Sketchbooks Then and Now (Part 2) AND a NEW Giveaway!

Editor’s note: The following post is part 2 of a series from Drawing magazine’s Material World column (Summer 2016) and features an article by Sherry Camhy on a timeless friend of the artist: the sketchbook.

In addition to this free article, Lucid Art is offering you the chance to win a FREE LUCY Camera Lucida drawing tool, just for commenting on this blog post! Simply tell us your favorite pencil or pen for sketching in the comments below, and you’ll be automatically entered to win.

Come back soon for Part 3 of this article on sketchbooks from Drawing magazine and another chance to win more art swag!

Happy drawing,

Sketchbooks Then and Now |

Ink Studies (2015; ink on paper in Moleskine notebook, 8.5×12) by Kirsten Deirup

Material World: Getting the Most out of Drawing Media (Part 2)

by Sherry Camhy, abridged from an earlier article

Sketchbooks Today

The important thing about a sketchbook is not what it costs but whether it suits your individual artistic needs. It should be something you want to keep with you for drawing anywhere at any time.

Some artists use inexpensive sketchpads for practice. Others use bound sketchbooks for casual visual notations, for more serious studies or for completely finished images. Sketchbooks can also be private journals where artists maintain ongoing commentaries and visual diaries. Opening an old sketchbook of this type can be like remembering a long- forgotten dream.

Sketchbooks Then and Now |

L’abdomen by Sherry Camhy, (1998, graphite sketch in antique book) “In 1998 I began using a French anatomy book from 1902 as a sketchbook containing figure drawings,” Sherry says.

You can turn anything you have on hand into a sketchbook if need be—why not? When I was 10 years old I turned my math textbook into my first sketchbook, unbeknown to my teacher. Much later I found an old French anatomy book in a thrift store and used it for a series of life drawings.

My first real sketchbook was a gift.

I was attending a sketch class, and the artist sitting next to me asked, “Why are you drawing in a newsprint pad?” I said that it didn’t matter what I used, as I was just practicing. At our next class, he handed me an elegant leather-bound sketchbook. I was terrified to draw in it at first, but that fear forced me to pay serious attention to every line, figure and composition. It mattered. I loved the fine feel of the paper under my pencil. I kept that sketchbook snugly in my back pocket until it was full.

[Read Part 1: Sketchbooks Throughout History]

Sketchbooks Then and Now |

Handmade sketchbook with signatures of mold-made rag paper.

Sketchbook Considerations 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for and working in a new sketchbook:

• The papers used in different sketchbooks vary greatly in their color, thickness and texture, among other factors. Before purchasing a new sketchbook you want to determine whether the paper will suit your needs. Read the manufacturer’s description carefully, then open up the book and feel the paper yourself. Check both sides of a sheet—they may feel different.

• Test the sturdiness of the front and back covers. Having a firm support behind your paper is important when working on location.

Sketchbooks Then and Now |

Arthur (2016; pen and ink on patterned Indian parchment paper, 7 x 5) by Janet Cook. Cook created this drawing in a sketchbook handmade by Sanjeev Bothra.

• Check whether pages can be re- moved neatly—you may want to be able to pull out individual drawings. On the contrary, you may prefer a permanently bound sketchbook from which it’s difficult to remove pages. Note that with some books you may be able to remove a whole group of sheets, known as a signature, together in one piece, leaving no sign that pages are missing.

• You can make your own unique books from scratch using any kind of paper—lined, unlined, manufactured, handmade, printed, cut, torn, gesso-coated, painted or collaged. You can even create a small sketchbook with just an 8 1⁄2″-x-11″ sheet of paper. (Come back to ArtistsNetwork soon to see a demonstration in Part 3 of this series and learn how to make your own sketchbook.)

• Make your sketchbook your best friend. Don’t leave home without it. And remember, if your sketchbook is just for you, spelling and drawing mistakes don’t matter!

Drawing tools for artists |

From Lucid Art: The LUCY Camera Lucida reflects an image onto paper or canvas. Just draw or paint over the image to quickly start your masterpiece. The Camera Lucida drawing tool was used by master artists for centuries.

NOTE: Come back to ArtistsNetwork soon for Part 3: Sketchbooks Today (and another chance to win new drawing supplies!) And, remember to comment below with your favorite pencils/pens for your chance to win this LUCY Camera Lucida! Winner will be chosen February 28, 2017 (must be a US resident).

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71 thoughts on “Sketchbooks Then and Now (Part 2) AND a NEW Giveaway!

  1. CSMartinez

    I’d have to say for general sketching I like using the Pentel Graphic Gear 500 0.3mm and Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic 0.5mm mechanical pencils. If I want color I like Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils.

  2. Marlene D. Williams

    I like to use my Cross mechanical pencil.The point is always Sharp and it is easily erased with many different types of art erasers ( seldom used while sketching). Also it’s not necessary to press hard. I’ve had this pencil, and matching pen for almost 46 yrs!
    It just feels right in my hand. Right weight, shape, length and dimension. Love it! Also love the Lucy! Read about it before it was on the market. I even wrote to you then asking about it.Hope, hope,hope!!!

  3. Rain

    Faber Castell 2B pencils to rough in, then technical pencils in various sizes from .03 to 3mm all with 2B leads – then when working in large dark areas my favourite are the Cretacolor Monolith or Steadtler woodless 6B pencils.

  4. sup3rdad

    Derwent Charcoal Pencils…. I have been wanting to buy Lucinda for some time now…would love to win this, this would make a great late birthday present (feb 7)!!! Good Luck Everyone!

  5. Cisgreen

    I like a heavier paper that accepts watermedia such as the Aquabee sketchbooks. I am dependent on an HB mechanical pencil to block things in, and I love the Copic value markers to make my drawings come alive. My standard values are #1, #2, #4, & #8.

  6. joandaug

    I like a #2 pencil. General is one of my favorites but I use whatever is handy. I really am trying to get in the habit of carrying a sketch book with me and using it regularly.

  7. JBTX

    I have usually used any pencil, handy. I like various mechanical pencils and regular old #2’s, the best. My sketchbooks used to be scraps of paper, then a few bound store books. I gave up on finding the one I really like, so I am in the process of making my own, with paper I prefer and places for my pencils. My sketchbooks are my journal, by accident. When going through an old box from my Mom’s house, I found she had saved almost every scrap of paper I drew on. What memories it brought back.

  8. wick

    Lately I’ve been using Sharpie fine tip, acid free pens. The ink is water resistant so I can add watercolor and maintain my lines. If I want ink lines to bleed or soften, my Waterman fountain pen produces a very different look.
    The idea of drawing on pages of an old book is very interesting.

  9. Lisa Gibson

    My current favorite sketching pencil is a Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Progresso HB pencil. It stays sharp forever, feels so nice in my hand with the weight, and allows for such a broad range of lines since it’s caseless. I’m hoping to get a 2B & 6B to try soon as well.

  10. luminous43

    My favorite sketch pen is lamy fountain pen. I use De Atramentis document black Ink. So, after I finish the line, I can use watercolour to colour my sketch. I like my sketch to be colourful than only simple lines. 🙂

  11. pastelpaint16

    The drawings on printed pages or patterned paper shown in the article create an interesting effect. My favorite sketching tool is a Faber-Castell Pitt pen(F).

  12. Ladyfville

    My favorite pencil to sketch with? Whichever one is handy, that my doberman hasn’t chewed to shreds when she’s bored that I’m ‘ignoring’ her while I draw…. geesh….