me reading your post that I've never really looked at real birds or spent timeobserving and drawing them. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Gina. Isn't it funny that sometimes things that are so obvious (in hindsight) can be a revelation to us?

      I hope you enjoy studying and drawing birds. I really enjoyed getting some bird books from the library and sketching away with colored pencils and markers. We can never really draw something if we don't first look at it.

      Thanks for being here and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Thank you so much for this nudge, I have so many empty sketchbooks I have hesitated to fill for fear of how they should look and how polished my type A personality expects them to be. I am trying to embrace the imperfections use them as a way to keep track of ides and techniques for future artwork. I always love reading your posts and so enjoy your work yet in looking back on previous posts I realize I have never commented. I just thought you should know you probably have so many followers like me who never leave a comment yet love visiting your pages.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving your comment, Diva. It brings me joy to know that my posts bring you inspiration.

      Oh, yes, it is SO hard to overcome that hump of wanting to work in a sketchbook but being afraid of "messing up". The whole point of sketchbooks is messing up!

      Why do so many of us have such unrealistic expectations of what sketchbooks are supposed to be? Is it simply the proliferation of gorgeous sketchbook pages on the internet and social media? I'm not looking for you to give me the answer, just wondering "out loud". I'd love to be able to smash those expectations and help others to feel free to create unhindered by expectations.

      I hope you'll spend some time playing in your empty sketchbooks... such an exciting thought!

  4. Funny how and when we realize things isn't it? Your nasturtiums are gorgeous but I'm loving that landscape.

    1. Thanks, Jaime. You're right, it is funny when that lightbulb goes off and we realize something that should have been obvious.


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