My Working Sketchbooks and Two Projects -- Continuing the Sketchbook Conversation

The other day I was listening to The Not Starving Artist podcast with Angie Noll. In the most recent episode she interviews the award winning artist Sandra Busby and I found it interesting to listen to Sandra talk about her sketchbook and how she faces the same sorts of fears and insecurities that we all do around art-making in general and sketchbooks specifically. Sandra dates her sketchbook pages and inevitably after a "bad" sketch a long stretch of time will go by before she picks up her sketchbook again. She shares valuable advice about sketchbooks and the whole interview is interesting and inspiring (as are all of the interviews Angie has done), definitely worth a listen.* 

Other people's stories encourage us with our own lives, which is one of the reasons I did the Artist Interviews and Sketchbook Conversations on my blog. With Sketchbook Conversations I also wanted to show that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to keep a sketchbook and so many different ways to use them. 

When we see image after image of beautiful, carefully styled sketchbooks on Instagram or Pinterest or elsewhere on the web, it can feel as if that's the only way to use a sketchbook and if our pages are messy or rough or ugly they're somehow not valid. We put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves  for an ideal that just isn't true.

I often use my sketchbook to plan out projects, to bounce around ideas and to practice drawing before jumping into a painting. Sometimes it's pretty, sometimes it's not; both are ok.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned designing a logo for Maya who writes (and photographs and invents recipes for) the blog Spice and Sprout. Before Maya first approached me (just shy of a year ago), I had never designed a logo for someone else.

sketchbooks, watercolor, sketching, drawing, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

We didn't start work on her logo until late this winter, but when I did it made perfect sense for me to
turn to my sketchbook**.

sketchbooks, sketching, logo design, art process, design process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I often print out my own photographs to use as reference and tape them into my sketchbook along with my drawings. For some reason I was stuck on the idea of peas, perhaps I was just yearning to get them sprouting in my garden (something that still seems far off with this weather).

Maya had a fairly clear idea of the style and the layout of her logo and I sketched a bunch of versions with different elements relevant to the name Spice and Sprout. I always enjoy the back and forth collaboration that goes into any commission and Maya was fun to work with.

sketchbooks, drawing, logo design, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I think it's funny that my final rough version of the sketch ended up smeared with color from the opposite page's joyful exuberance of pastels.

 sketchbooks, drawing, sketching, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Although I have specific sketchbooks for different uses, this one gets used for many different things. I like that it's filled with projects and ideas, but also play. It's not picture perfect and that's ok (perhaps it makes me like it even more). My sketchbook is for me as yours should be for you. Doesn't that thought relieve some of the pressure?

I drew my final sketches with Microns on tracing paper so I could get a good scan.

sketchbook, drawing, sketching, art process, design process, logo design, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

A little tweaking in Photoshop and the logo was finished.

Spice and Sprout, blogs, Maya Popovich, logo design, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm delighted that Maya was happy with how it turned out (and isn't she adorable?!? Go read her blog! She wrote about the logo project from her side of things in this post).

I'm still amazed by this modern world where technology helps me connect with kindred spirits like Maya. We've never met in person and she lives in another country, but we were able to work together on this project and over the months become friends. Our world is filled with so much ugliness; here's another example of its beauty.

Doesn't it fill you with wonder, too, being able to connect with and inspire and challenge and collaborate with people all over the world like this?

But back to sketchbooks. When I saw that Spoonflower was having a gardening-themed design challenge, I knew I would need to create something to enter.

drawing, sketching, sketchbook, pencil sketches, gardening, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Even just brainstorming little pencil sketches was fun. I like to draw like this and I don't do it nearly enough.

Again, I had spring on my mind. Radishes. Carrots.

watercolor, sketches, sketching, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And more peas.

watercolor, peas, pea pods, sketching, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

If I can't be growing them, at least I can paint them!

Because I was planning on scanning my sketches, I painted on hot press watercolor paper. Cold press works, too, but the texture of the paper takes more work once the images are scanned. I painted a lot of bits and pieces so I'd have plenty to choose from when creating my designs.

pattern design, photoshop, design process, repeat patterns, surface pattern design, gardening, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The time flies by when I'm at the computer arranging patterns.

Here's the finished design I entered into the Spoonflower challenge. (I'd love to have your vote!).

spoonflower, fabric, pattern design, surface pattern design, gardening, In the Garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What makes me even more excited is that I created a collection of garden themed designs. I'm waiting for my test swatches to arrive from Spoonflower and then I'll be able to share the entire collection with you.

One thing I've learned over the years with sketchbooks and with all of art-making is that nothing we create is ever a waste of time or materials. In the beginning we're worried about "ruining" our good paper or "wasting" paint, but it's important to let go of that thinking. Even if we don't think we have something to show for the time we spend on sketches or practice or play, the time we spend is valuable. Art-making is a meditation (a friend recently pointed this out to me and I love this thought!), but also, whenever we create we're growing as artists. We're gaining skills and coming up with ideas.

watercolor, sketching, sketches, painting, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And you never know, what you paint as an exercise may come in handy for a project down the road.

Keep creating, my friends!

*I love the idea of podcasts, but don't often remember to listen to them. Lately I've been putting some on while I paint. Do you have any favorite podcasts? I'd love to hear about them; share them in the comments. A couple on my list: While She Naps and Artists Helping Artists.

**If you're looking for some examples here are some from Sketchbook Conversations:
***and by the way, a sketchbook does not have to literally be a book. Remember Gabrielle Heckenbücker's beautiful sketchbook pages? I have yet to find a watercolor sketchbook whose paper I like as much as much as the papers I usually use outside a sketchbook, so I often do my watercolor sketches outside of a book.


  1. Honestly, I haven't seen a bad design out of you yet Anne! This latest design with the terra cotta pots, watering cans and more gardening goodies will be a hit, I'm sure! What gardener/sewer could resist? I'll go and vote for you.

    So true about using good materials, you never know when it will turn out to be something special. I've made the mistake too many times of using whatever scrap I have. Good advice.

    What a sweet logo design for Maya. It looks like you've done them for years.

    Another thing I love about you Anne is all the sharing you do. I've not heard of this podcast yet and I listen to several. I've just subscribed, thank you!

    Here's my list of art related pod casts I listen to (some are better than others):

    The Creativity Habit
    Beyond the Studio
    TED Talks Art
    The Science of Social Media (not art related but great for marketing your art)
    How to Sell Art: The Abundant Artist
    Savvy Painter Podcast with Antrese Wood
    The Jealous Curator
    Surviving Creativity
    Artists Helping Artists
    Raise your Hand Say Yes
    Art Fair Artists Success Show

    1. You're so sweet, Jaime. Thanks for cheering me on.

      Using whatever scrap you have on hand is fine, too, but what's not is keeping yourself from creating because you don't want to ruin the materials.

      Thanks for the list of Podcasts you like! I'll definitely check them out. :)

      I hope all is well with you! Thanks for stopping by.


  2. First things first; I have voted for your design Anne. I had to scroll nearly to the bottom before it jumped out at me! It really is worthy of a win. Your logo for Maya is perfect - especially the little pea pod hanging down! Thank you for the list of pod casts. Happy new week and good luck with the Spoonflower competition. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Simone! I really appreciate your support and encouragement!

      Enjoy your week! I hope it's full of creativity!


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