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Hello! My name is Candace, and I'm a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I'm glad you're here!

getting started as a sketch artist

Hi friends! Throughout all of March, I’m excited to be getting as practical as possible on the blog. Last week, I loved sharing three simple tips for sketching in public — today, we’re zooming out even more and focusing on how to get started as a sketch artist.

But when I began putting this post together, I realized that the tips I most wanted to share were yours — for haven’t we all stood on the starting line of our own sketching journeys, unsure of exactly how to begin but ready to try? I then posted a call-out on social media, inviting you all to share any tips, secrets, or suggestions that have helped you find your way creatively. And it wasn’t a surprise to me at all that your tips are, of course, just perfect — as practical as they are inspiring.

If you know someone who’s interested in getting back into art or trying out travel sketching, I hope you’ll send this post their way — because I couldn’t have written these suggestions better myself.

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On choosing your supplies

Tip #1 – Just start drawing.

“Just draw on anything you have, with any writing instrument you have — pen, pencil, crayon, whatever. Just start drawing, you learn as much from the bad first sketches as you do from the good ones later on! If you don’t start, you never get better.”

Denise

Tip #2 – Find supplies that inspire you.

“Get a nice-looking sketchbook and pen/marker/pencil. It makes sketching more fun as sketchers are normally very visual people.”

Vira

Tip #3 – Start a ‘Junk Journal.’

“I started what I’m going to call a Junk Journal* last night, one that I can draw, stick, mess up everyday without worrying about it, separate from my daily journal and sketchbooks. For me it has been about just taking the first step. From just taking a pencil and sketchbook to start with and making very quick (self-conscious) sketches, to taking a bit longer on a more detailed sketch, to actually getting my paints out in public (and still feeling self-conscious). Still working on it 🙂 ”

Angela

*Not to be confused with the same term that refers to a journal made of scraps/upcycled paper.

Getting started as a sketch artist

The right sketching supplies can be as simple as a black drawing pen and pad of paper.

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On sketching in public

Tip #4 – Just do it.

“I’m quite an introvert so it can be daunting to sketch in sight of people! But like Nike says — just do it. That’s all I can do to get myself to do it. I think the love of it and the finished product are so satisfying that I just push through that.”

— Sunny

Tip #5 – Meet new people through sketching.

“I’m a complete introvert, although I love talking once someone else initiates it. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve used sketching to draw attention, so it’s not difficult for me to sketch in front of people. I welcome the opportunities it offers to meet new people.”

Tahirih

Sketching in public

While sketching in public may invite encounters with curious onlookers, it’s also a great way to embed yourself in a new place.

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On taking classes and workshops

Tip #6 – Find your sketching tribe.

“I started sketching about ten months ago and what pushed me was taking a weekend nature drawing class at a nearby nature center. Then a Sketchbook Skool course, and I was alight! I found ‘my tribe’ on Instagram and it is the biggest motivation ever.

Another thing that has helped me is to push myself with challenges on Instagram. Daily prompts for a month, the #oneweek100people2017 challenge, and soon #The100DayProject challenge. Being accountable for sketching *something* every day has pushed me more than anything.”

Brenda

Tip #7 – Take online sketching courses.

“Two years ago, I returned from a trip to Paris and the Costa Brava in Spain. I had taken my sketchbook and watercolors, but never opened them at all. Suddenly this fear crept over me that perhaps I won’t be able to sketch again as it has been so many years. So after finding out about Danny Gregory’s Sketchbook Skool, I signed up for a Klass. I have now taken a number of their classes as well as some on Craftsy and Skillshare. I’m pleased to say that I have not forgotten how to sketch and these classes give you essentials and motivation. I really loved the Sketchbook Skool courses and Danny Gregory is a sketching motivational guru!” 

Treava

Tip #8 – Embrace the imperfections.

“After months of frustration of trying to learn by myself, I took a sketching workshop last week…and from the beginning, I should have let loose. Sketching by myself, I would criticize the littlest imperfections and had a hard time appreciating what I made. As beginners, we tend to want to get “good results” right away, but end up getting frustrated when we don’t. But at the workshop, our instructor prohibited us from using the pencil or eraser (if we decided to use the pencil) and the results were great! By making those imperfections, I was beginning to find my style. So embrace the imperfections and let loose!”

Myka

CreativeMornings Montevideo

Sketching workshops and classes can help you feel a vibrant sense of community and partnership on your creative journey.

Getting started as a sketch artist

Nothing compares to sharing your progress with other artists and supporting them on their own creative journeys.

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On embracing the beginning

Tip #9 – Be proud to be a beginner.

I discovered this final reader tip over the weekend, while corresponding with moment-catcher and all-around wonderful human being Rebecca Thering. Rebecca is currently slow-traveling through Europe and documenting her journey with a sketchbook for the first time. When she pointed me to a blog post she recently wrote about “the joy of being an adult beginner,” especially at sketching, I knew had to share an excerpt from her post here:

“Whether it’s painting or speaking foreign languages — and everything in between — you can do whatever you want to do in your free time, no matter your current ability. And if you start learning a new skill, it’s completely normal and expected that you won’t be “good.”

Now you can certainly become “good” over time, since improvement is a natural result of repeated practice. But during the journey, the question to ask — both yourself and others — isn’t “Are you good at it?” but rather “Do you enjoy it?”

If you’re curious to learn something new, go ahead and start where you are now. Be proud to be a beginner. The experience of learning and seeing yourself improve is exciting and rewarding, and these perks are unlike anything you’ll encounter when you’re already good at something. You’ll push your comfort zone the slightest bit wider, which ultimately brings about a satisfying feeling.”

Tip #10 – Your sketching journey is the destination.

Finally, I wanted to end this inspiring collection of readers’ tips with one final thought from myself.

“The journey is the destination” is a phrase I’ve heard so often as a traveler, but only recently have I realized it is just as fitting a mantra for our creative adventures. As artists, we might consider the destination to be becoming “good” at sketching, as Rebecca shared just above. But in reality, the journey we undertake to reach that goal is our true destination— i.e. all the hours we spend playing and practicing with our sketchbooks, trying out new styles or supplies, and making mistakes as we keep making progress.

If you’re new to sketching, I hope the ideas in this post will encourage you to feel less pressure to reach a destination, and to feel more freedom and fun as you enjoy your creative journey.

Getting started as a sketch artist

All of the above photos were taken at my recent talk and mini-sketching workshop with the CreativeMornings group in Montevideo, where I loved sharing my passion for sketching with their community. Huge thanks to photographer Carlos Alonso for capturing the morning so perfectly!

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Thank you to everyone who submitted a tip for this week’s post — I loved sharing your wisdom 🙂
And feel free to share your own tips for getting started as a sketch artist below!

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  • Deborah Thompson

    In the car but might need to stop and start sketching! An inspiring article. Especially like the tip to enjoy being a beginner, something I can definitely do. Thanks for sharing the wisdom! Grenae (Deborah is my first name)

    • I’m so glad this post was helpful for you, Grenae! And I’m especially glad that Rebecca’s suggestion to be proud of being a beginner resonated with you, as that spoke to me on many levels as well 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to say hello, and please let me know how I can be of help on your sketching journey!

  • Denise Kohler Bongiovanni

    This is a great compilation of advice and inspiration! I was so hesitant to sketch in public, but my friends wanted to so I tagged along. I admit, I kinda hid in a little gazebo out of the way the first time and still managed to say hi to a few people, unwillingly!!! Now I feel that it’s not a finished sketch, I’m not proclaiming I’m a pro, and most people believe in the sage advice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothin’ at all!” so I feel much more comfortable about sketching in public. It’s actually like anything else, you just have to do it.

    • Thank you for such a great comment, Denise–especially as I couldn’t agree more with you! For me, the secret to becoming more comfortable with sketching in public is absolutely just doing it more and more, and realizing how most people that approach us are just curious and interested in the art we’re creating…that they’re not there to judge or criticize us, no matter how much we might imagine so in our heads 🙂 I’m so glad you’re embracing those connections more!