Once I discovered how sketching in art journal nourishes the soul with happiness, joy and contentment, I was hooked. The best thing is… sketchbooks get finished whenever they get finished. No artificial deadlines needed.
Plus, although I’m not consistent with this 100% of the time, I carry around with me at least one notebook. I jot down thoughts, ideas and observations as they careen through my mind.
In reality, I don’t know if other artists do this but I use different types of sketchbooks and art journals for different functions. Out of 6+ types of sketchbooks I use, here are four that may open a small window into an artist’s creative process - at least mine.
1) JUNK SKETCHBOOKS
There’s my Junk Sketchbook. I always carry around a form of this one with me - just in case. It’s a catch-all type of journal with very standard thin and blank pages.
I use it mostly to warm-up, brainstorm with pencil, pen or marker. I capture the embryo of project ideas both in words and visuals. I started getting some dedicated creative practice in it with pencil but ...soon realized I much preferred using pen and ink since the record is a little bit more permanent.
The journal is a very good example of my messy process. It now looks like something a zombie crawled on. It’s gotten so bad now that only a prayer holds it together!
2) ALTERED BOOK ART JOURNALS
Then there’s the Altered Book Art Journal. It requires a bit more thought than the Junk Sketchbook. I pre-plan a little bit of what gets in there - a general theme here, a journal prompt there.
Often, when I’m feeling adventurous and want to learn a new skill, I follow along another artist’s tutorial. These experiments live discreetly among these pages either as realistic art, stylized artwork or small abstract paintings.
Art Journal Altered Book Entry : Par Avion
I crack open the Altered Book Art Journals far less often than any other journal I use. They are beastly thick! Once I’m in there however… I mean business. It’s also a one-seating sort of journal. I tend to up-cycle unloved and deteriorating old books I don’t like or are on their last legs for this type of art journal.
I paint with all sorts of media in these books but nothing too fine arty. Pages gets glued together. Collage happens. Watercolor paintings find their way in there. Charcoal and ink try each other on for size. Fluid acrylics gets dumped onto faux leather. One time, I even burnt these pages for vintage effects. For example:
The original journal entry of Veve...
...Now turns into a striking wall art canvas print
...but definitely benefits from a companion.
The reality is that these books need to be sturdy to survive the incredible mix-media marathon I put them through so... most of them are hardcover books. The good thing is that, in the end, they still look a bit more put together (or organized ) than the junk sketchbooks.
3) WATERCOLOR ART JOURNALS
One of my all-time favorite type of sketchbooks though, is the thick, 140 lbs art journal, I get mine from the company Pentalic Nature Sketch because I love how they feel and look. However any similar journal will do in a pinch.
Botanical Illustration Ink Wash Drawing
I love to use this journal for planned graphic illustrations, watercolor illustrations, mixed-media illustrations (using ink with watercolor, gouache, markers, ink, graphite, etc.), or other types of watercolor paintings and the likes.
4) URBAN SKETCHING ART JOURNALS
Ultimately though, one of the most exciting and rewarding types of journal for me to play with, is the urban sketching art journal. Since my sabbatical in 2014, I’ve discovered the extraordinary activity of capturing meaningful slow travel experiences in atmospheric painted vignettes.
Slow Travel Destinations: Ephesus,Turkey
It’s like a visual reportage but using expressive artwork combined with graphic art instead of photography.
I guess this could also be called travel art. I visually capture everything from snippets, postcard like moments, day-in-the-life instances or landmarks. When “read” in sequence, it’s fascinating the story that unfolds.
Slow Travel Destinations: Boston Public Market – Hanging Globe Terrarium
These journals alone are worth their weight in gold because they really solidified my practice as a freelance illustrator & artist. They help me document an entirely new visual vocabulary from food illustrations, travel illustrations, architectural illustrations, archeological illustrations to exotic designs and patterns.
Several times, these pages have led me down rabbit holes of fascinating ideas I then collect in a separate document, for future use in the art shop (Sky Mountain), personal projects (Slow Travel Vietnam) or commissioned client projects (Otomi Dulce).
REALLY AWESOME SKETCHBOOK TOURS
With all this in mind, here is a small crop of some art journal tours showcasing beautiful and deeply personal sketchbooks from other artists I recently discovered along the way who inspire me.
Each bring novel insights into how I could better harness the incredible power of my own pages. I confess. Some of these tours… I’ve re-watched a number of time.
LETHAL CHRIS DRAWING
Sketchbook Tour: Winter 2018-2019
Art Journal Flip-Through
TEOH YI CHIE
Tokyo Trip Sketchbook Tour
So far, most of my own sketchbooks have a ton of unfinished and empty spaces waiting for inspiration. This is no race after all, but rather an unbelievably rewarding sport of endurance.
- To see what original art and art prints have been released and are already available for sale, visit the art shop at United Wanderlust.
- Want to see more watercolor travel illustrations, botanical art or food illustrations? Explore them here.
- If you’d like me to commission a new art piece or license existing art for your own projects (marketing, book, editorial, stationery etc.), simply submit a request in my Illustration studio contact form with what you have in mind and we can go from there.
- Or, send me a note through the United Wanderlust shop's contact form.