Sketchbooks are an incredibly valuable way of exploring art, design and media ideas. Students can be very precious about them as they reveal the highs and lows of their development. Notes can assess the difficult challenges and visual exploration of materials, techniques and processes.
The way a student works in the sketchbook will depend on personal preference and the understanding of what it can be and do. Some students like to keep it very neat and tidy and others prefer a more raw approach. But most importantly, a sketchbook should reflect personal identity.
Some common mistakes
Students can often spend more time decorating a title on a sketchbook page than actually undertaking work that will contribute to their grades. As visual people, it is understandable that they want it to look good, but they need to learn how to balance time spent on presentation with genuine investigation and the development and production of ideas.
There is no right and wrong, but here are some things worth thinking about:
- The creative process isn’t linear – so creative people will go back and forth through research, experimentation, evaluation and production. The sketchbook should show this.
- Not everything is amazing – there will be some poor and some good development, but its all useful.
- The project is the most important thing – how much do pretty titles and pages contribute to the actual development of the outcome.
- Time is precious – working in the sketchbook shouldn’t take time away from the project.
Learning about sketchbooks
Students see a lot of final work and collect these in their sketchbooks. But it is less common for them to see development practices by practitioners. Yet, learning from how others develop could really help students learn about development in its own right.
Ideas for learning about development in a sketchbook:
- Look at examples of previous students’ sketchbook pages
- Explore development work by practitioners
- Compare practitioners’ final outcomes to their development work
- Find out if practitioners use sketchbooks or other forms of development
- Try different approaches: layout, surfaces, ways of writing, sizes of pages, colours etc.
- Do different things on each page rather than just repeating the same techniques.
Quick experiments to help explore an idea
Responding to the work of other practitioners
Trying out unusual ideas that won’t necessarily make it into the outcome
Combining ideas taken from other practitioners
Drawing and generating ideas
Reflecting on work and planning the next stages
Collecting samples and experiments
Layering different media for new meaning
Taking risks with media
Visualising ideas and mind-mapping