In my early days as an art teacher, I never considered what it might take for my students to have “better sketchbooks”.
In fact, I remember giving my first middle school students their first sketchbook. I offered a few ideas for drawings and a deadline to return their sketchbooks at the end of the semester. Then, I turned my students loose to fill their sketchbooks at home, in their free time.
Weeks later, I was thrilled to hear a few students say they had “finished” their sketchbooks. I expected to see page after page of carefully executed drawings – a compact visual keepsake of this time in their development as artists.
You can probably guess where this is going. After flipping through semi-filled pages of hastily drawn sketches, blank pages, and “redacted” drawings, I came to a new conclusion. I had not instructed my students well enough in what a “finished” sketchbook should actually look like!
Sensing my disappointment, a mentor art teacher took me aside. She offered some ideas to help us create better sketchbooks in the future. It turns out that a few simple rules quickly became habits and made all the difference. And my students still had plenty of freedom to be creative.
Our 4 Habits for Better Sketchbooks:
1. Fill the entire page.
No more large areas of empty white space, unless that negative space is an intentional part of the design. Smaller related sketches can work well together on a single page and even add interest.
2. No skipping pages.
Use every page! By using pages in order and not skipping around, you can observe the progression of skills as they are learned. Students will enjoy looking back on the progress they made!
3. Use both sides of the page.
As long as students use media (markers, pencils, etc.) appropriate for the paper in their sketchbook, using both sides of every page will double their sketchbook capacity. Be specific with them about any markers, pens, or paint they can use. If the paper buckles or bleeds through, they will need a heavier weight paper in their sketchbooks.
4. No crossing out or scribbling out.
Mistakes happen. But our mistakes can teach us so much! Remind students to draw lightly at first so they can erase if they need to. Or encourage them to exercise their creative muscles and turn their mistakes into something even better!
While I usually like to frame “rules” in a positive way, this is one of those times where being specific about what you don’t want (i.e. no crossing out or scribbling out) can be helpful.
Simple rules are easy to remember and apply. And the best rules are so logical and helpful they become automatic. This is how behavior is changed and habits are formed. Here’s to habits that will lead to better sketchbooks for life!
an inspiring quote:
“Inside of every problem lies an opportunity.” ~ Robert Kiyosaki
I’ve never worked at a school where the cost of supplies was not a consideration. For many years, my supply “budget” was “Just spend as little as possible.” And I’m sure it’s the same for many of you.
But instead of feeling resentful about the supplies we can’t have for our art programs, we can choose to embrace the attitude of being a good steward of the supplies we do have.
These 4 habits for better sketcbooks really boil down to teaching students to care for their supplies and not be wasteful. This mindset will serve them well, not only in their creative ventures but in every area of their lives!