How to use a sketchbook to improve our painting skills

I mentioned how important it is to use a sketchbook in a previous post and gave tips to fill your sketchbook with inspiration.

Picture from Cally Lawson on Pixabay

Here I would like to explore why keeping a sketchbook is such an excellent way to improve our painting skills and will give you a few tips to make it happen.

  • Practice: A sketchbook is a place to experiment with different materials, techniques, and subjects. It is a place to practice. Use it to work on your sketching skills through noticing details and fitting them on the page. Try out new approaches to create different textures, tones, and shadings and bring this into your painting.
  • Observe the world around you. Sketching from life is a great way to sharpen our observation skills. It also enhances our ability to capture the essence of what is around us. Outdoor walks, cafes, public transport, your own backyard, are all perfect places to open your sketchbook. Everything you see becomes a subject to sketch, people, objects, and scenery.
  • Experiment with mediums: Sketchbooks are perfect for experimenting with different mediums. Pencils, pens, markers, charcoal, watercolors, and acrylics, pastels, even oil. Try them all, why not! You can try color schemes you don’t usually use and observe how the colors interact with each other.
  • Keep a visual diary: Visual diaries are great to record our thoughts, experiences, and ideas. We can sketch the places we visit, the people we meet, and the things we do. These sketches will be fantastic reminders of events and happenings in your life and will serve as inspiration for future paintings.
  • Explore composition: We can use our sketchbooks to try out different compositions for our paintings. It is a great place to play with the placement of the subject, the horizon line, and the balance of positive and negative space. Playing with all these, helps to develop a stronger sense of composition. You’ll make more confident decisions in your painting.
  • Study and learn from other artists: Your sketchbook is a great place to study famous works of art and works of artists you admire. By analyzing their compositions, color choices, and brushwork, and trying to recreate some of their techniques in your sketchbook, you will broaden your artistic vocabulary and develop a deeper understanding of different styles and approaches to art.
  • Set goals and track our progress: We can use our sketchbook to set goals and track our progress over time. This in turn helps us to stay motivated and focused on our bigger goals. Fill a certain number of pages per week or work with a new medium each month, are two examples of goals that would better artistic development.
  • Problem-solving: When we are struggling with a particular aspect of a painting, using a sketchbook to work through the problem is great. When I am stuck, I try out different solutions and techniques in my sketchbook and keep these explorations for future reference.
  • Finding your voice: Through experimenting with different styles and genres in your sketchbook, trying out different techniques and subject matter, you will see what most resonates with you. This will help you find your artistic voice and develop your own unique style.
  • No fear of making mistakes: A sketchbook is a safe space to make mistakes and experiment with new techniques. We don’t worry about creating perfect sketches. It is a place to explore our creativity and develop our skills.

My sketchbook is a great tool to improve my painting skills. So, embrace the process of learning and growing as an artist and have fun with your sketchbook!


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