Sketchbook Prompt #6 Drawing Plants of course

Sketchbook Prompt #6 - Drawing plants of course.  For almost 2 years now I have been using pretty much only gouache in my sketchbooks.  The reason was I was trying to become more comfortable and create a sense of ease with that media.  Before then I usually drew in micron pens.  I love lines, and really for me it doesn't matter how those lines show up as long as they get there.  I wanted to go back to my roots (yes the pun is intended) and use the pen.  I also wanted to talk about how for me, I visually select what I will leave out and what will stay and that helps me create a clean lines.   Lastly, you will see some book recommendations that I strongly suggest.  One of them is even from our local library, one is about to be a gift and the other two I own.  I am said about parting with some of these books, they are all really great.


  • Micron pens.  I suggest getting several different tip sizes.  .03, .05, .08.  This will help vary the line without you having to push hard and do it yourself.  
  • sharpie fine line and and ultra fine.  These are great when you want to darken an area and you don't want to use up your micron pens.
  • Faber Castell PITT artist brush pen.  Creates a stroke like when you use a brush, this can be a bit more freeing.
  • Sketchbook
  • images of plants

How to get started;

  • I can often become overwhelmed when looking at a plant to draw.  I am not going for realism but naturalism.  I am concerned with capturing the personality of the plant and perhaps what it is, but not something that is photorealistic.  I like to eliminate areas that just are not needed for me to create this image to be satisfying.
  • I will look at what the most memorable parts are of the plant, what is needed to be revealed to capture it's identity.  I often eliminate some of the foliage, perhaps isolate it from other plants, create a new pot or stand for it.  I may even exaggerate it.  
  • I sometimes use a pencil first, not always to get a sense of where things will go.  After that I let my pen go at it.  
  • Think about where the pot hits the ground, lines will be darker, when anything hits each other you can capture that tension with dark lines.  Dark lines show weight.  When trying to create a feathery feel try to touch hard when putting your pen down and the lighten up as you make the mark.  The value of the line will change. 
  • Play with line quality.  Scratchy, scribbly, hatching, dots, parallel lines, rough lines, smooth lines, thick lines. 
  • Importantly, have fun.  I also find this activity relaxing, drawing and looking at book, what could be better? Oh I know, windows open with a warm cup of tea.  Enjoy. 


Sketchbook Prompt #5 - monochromatic color

Sketchbook Prompt #5 - Monochromatic color doesn't need to be boring.  When I think of my own work, I don't usually think of monochrome, but I too dabble with monochromatic color for many reasons.  Here is a window into my thinking ; 1. being limited in color can be freeing.  I say freeing because you don't have to worry about all the other colors, their nuances, how they sit together.  You can play up one color and play on the range of lights and darks.  2. limited color allows me to focus on the drawing/painting.  Sometimes I want to concentrate on a form, line, pattern, or just focus.  Focus doesn't always come easy for me with my rambling thoughts, so this can be helpful too.  3. I often want to see what a color can do, I want to see how it holds shape without any other interferences from other colors.  I will often darken the color with a gray #3 or titanium white to see how that changes it.  4. After using the base color, I sometimes like to go back over the drawing/painting with other colors.  


  • sketchbook.  My favorite of course is the Kunst and Papier, but it's getting harder to find them.  I recommend any book that it's easy to have the pages lay flat and the paper is thick enough for a range of media.
  • I use Acrlya gouache, and sometimes Windsor Newton.  However, I think whatever range of media you are interested in should be used here.
  • brushes if using water based media.  I used a size 3 and a size 1 on a lot of these images.  I use a sable brush.
  • Images to look at.  I use photographs, drawings from old how to books, Dover Publications on folk imagery.  Anything that gives me some guidance.  I often free form it too, but I like having a range of imagery to look at.  I also use old sketchbooks to look back on, almost always.  I open them up and have them to reference but they also keep me company.
  • palette tray

How to get started;

  • Select the color.   I might use Acryla gray #3, I put a small pinky nail portion down in my palette tray and make at least three different shades from the gray.  I water some down more, add a bit of white, and let some of the paint to be thicker.  This gives me a range that will be helpful.
  • Play, try and let yourself abandon all self loathing here.  Play, experiment, try things out, see what happens.  My sketchbook is not planned, 80% of it happens from happenstance.  
  • Try a different color on a an opposing page.  I often like to see how images play off of each other.  This can be helpful when figuring out what colors to use in the future.


Sketchbook Prompt #4 - Create a pie chart

Sketchbook Prompt #4 takes us to one of the most fun all ages prompt there is.  I really like being able to interact with all groups when making art.  The Pie chart is just that, it can be done with your kids or for a time of self reflection.

The sketchbook has wide powers, one of them being that of healing.  I battle having a low immune system due to Colitis.  The sketchbook has been a place for me to relax, a form of mediation.  I haven't not been successful with meditating in a taught way, but I can attest to the power of the sketchbook and gardening for relaxing.  This past week I have felt unwell, and this prompt allows me to rely on what I am grateful for to help heal those ails.  I am a stubborn optimist (if you can believe it I wasn't always) that relays on positivity to help heal.  So it seemed fitting to name this pie chart, Gratitude.

How to begin:

On scrap paper write out words that explain what Gratitude means to your life.  I was thinking about how grateful I am for my family, and that I like to be with them specfically.  I know that is not always the case.  Smiling faces of people I know, even when it's in passing.  Of course long endless walks and coffee, but other things as well.  But as I finished my list and began working on my pie chart I realized that I had more things, and in fact things I overlook.  That is the power of a pie chart, you might begin one which will lead you to another.  This is probably the one I need to think more on anyway.  The second one is titled, What I Overlook.

Once you have your lists, gather them around your sketchbook.  Open up and draw a large circle, I used the bottom of something on my desk.  Get your materials, pens, paints, markers, etc.  I recommend limiting yourself to 3 colors for this exercise.  It will let you explore different ways the colors work off each other, sometimes limiting yourself can be freeing.  You will want to figure out how much space you give to a certain idea, that is part of the reflection component.  Once you have it all written out, play with drawing, painting, making color.  This gives you time to reflect on what you just wrote, and why.  And in my case, it led me on to the second one.


  • loose paper
  • pencil and pens
  • something to create a circle with.
  • sketchbook
  • 3 colors of your choosing, I used Acryla gouache paint with a size 6 sable brush.  You may want to use watercolor, markers, watercolor colored pencils.

Future Ideas:

I have included some images of other pie charts I have done, I did Comfort vs. Discomfort, The Perfect Day, and one that you don't see is Loves.  The possibilities for these is endless, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sketchbook Prompt #3 - working on eyes and mouths and finding inspiration

Our prompt will be working on eyes and mouths and finding inspiration to guide you.  My sketchbook offers me many things, some days I am working on a new idea for a large painting, other days I am recording a wonderful image I saw earlier in the day, and at other times I am practicing what I hope to refine and make my own.  I look at other artists to see where I am going.  I have a large collection of artist books to help guide me.  I am going to talk about how looking at images you enjoy can help you find your own style.

We are all trying to be different types of artists, even if what we are doing might seem similar.  The way I go about drawing eyes and mouths, may not be the way you see yourself doing this.  However, I can offer some words of encouragement on how you might strengthen your own practice.  

I grew up (as an artist)  being inspired by Margaret Kilgallen .  Her work defining bold beautiful fearless women, going beyond what might seem standard for gallery practices, and being absorbed in her ongoing daily art adventure.  Unfortunately Kilgallen died young, but thankfully her legacy lives on.  One of her most famous quotes is "I do everything by hand... Even if I'm doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I'll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that's where the beauty is." 

Clare Rojas is also inspiring for me as well, in both of these women and at different times in Rojas' career she has looked to pattern, folk imagery and the ambiguous stories of women. Rojas and I went to grad school at SAIC together, we did not know each other on a personal level but I remember her work fondly.  You can find her book here on Amazon. 

Another source of inspiration for me in my collection of Dover Publications that have hundreds of books on anything from American Folk imagery, Pakistani patterns to Ancient Greek designs.  These books offer a pictorial collection to draw from and since the images are open source you do not need to worry about borrowing imagery.

How to get started:

Amass your own collection on artists how draw portraits, find a variety of sources.  This can be done digitally, at your library or buying books for continual use.  I recommend having print outs of the images so you don't have to keep refreshing your devices, that can lead to frustration.  

Now study the features, for our purposes this week, look at the eyes or mouths.  Work on them in isolation, creating several pages of eyes repeated over and over.  Make sure to draw/paint them from different point of views.  When you are doing this, think of them as shapes rather than getting stuck on the fact that they are eyes.  Consider dramatizing them, distort, play with colors that are not even close to eye color.  

I know the question of copying, or ripping off someone's style comes up all the time.  I think when you are in your sketchbook trying things out, it's fine to make master studies.  When it is time to create your own finished work for sale, you want to be sure you have made enough of the piece your own so that it might be noted what you were inspired by but that the work is uniquely your own.  I believe that one should be mindful of this activity, but also know that your own style will shine through.


  • Sketchbook
  • books to work from
  • micron pens
  • graphite pencils
  • brushes 
  • I use Acryla gouache, but I suggest watercolor too
  • water
  • paint tray / palette 


Sketchbook Prompt #2 - Dreamscapes

Dreaming is something we all share, of course remembering our dreams is a different matter.  I am an active dreamer, in my dreams I'm often battling large animals, crossing large terrains for an adventure or just re-living my daily life with more anxiety.  I am also someone who actively day dreams.  I will turn things I see in daily life into imagery that is more surreal.  For instance, the first image of the peacock was during a time where I was thinking of what my spirit animal would be.  I was looking at a lot of peacocks and peahens and did this self portrait near my 41st birthday.  The image of the stacked critters was based on a walk I took and the animals I saw, I saw some silly garden statues that I thought would be even sillier on top of each other.  The other two are from actual dreams, where rain was falling and fire was burning so that there was a perpetual burn/ rain.  And well the other, that horse had a powerful companion wrapped around it's neck to attack the prey, still not sure what that is saying about me.

Let's Get Started-

What I want you to do is think about a dream that you might have had.  It could be one from when you were 8 or one that you took notice of last week.  Think of how you could recreate it in your sketchbook.  Think about the iconography, the colors, was it sparse or dense, should it fill the page, or remain small in the middle of paper.  Then start to detail what you imagine it was.  Don't be constrained to only let the dream imagery exist, if your imagination wanders and allows for other imagery to enter, let it.  

If you don't remember your dreams, think about something you saw in your life that seemed surreal, unexpected.  Try using that as a starting off point for your drawing.


  • sketchbook (I love Kunst and Papier, but any will be good)
  • I love to use Acryla gouache, but I recommend anything that you are comfortable with.  We will explore different media later.  This prompt is more about getting your imagery down so you might want to stick with something familiar rather than new so you don't have to worry about getting use to something different.
  • suggested materials, brush pens, colored pencils, markers, graphite, pens - I prefer micron pens.

*If you are having a hard time with this, consider a brainstorming session where you write down words that you associate to dreaming.  Put that list in your sketchbook and there maybe some exciting imagery that bubbles forth.

Sketchbook Prompt #1 Creating shapes of color // creating patterns with lines.

Working in my sketchbook has been one of the most rewarding adventures I have had in my art career.  It began over a year ago, and the insight and joy has never ceased.  I am going to share with you over the span of the next year weekly prompts that can get you started on your own sketchbook adventure.  


  • sketchbook (I use a Kunst and Papier, which I love, but any sketchbook that allows for water media is great)
  • gouache, watercolor or makers for creating the large areas of color.
  • sharpie, liquid chrome, white gel pens, or chalkboard marker.
  • brushes, if you are using gouache or watercolor,  I prefer a sable brush.  I used a size 4 and a 1.
  • tray or palette if you are using water media.
  • water dish.

First I want you to lay down big areas of color.  You can do this with just creating shapes of colors.  Like building a brick wall of squares over your paper, or oval shapes that rest on top of each other like cloud formations in the sky.  In my example I created why I call Flower totems, or more traditionally bouquets, I made them using gouache.  Laying down large areas of color, playing with shape and form.  I wanted to be loose, so I wasn't hesitate about making them fast. After you lay down your color, it can be done with marker too.  I want you to get a pen and go back in and add lines.  This can be done by creating repeated patterns of line, circles, dots, parallel lines, dashes.  Fill in this shapes add see how the extra pattern and texture change your initial drawing.  This can be fun to play with different palettes. In my last photo I have laid down shapes in gold gouache and painted lines on top to see how those colors work together.  I use those in the backgrounds of some larger paintings I am going.