How to Draw


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About Buying Sketchbooks

Are you the sort of person who feels like you need to go get something – buy something – before you can begin a new undertaking? For instance, do you feel a strong need to go buy a sketchbook before you can start drawing?

Me too.

And I did buy a new sketchbook when I started drawing in earnest. The totally amazing thing, the thing that stumps me every time I think about it: I actually filled it. About ten days ago. I went through a whole, think sketchbook in less than a month.

That’s pretty unusual for me… to start something and actually follow through like that. But this time it happened.

Back to buying sketchbooks. I went to the local art store (support your local businesses!) and spent half an hour flipping through and touching all their sketchbooks. They have nearly a hundred different kinds. I really wanted to touch them first, though it was tempting to just get something from Amazon fast.

I found a nice, square sketchbook that was about 10 inches square. It was thick, and had a really sturdy cardboard back cover, so I could hold it on my lap and draw and not worry about it bending. It was not a spiral binding, but a glue binding.

It worked really well. It cost me about $14.

I got a bit stressed while I was using up the last pages. Especially when I had just finished drawing FIVE WHOLE PAGES of bad cats (the drawings were bad… not the cats), and nothing came out really well. A lot of the drawing tutorials I do seem to require enormous amounts of paper. And just when I’ve been reading about how the Sumatra tiger is critically endangered because its forests are being cut down by paper companies…

I bought a new sketchbook on Amazon. Its an 8.5 x 11 size “Sketchbook” by Sterling (whoever they are). Its got very sturdy, heavy covers on front and back, and 176 sheets. That’s an important thing to check when you’re buying sketchbooks – how many sheets.

Its a good sketchpad, but the paper is still thin enough that if I press down hard when I’m drawing, the pencil impressions show through on the next page. And it does not take watercolor, which is something I used to be really, really interested in, and am getting interested in again now. (I am now coveting watercolor and drawing sketchbooks) The new sketchbook is good, but the spiral wire “binding” is not so hot for scanning my drawings, and I scan almost all of my drawings.

There is another, smaller, sketchbook that I have not used yet. Its blue, and about five by eight inches. Its a landscape or “reporter” binding depending on how you hold it, which means that the bound side is one of the short edges, not like a standard book shape where one of the long sides is bound. I got it to be able to draw when I’m out and about. I just keep forgetting to put it in my truck so I have it when I’m out and about. Hopefully, that’s embarrassing enough that I will now remember…

Anyway, I like this little travel sketchbook, but the shape bothers me a little. I wish it was even one, preferably two inches wider. Just five inches seems really skinny. It is made by “Hand Book”. I don’t know much of them, but though this is well made, Hand Books are clearly Moleskine knockoffs.

Sketchbooks that never get used because they just don’t feel right… kind of like nice clothes that never get worn.

What am I drawing on now, mostly? Printer paper. Standard, multi-use recycled paper. The kind you can buy for $3 for 500 sheets, and for even less if you buy a box at a time.

I like this paper a lot, because it does not feel so precious. I hate the anxiety that comes from “you better not mess this drawing up… this is expensive paper” and I’m so broke right now that even paper has to be cheap.

What is the printer paper like to draw on as opposed to proper sketchpad paper? Well, its thinner, for starters. But if you draw on a little stack of it, you won’t notice the difference much. You will also definitely need to use only one side of the paper, but I find that to be true even of the highest quality drawing papers. Again, I scan my drawings, and anything on the other side of the paper typically shows through in the scan. I can usually sift the shadow drawing out with Photoshop, but sometimes it does not work, and its just generally a pain.

The biggest difference with printer paper is that it is so smooth. Higher quality drawing paper is just a big rougher. This has yet to effect my drawing, but I’m not a pro.

I’ve noticed that I do draw more with cheap… ahem, inexpensive paper. There’s less pressure, and I don’t draw well under pressure. And I’m happier because I don’t have to worry about finding the money for $30 or more a month of sketchbooks. Right now, $30 is half to a third of a day’s pay. And I’d rather be drawing on cheap printer paper than having to work another 3 to 5 hours to afford a new sketchbook twice a month.

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