“Every day is an opportunity to be creative – the canvas is your mind, the brushes and
colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a
work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today – it
matters.” — Innerspace

Such a great quote.

There are a few things I have noticed about myself in the course of the last few years. I turned to sketching to support my mental health, encourage myself through self validation and feel I could be productive on paper.

You might have different reasons for wanting to learn to draw – a burning desire to learn, to return to it because life took over, jazz up your journalling or just curious about trying something new.

“The canvas of my mind” became my sketching pages, even though I was sketching random objects on random pages.

I have become a more productive and focused individual in pretty much all areas of my life as a result of my sketching habit and the process I have and am going through as an artist. I’ve moved up in my career, built a home, become confident in myself, started a “side hustle” and had a fresh appreciation of the world around me. Perhaps most importantly though my children are exposed to this creativity too. In a world that is so focused on external validation a sketchbook habit is perhaps the opposite!

Whether I sketch for 5 minutes or 10 minutes a day, the practise of engaging my creativity empowers other areas of life including work, relationship and personal confidence.  I’ve often found myself thinking about how this has been possible? In addition though I’m keen to preserve and grow this hotbed of creativity to spur my productivity further.

I think there are a few things that happen on a subconscious level when I sketch.

  1. A sketchbook habit enables you to create personal and private space around yourself, a type of portable meditation when you may need it most in your day. Even better if you can create this space around you wherever you are. It does not need to simply be at 6am when you want to meditate. One of my personal challenges is that my days are so fluid and different and committing to a set time and place is difficult.  You will have seen I carry sketchbooks everywhere with me to draw en-route across my day. The practise of focusing on the world external to yourself teaches you to see it in a) new ways b) to understand how you relate to it in how you choose to decipher it on the pages of your sketchbook.  And it does this not only whilst you are drawing what you see but in other ways too, for example, in the power of memory recall later. When you finish a sketchbook see what happens to your thinking when you flip back through it. The memories and power of association it brings to mind, even the emotion you may have been feeling that particular day is recalled.  Its akin to the power music has on us!
  2. As you draw more, you will improve. You will succeed in mastering new techniques through your disasters. You will have lightbulb moments and train wrecks for pages. You will have uninspired, flacid days and ones that would rival Van Gogh! You will produce amazing art and then art that is bleh! You will heave a sigh of satisfaction when you fill a sketchbook and pop it up on a book shelf and crack open a brand new one. But. All of these outcomes highlight that it is the process you go through when you draw or sketch that enables the brain to adapt, deconstruct, learn and improve.  Exactly the processes a system engineer employs or I might do behind my desk at work. And as you do more of it, your satisfaction at what you achieve improves. As your satisfaction grows so does your confidence.  By the power of association too you develop a transferable skill set that flows into other areas of your daily life.
  3. When people tell me “I can’t possibly draw” “I’ve never been any good at it,” I always think to myself that we focus too much on the outcomes, the final production of a piece of art work and we measure ourselves by standards and comparisons. What if, in keeping a sketchbook you take yourself through that learning journey?  We are more often than not inhibited by picking up a pencil and drawing as opposed to saying lets see what a month of sketching will produce. The beauty of a sketchbook too is that no one need see it. It will not need to hang in a gallery anytime soon or necessarily even be shared.

So having realised the impact a daily sketchbook has, how do you maintain momentum and realise your productivity?  I don’t necessarily mean at work. I also mean a sense of fulfilment in bringing our creative selves to the party that then impacts other areas of our lives.  You will know how I have voiced my frustration that somewhere along the line being creative and artistic and pursuing a career parted company when in actual fact the two could co-exist comfortably.  Here are my top tips for using a sketching habit for personal growth;

  1. Get used to maintaining and committing to a habit.  I’ve written extensively on this across this blog.  You can read about my 8 top tips for building a sketchbook habit that you can stick to here!
  2. Stay INSPIRED!!!!! Sounds simple.  Ensure that you look forward to connecting your sketchbook to the things that inspire you and seek it out. I’ve written about how to stay inspired as a sketchbooker here! My personal favourite is the weekly artist’s date. Treat your inner creative to an inspirational activity.
  3. Keep things simple.  If you are new to sketching aim to keep things realistic and simple. Use smaller sketchbooks, simpler materials like a pencil or pen. Avoid anything that is unachievable or daunting to try. Stick to time limits for your sketches if you are busy. You can produce some interesting things in as little as 5 minutes! Take a look at some of my 5 minute sketches!
  4. Set yourself a realistic 30 day challenge that can support you explore your creative talents and aim to learn how to conquer new techniques to help you improve or move toward finding your own style.

I’d like to finish on the following quote which also reminds us that being creative triggers joy – and this ultimately should be the driving force behind which we engage in creative expression. As the following quote reminds us, creative joy is a transferable skill that should permeate all areas of what we do!

 “The highest prize we can receive for creative work is the joy of being creative. Creative
effort spent for any other reason than the joy of being in that light filled space, love, god,
whatever we want to call it, is lacking in integrity. .” Marianne Williamson

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