Ever wondered how to fill the first page of your sketchbook?

Can you relate to feeling overwhelmed or not knowing what to draw? 

There is nothing more daunting than opening that new lovely sketchbook and staring at the pristine first page. 

Whether you are a beginner or an accomplished artist this is a common challenge. When you open a new sketchbook it becomes so much more than simply staring at a blank piece of paper.

It is already invested with your creative hopes and dreams. This sketchbook before you EVEN open it is LOADED with expectation and the drawings you are going to put into it.

Do you even realise that this may be the case? 

I’m sure that many of you can relate to resorting to putting the sketch book away within a few days. I challenge you to honestly admit how many started and unfinished sketchbooks you have on your shelves. In the past I have often become discouraged and annoyed that I’ve started a few pages of a perfectly lovely book and ground to a halt. 

In this post you’re going to learn how to open that first page and approach it with a new confidence and not view it as a set back if you feel discouraged with filling it.  

How to Fill the First Page of Your Sketchbook.

I will be exploring three components to bear in mind before you even start your creative masterpieces and your sketch book journey.

I’m going to convert the question of “how to fill the first page of your sketchbook” to opening the first page with focused ideas and intentions for your new journey. 

My only request is that you take a bit of time implementing some of the top tips I suggest in this post. I have posed a series of questions that I want you to ask yourself that will help you get started in your sketchbook.

So read on to look at how to adjust your mindset, the methods to use and how to create momentum around your sketchbook habit.  


Starting a sketchbook is different to picking up and sketching on a piece of paper. There is something intentional about a “book.” 

When you start a sketchbook you are creating a narrative, a story of some kind. You will be filling page after page with drawings or creative ideas. 

I don’t care how simple you envisage your sketching to be, or how random it is. By the very nature of investing time and energy in turning the pages to draw, the sketchbook becomes a connected stream of drawings, one tied to the other through the literal bindings of a book. 

Why do you want to start a sketchbook? 

What is your motivation for starting a sketchbook? Which of the following reasons can you relate to? 

  • Drawing your day. Do you want a visual reminder of your day? Do you currently keep a written journal that you can combine with your drawing? 
  • A place to experiment with your creative ideas further? 
  • A place to practise ideas that will eventually contribute to a final piece of art work? 
  • A place to learn to draw. 
  • Support your wellbeing and grow in creative confidence. 
  • You’ve ALWAYS wanted to have one but have never had the time. 

Understanding what your motivation is for picking up a sketchbook is the first step to successfully detonating the fear of your first page and going onto maintaining a creative habit that you can consistently return to time and time again. 

Whether it is a drawing a day, a process for an art project, or a set of random drawings, when you open that first page you subconsciously give a nod to the drawings you have yet to produce.  

However, simply identifying what your motivator is, does not solve the problem of actually filling a page. When you open that first page you are suddenly put under A LOT of pressure to know what to fill it with, especially if you’re turning to sketching for light relief.  

Added to this you have some additional challenges. Hands up how many of you may relate to one of the following?

  • The fear of “messing” up or drawing something that is substandard. You can’t just crumple up a sketchbook page without damaging it like you can a piece of paper.  But leaving something in there which gets on our nerves or we don’t like taints the whole thing!
  • Perfectionism. 
  • Running out of ideas. (And you need about 100 of them to fill this book!)
  • Your personal expectations of your own creativity and drawing standards. You’ve always wanted to draw and love the idea of filling a sketchbook of beautifully crafted drawings. 
  • Frustration with your skill set, the time you have given yourself to draw, and not being able to commit to your habit. 
  • You have all the best will in the world to draw but staying motivated (for whatever personal reason) to consistently draw is a challenge. 

Taking a brief step back, I want to challenge you to think about the mindset with which you approach your creativity. 

I’m not sure why (perhaps its because its “arty or creative”) we invest ourselves with the expectation that because we want to start creating we can just start to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe we can. I also believe, however, that just like exercising or losing weight, we need to put some things in place, tools and a framework (albeit a basic one to start with) to support ourselves develop a creative habit. 

This will to “create” is reflected in the reams of paper you may already have, the copious amounts of art materials stashed away at home, and the amounts of open tabs of artists and artworks we may have on our screen at any given time. Still. These things don’t enable us to create per se, but make us feel good that we are en route to do so. 

Do we equate indulging in our creativity with exactly the opposite of structure and habit or creating a framework around ourselves? We escape our everyday in our creative selves. 

I speak to so many people who feel guilty indulging in a creative habit if they have busy lives. Being creative is sometimes seen in our mind’s eye as being indulgent, the opposite of what we should be doing. 

So many of us (me included) at some point in our lives felt as if we were making a choice about pursuing our art. If you weren’t discouraged at school (trust me, so many people, it turns out, have been) a profession, family, and wider commitments pushed our passion for creating onto a back burner and the thought of creating was consigned to our proverbial dustbins. 

Psychologically, therefore, it follows that this might not be a natural area of commitment in our lives and one that is associated with a host of powerful emotions. 

If you find yourself relating to this I want to support you work towards changing your personal  narrative on this. 

Give yourself Permission

There are two types of permission I want you to give yourself as you sit there wondering how to start a sketchbook. 

The first is permission to go easy on the mistakes you will make along the way. Go easy on yourself and understand where you are coming from. If you haven’t drawn or sketched or particularly practised you will need to take baby first steps in evolving your creative talent. It may have been buried for a long time. We are too fixated on the outcome rather than the process we undergo to reach an end destination. You will get better and evolve and succeed in producing sketches you are happy with! 

Your sketching pages will not be perfect.  Then again no one needs to see them. Another great point to keeping a sketchbook. 

Alongside the mistakes though, give yourself the permission to celebrate your wins too!

Build your self-esteem by recalling all the ways you have succeeded, and your brain will be filled with images of you making your achievements happen again and again. Give yourself permission to toot your own horn, and don’t wait for anyone to praise you. – Jack Canfield

Secondly I want you to think for a moment about your reaction to my handing you a sketchbook and giving you the permission to draw whenever, however, and wherever you want! 

What is your instinctive reaction? What “ifs” and “buts” do you put in front of this? 

When you give yourself permission to spend the time needed to draw, to build the time into your diary to indulge in something that you may have always valued as less of a priority, or maybe always made you feel guilty, and perhaps feel that you were no good at anyway, you will start to uncover self doubt and a belief in your own capabilities. 

And let’s face it, you are looking to fill a book so time will be needed at some point to do so. It’s up to you to set the parameters for doing this.

Building confidence in your own abilities will be fledgling to start with but with the right tools in place like the ones outlined below you will find yourself embedding sketching as part of your daily, or weekly routine. 

There is power in the creative journey. 

Starting the first page is the start of that journey.


How do you, therefore, start a sketchbook?  Here is my list of suggestions that will help you get going. 

Don’t sketch on your first page.

If its too daunting take the pressure off! You might practise some calligraphy on that first page, your name, the dates of your sketchbook, a favourite quote you have read during the period of time you sketched, a photograph, or even a cut out of a sketch or insert that sets the tone or themes of your sketchbook. I even asked my little girl to add her own sketches that I cut out and stuck in the front pages of mine. Or just don’t draw on it at all. 

Set a theme for your sketchbook.

Remember my discussion about setting your intention? It helps to set a loose goal for your sketching even if your sketchbook becomes something different as you evolve or change your ideas. Perhaps it may become a journal, thereby you simply entering a date and getting going with your sketch that day. See my paragraph below on the subject of momentum which will give you some help choosing what to draw. 

Keep your first drawing simple and stick to drawing what you love.

Focusing in on something that you enjoy to look at will help endear you to draw it. Whereby you may stick to one drawing on that first page, likewise you may look to format your page into different sections and capture lots of different concepts on a page. Keep the drawing small and simple. Stick to simple lines and shapes as opposed to anything too complicated. 

Fill in the first page last!

If the first page feels daunting, skip it to the next double page open spread. Save the first page as a summary for when you finish your sketchbook. You will have built momentum and gained insight and feel comfortable returning to the beginning.  You may even want to add a table of contents.  This is especially excellent to do in travel journals, sketched recipe books, and even human figure sketchbooks. 

Just Do It!

Are you brave enough to embrace the fact that your first few pages may look a little scatty and irregular and not very impressive? Can you use this as an experiment to chart your own artistic journey? You will still gain an invaluable insight into how far you’ve come by looking back over it. 


A few blog posts back I spoke about how to work out what you can draw next. I have already spoken about how highly invested the first page of a sketchbook is, the start of a new creative journey.  As such, building momentum is essential as you open up the cover of your sketchbook.  

Make A Plan

Before you start your sketchbook, therefore, take a moment to build a plan about how you are likely to approach it. You need only spend 10 minutes doing this exercise. By now you will have worked out why you are here with regards to what motivates you to keep a sketchbook. The next step is to be clear about how you stay consistent in fulfilling that motivation and learning as you go.  When you drop the consistency and interest, the sketchbook loses it’s appeal and it becomes difficult to return back to it. 

Think of this like prepping your meals for the week ahead! 

Make a quick commitment to building a habit, even if for the next 30 days or so.

Aim to Build a Habit over Time

For those of you that know me I am a BIG advocate of building a positive creative sketchbook habit. I talk a great deal about giving yourself the best possible start to improve technique and grow your style by creating the space and environment around you to succeed. 

I’ve written extensively on some of the actions you can implement when starting a sketchbook habit and believe that they are all linked to the approach we need to take when opening our sketchbook and staring at a blank page. 

Being clear on the amount of time you can invest in your sketching habit will support you tailor the approach you can commit to taking whilst drawing. Is it a 5-10 minute sketch a day, is it an hour, or is it somewhere in between, or is it 2 or 3 times a week? 

Once you have this roughly mapped out in your mind the next tool to equip yourself with is creating  a sketching list so that you never run out of ideas about what to draw.

Get resourceful and ensure you have lots of ideas you can use in support of you building a theme.

Remember What your Sketchbook is For!

Last but not least remember what your sketchbook is for.  Mine is a physical marker of my days, my creative journey, moments of clarity, a very real life drama unfolding on the pages as I find my eureka moments.

Every time I start my sketchbook journey afresh and crack open a new sketchbook I cannot help but be hit anew with some excitement about starting a new set of drawings.

When I think about “what shall I draw,” however, I know I can say it with a smile and a sense of anticipation.

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