Welcome to the Bold Artist Podcast. Charla and I are so delighted to be here with you today for another episode. And, you know, we wanted to include you in on a conversation that we've been having, not only amongst ourselves, but through all of Bold School, one of the hot topics that the school, the students, Charla and I, our mentors have all been talking about is the art of sketch booking. Now sketch booking, Charla, I'd love to hear a little bit right off the bat of what you have to say about sketch booking, because it's actually been transformational for you to start your sketch booking practice. Hasn't it?
Yeah. And sketch booking used to be like a dirty word for me. Like, when someone would say sketch booking, it was like cheesy, lame. You're boring. You're not cool. Don't talk to me about sketch booking 'cuz I don't do it.
And where do you think that came from is because, I mean, you were very accomplished in your fine art skills of painting, bold color portraits, and you've taken your art to a whole new level when it's paint on canvas. And so do you think that just sketch booking felt like, just, I, I don't know what, what was behind that feeling of, of not liking sketch booking?
I haven't totally figured that out. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I mean, I, I believe in study and practice. Um, I talk about that a lot, and I believe in it. To be a good professional skillful artist, you have to study and practice, and that requires, to some degree, sketch booking. Um, over the years I started thinking the reason I didn't like, um, or I didn't use a sketchbook, I used to buy them and never use them. And I give 'em to my kids. My kids never use them. And I think the reason I told myself, which I have discussed in classes before, was that I'm a painter, and I can't sketch to plan for paintings 'cuz I needed to plan the values and the color. And there's just, I didn't wanna sketch with watercolor 'cuz that's a whole different medium.
How do I sketch to plan a painting? So, I moved into digital sketching. So I, I have art. I wrote like an article on our blog about the new sketchbook being my iPad and Procreate. And I love using that to sketch. So, I sketched in there. I, I do sketch in there a lot. I sit at night with my kids, watch TV, and I sketch and I plan paintings 'cuz I can, it it maneuvers, and it works like paint works. So I can plan. But um, I still didn't use my sketchbook and I, I don't know why. I had some, probably if I did therapy on it, I would find this moment in time where I just perceived sketch booking to be something that I was never gonna do. I don't, I really don't know.
But I was really starting to be pulled towards it because I recognized I wasn't really practicing, uh, portraits in the figure as much.
'Cuz now I'm in Procreate, and I'm painting, and I'm planning my paintings, but I'm not practicing. I'm not studying, I'm not learning the figure. And I'm, I'm, I was forgetting skills. Like, I could, I could feel things kind of sliding to some degree. And then, um, I read the artist way where she talked about, uh, getting into or having an artist date every week. And I know this isn't how she, how she talked about it. But something clicked in me that I love to sit and do repetitive, um, art, like crochet, and I love embroidering onto my canvases. I love dying eggs at Easter. And I'm like, why do I love these things so much? It's because I'm able to be creative outside of my studio without the pressure of creating artwork. And I just decided, I think I need to get a sketchbook, and see if maybe there's something other than planning my paintings. And even other than studying anatomy, 'cuz that's still a separate practice to where I, I think about my sketchbooks right now.
So, that was kind of the path that led me down there. I just, I just wanted that. I wanted to be able to have creative output that wasn't tied to my studio. Or my iPad 'cuz you know, the iPad's amazing, and I totally am somebody who preaches the use of it, but it's still not a, a, a paper, and it's not paint, and it's not pencils or markers. It's not glitter. It's not silly, funny. It's, you know, a digital tool, and it's nice to be away from digital tools. So, that was kind of, I think my little journey, I don't know why I, I was against sketch booking for a long time, but I was.
Yes. And, and for those of you who are wondering some of what Charla referred to, we have classes within, inside of Bold School and workshops that not only teach the skills of painting, but we have a workshop, um, as of recently, that is a sketching workshop. There's a sketching, um, Basecamp class that's going to be coming up. And so I think those, um, resources for artists within the Bold School community have also opened the conversation in our community about the power of sketching and how, um... Let's talk about that a little bit, Charla, because for me personally, I have found that not only all that you just described about getting us away from digital tools and just into a more repetitive, quiet practice, um, and smaller practice than when you're painting big on canvas.
Um, for me the sketchbook, I think what it does for me is it helps my mind to open up visually to learning what I'm going to create other art now.
Um, because I'm multi-form artists, sometimes I'm sculpting, sometimes I'm painting. I do multiple different facets of art from my sketchbook. But what it helps me to do is develop my concepts and then learn the form. So, a lot of times, if I know I'm going to be sculpting a fern onto pottery, if I sketch that fern, and I pay attention to where the, how the leaves are shaped on the ends, and I just sketch it, and I sketch it multiple different ways, it solidifies something in my muscle memory, and in my mind's eye that I can translate that to my next art. And I think that that's why for me sketch booking is such a powerful tool. And I use it for character development, um, in all illustration. And so I will, if I'm developing, you know, a, a character for a storybook, I'll, I'll draw that, you know, a hundred possible ways, and then come out with something because it morphs and changes.
And so it's a tool I don't know that I could create without, but it's definitely not my end goal. Like it's not my end goal to be a sketchbook artist. It's like the step one for me in art.
And um, and that's why it's become so valuable to me, and why I would preach to everyone to even if you're just get it to scribble, like, you know, don't take it too seriously, just get it to scribble out your thoughts and have half of it to be a journal. And the other half to be, you know, a scribbled mess of concepts and ideas and dreams or, you know, then it's like, it just kind of helps to get us started in our art. But, but you and I have talked quite a few times about, um, you know, how to use the sketchbook, why use the sketchbook, and even what not to do in our sketchbook practice. And what are, what are some of your thoughts there? I know you've shared them with me, but I know our listeners will benefit so much. Um, whether they're listening on YouTube or audio they'll benefit so much to hearing a bit more about your journey of how you've learned of like what not to do at a sketchbook and what to do.
Well, I don't think that I'm, um, an authority in this yet since it's still new into my world. But I think one of the things that I love about sketching is, you know, it's like journaling in that. It's a way we think about a journal. You're not writing a novel in your journal. You know, like you're not gonna sit down in front of your journal and be like, I'm scared to write 'cause it has to be perfect. It's gonna be a novel that someone's gonna read one day. No, one's really gonna read it hopefully, or maybe not. Or maybe they will when you die or something. But this is really just about getting what's happening in your life, getting your thoughts out, getting your ideas out. Sketch booking, it can be like that. And if you think of it like that to start, you know, there's no pressure in what you're gonna do in your sketchbook.
So you allow ideas to flow. And if you scribble and doodle on one page or three pages, and then you move into to a clearer idea on the fourth page. And then things will start to like manifest in there. Ideas will start to manifest that maybe you didn't know were there, but you need to work them out and bring them out. And you can do it anywhere. Like I, I actually like I have this tiny little sketchbook right now. It's one of my favorites, and I took it camping this weekend. I took it on my kayak. I can do it, like, in the truck while we're driving. Like, there's just so many places. If I'm feeling like it, I can do it. There's no pressure. It's small. I can work out ideas pretty quick without having to cover a giant piece of paper or a big sketchbook.
So it, it really takes pressure off of the creative process and just allows you to be free. And I wanna take that freedom into my studio when I'm painting, like at my easel, I want that kind of creative freedom there. But if I'm not practicing that freedom.
If I'm not building the muscle memory of being free, when I'm creating, I can't do it at my easel. 'Cuz I get so pent up about having a masterpiece come out, and then it doesn't of course, as soon as you get all stressed out. But it's like, it's mu there's muscle memory. So, if you're practicing your, your, like in one of your journals, we looked at you had your, your chickens in there. If you're practicing your chicken
My chickens. Well, a lot of you followed the podcast for a long time will know that at the beginning of this year, I had committed to a, uh, illustrating a certain storybook, which is the star of the storybook is a chicken. So, I have my whole book that just dedicated to the chicken development.
Yeah. And it, I mean, it's they're so they're so nice to look at and so cute and to watch the development and to watch how you, you create your, I bet you could see a different type of chicken evolving, like as it goes along.
And some of them creative are not nice to look at. Like you said, it looks nice here. What I held up here on YouTube, but some of them are not nice and there has been a development. And we have to let our ugly come out in the sketchbook, too.
You had said practicing freedom. Um, I love that you put it in that frame, Charla, because sometimes to get to a place where what we're making is cute to look at or pretty to look at, we have to get out some of the ugly concepts and then work them. And um, and so that is one reason I don't want people to be afraid to just open that sketchbook, and just start to like let it out.
Um, you and I have talked about how we have this habit of ripping out pages from our sketchbook, 'cuz we want the sketchbook as a whole to be a piece of art or, like, to reflect the good stuff. But I'm actually challenging myself more to leave the ugly in because I do think that in three years from now, or five years from now, when I look back and my art in general has progressed, I'll look back and see, oh right. That's when I was going through such and such. And so I'm trying to challenge myself to maybe not critique the sketchbook as much.
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's really important. And I think it might have been a big reason, like, why I had a hold up with sketch booking because I didn't wanna put something that was imperfect out there for people to possibly see.
You know, I didn't want them to open up the sketchbooks and see all my failures and, and my weaknesses. And whereas when I paint in the studio, I paint portraits, which I'm good at. I'm not out there trying to paint a full figure dancer or something that would be really difficult, that I haven't practiced. Um, and so if I'm gonna practice that in a sketchbook, there's gonna be a lot of failures, and I don't want people to see it. And actually, for example, this weekend we were camping and I was, had my sketchbook everywhere, sketching all of these lovely portraits, but the kids were coming around. They're like, draw this, and draw that, and paint me. And can you paint him? And can you paint her? Can you paint from memory? And can you paint your self-portrait, and I'm think, leave me alone, everybody. Like you are stressing me out. I do one thing well, and only one thing well.
They were challenging me, and I was not liking it. So, then I'm like, maybe I need to take this challenge on 'cuz I'm getting frus.. I'm not frustrated, but I'm, I didn't like the challenge, and like the feelings.
Like, all right. As an artist, I should be willing to take on this challenge. So, I took it on, and I tried to paint a likeness 'cuz everybody thinks that's the be all end all of an artist.
And I'm like, I'm gonna let them see me fail. And I only had my pens. I was like drawing in pen and ink and they wanted me to paint. My son wanted me to paint him or draw him. And I'm like, this is not gonna look like you. It's gonna be complete failure. And it did, it didn't look like him, at all. And everybody laughed, and I'm, it was actually, there's a little artist that was there.
A teenager, not little, a teenage girl, that's an artist. And I was like, you know what? This is real art here. This is the real process of art.
You're seeing me fail. I'm not good at drawing a likeness in a sketchbook on the spot in pen and ink, you know, like I can't fix it. And I, I just, you know, I'm under pressure. And so I got to talk to them about that process. And she came to me at the end of the, the weekend and she's like, she showed me one of her sketches, and she said, what can I do to be better? And I said, it was an awesome sketch like that she had there. And I was like, the only thing you can do to be better is to practice. Like, express yourself. Don't be afraid. Like, you know, and I gave her all that, whatever advice, but she got to see that. And instead of just seeing the perfect sketchbook full of portraits, she got to see me fail. And I think that was,
Yeah, that's really, that's really important. And I think that's like, that's good for you. Like, that's awesome that you just could just, like, even just set that example for the young ones, and take up the challenge when you knew you wouldn't be good at it. And one thing I've really, really learned the hard way in my life as an artist is to learn to laugh at myself because I do tend to take my art so seriously. It's, it's like I do really fun art, but I take it very serious. I'm seriously fun. And so I I've had to, uh, like, accept that it's okay to laugh at myself. And actually many years ago I was teaching a student on the pottery wheel. And um, I take the lessons that I teach pretty seriously. When someone would come for a lesson, I want them to be successful. And this particular student was just having way too much fun, laughing at themselves and making mess and seriously laughing like gut laughter you know, just laughing at themselves because what they were making was so funny and not working out. And I just thought, yeah, like, why not? Why can't we just laugh at ourselves? Just say, okay, I guess I'm not that good at that part. You know?
Yeah. It's hard to do. 'Cuz even while all the kids were gathered around me watching me try to draw this likeness with pen, I was, I was so frustrated inside trying to keep my smile on. And be like, I told you I couldn't do it! I told you I couldn't do it.
But I was like, I have to be mature, and I have to send an example right now.
But bringing that back to the sketchbook, it is a place for us to, as artists and not just form the ideas, practice muscle memory, but express different facets of ourselves, which could also be just having some fun. Having some fun trying something new, letting it not work out. The placebook, the placebook, the, the sketchbook is the place for it to not work out. Like, that's the right place for that to happen.
Yeah. Yeah. And so thankful it wasn't in my studio. And I was thinking if I was in my studio, I could do this and I could do that. But I think, you know what I, well not I think, I know that if I decided to take one whole sketchbook and devote it to drawing likenesses in pen and ink that, so I can't change anything then I would I, and it's something I'm actually thinking about taking on to see if I could, by the end of that sketchbook improve. Which I think as by scientific and by stats, you would improve. And because it will force you to think about things differently. And when I paint, I don't have that kind of pressure. Like, it's probably contrary to popular belief, but painting is really easy to fix your mistakes. So, when an eye is out of place or when the face is too long or too wide, you can easily, with acrylic paint, fix it, change it, move it. But in pen, you can't. So, is a little bit of, um, what is it like a crutch, I guess, knowing that I don't have to lay that likeness down perfect right away.
So, I don't feel the pressure to do that. So, I don't pressure, I don't push myself to be better in that way, Pen and ink was showing me how I needed to be way more intentional about my lines. I couldn't really just sketch it out. So, if I take that sketchbook and from beginning to end, just say, this is only for likenesses, it would be pretty amazing to see how that would change by the end.
Yes. I would love to see the progression of that practice. So, Charla, is there any ways we shouldn't use our sketchbook or things that would be the, you know, what not to do in our sketch booking practice?
Um, I am sure that there are lots. Like for one, the, the main thing is to not, not sketchbook
Not have a sketchbook.
And have, and have several sketchbooks. Don't use your sketchbook for, uh, masterpieces. Right? Like don't look at it like that, which I really think was one of my main problems. Um, and I think we can use our, our sketchbooks inefficiently. And you are probably really got some good advice on it because you are an illustrator and you work out ideas in a different way than I work out ideas. You know, I work out color palettes or I, I study like profiles or something I think that I'm weak at. So, I'm studying profiles in my sketchbook to become a better understanding of the different profiles of, of the face. So, there's ways that you can kind of use it efficiently to create muscle memory and to create, um, real study. And, and, uh, what would you call it, like, a, taking apart of concepts and ideas so that you can learn them better. So, in anatomy to learn the skeleton, to learn the muscle, to really learn the form of a face and a figure, use your using your sketchbooks in that way will move you ahead as an artist, not just give you creative output, a place to be creative, but to actually move you forward as an artist. Like, if you look at it like that, then it has a practical purpose. It has a therapeutic purpose. And it, it just has a plain old, like make you happy purpose as well because you're creating.
Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I like to do in, in the sketchbook is versions. So you touched on this last week when we did the what's in the bag episode where you showed what is in your travel art bag. And you had shown a couple versions of, uh, some profile or like of portraits that you had done and where you said, you know, my first version is generally a little more realistic, and then I challenge myself to simplify it, and I challenge myself to make it more gestural. And that is really one of the biggest tools that I'll use in my sketchbook is it's like not the first sketch that I do that tends to get rendered into another piece of art. I'll do a whole bunch of versions and almost like test the style and test the simplicity. I have another artist friend who, she challenged me in a sketch booking practice, to try to render my image with, um, the least amount of shapes.
Now, she's not meaning the least amount of lines. We've done, um, that challenge within our community before where we've we've, um, we've had challenges on like minimal color palettes or minimal lines of painting. But this was a little different where she was saying, look at what you're, you're creating, and try to use the least amount of shapes. Like the places that you would block it out and do it, like do it in, you know, nine shapes, seven shapes, six shapes, like keep reducing it to where you can just get that gestural. And that's, those versions have become a big part of my sketchbook practice.
You had mentioned like, just doing, um, like, let's say it's an apple that you're wanting to practice. You had said, uh, something like draw it realistic. And then, um, do you wanna describe that, Charla, of how you were saying, you know, to, to do these different versions?
Yeah. Um, I don't know if I have the exact kind of steps in front of me. But I would, I tend to be, um, like my, my old artist ways where to be very realistic.
New Speaker (21:21):
So, there's something in me that still like just the muscle memory is strong, I guess, and I wanna get right in there. And especially if I have a pencil to draw like super realistic, and I wouldn't ever say hyper realism or anything like that, but I just wanna be detailed, which I, I tend to get really boring 'cuz I'm just drawing it all in. So, I allow myself to do it because I need to get it out. And when I'm in my studio, I don't wanna do that on a canvas. So, I don't allow myself to do it on a canvas 'cuz I'm wasting my time.
In my sketchbook, I'm allowing myself to do the realistic portrait, which is often like always turns out boring. So, then I do the second portrait where I now force myself to not use as many like, like, um, pencil strokes to get it in. So, I have to simplify it, and then I'll do one where it's really just a contour. So, like that, that old kind of exercise of not allowing your pencil, leave the paper and just drawing it, and it becomes very loose. All of a sudden it's really loose. But the form is still there, and I can still see that original face, that original reference. And so then I just start breaking it down. Then I'll use a really thick marker to do the contours lines, which is a completely different, um, end result than a thin marker. Because a thin marker, you can get more detailed with your contours but a thick marker
you're suddenly like using up a lot of space, and at the same time you're thinking about the balance and whatever. So then I, I just get it right down to simplifying it to possibly like three lines or three shapes or three values. And now I have my hype, my super realistic paint, uh, drawing right down to this really simplified version of it and several in between. So, I can start to see what I enjoy. What's working, how I get there. And then when I'm in my studio, the hope is that I'll bring that onto my canvas so that I'm not feeling the need to be hyper realistic. I'm not feeling the need to be abstract. I kind of finding my place in the middle. And it's for me a really great exercise to loosen up, to become more free in my studio to become more expressive and not just repeating a reference image. Which if you just want a photo, my opinion is just take a photo.
Right? Right. Well, yeah. What you've even just described here is so helpful. And for those watching on YouTube, do you wanna show us one of your portraits that you did in your sketchbook over the weekend when you were camping?
Like one of the good ones?
Well, anything because we know now that sketchbooks don't have to be perfect. So, you could show us imperfection. Show us whatever you wish.
This is. Like, one of my, my favorite recent ones. I love this guy. He was um, so,
Yeah. And that's ink and that's Copic marker, correct?
Yeah. So I sketched him in ink, and then I just colored him in with marker, and his, for people not watching his hair is kind of blueish and very cool on the top. And it goes down into warmer colors, and his mustache is a really thick mustache, and it's in red. And it was a, the mustache was an accident. 'Cause I was attempting to be warm, going up into cool colors. I do that in paint a lot. So seeing if I could do it in marker. And I just grabbed one of my reds to color in the deeper values, and his mustache and it went like so dark and bold. I was like, yeah, I ruined it. But then I was like, well actually I can see what I can, I can work with this. See what happens.
And I ended up really liking this guy.
Yeah, he's got great personalities or like staring right into me.
Yeah. So, but he, I don't know if he's a good example of breaking things down, but actually here's an example where I drew this girl and normally I would color in her hair. Probably put some color in the background. Well, the background does have color, but it's not showing very well. Um, so I decided to leave her hair white and not even paint it and see what would happen. And I love the outcome. And that would be really hard on canvas. Like, to take that type of a step. It for, for me it would be like a bold step to see if it would work. So, that was an example of being able to do it in the sketchbook and not being so precious about it.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So thank you everyone for tuning in here to the Bold Artist podcast, if you've been curious about some of, um, what we've shared on our community, the workshops, the premium forum classes where Charla teaches bold color painting along with our other mentors and instructors, uh, who have an array of amazing classes that will take your art to a whole new level. If you're curious about any of this visit, boldschool.com. We have, uh, subscriptions that will take you into the community if you're just interested in a new social media platform for artists where you can just get involved and connect. But as well, um, we have our premium subscription, which will, um, give you access to all these amazing classes that we've talked about today. And we'd love to see you there and don't forget to hop on our newsletter so that you get all the updates and you can find us on Instagram, Bold School Inc @boldschoolinc. And of course, I mentioned our website boldschool.com. So, until next time, keep creating.