I keep at least three sketchbooks in progress at any one time. One is very rough for split second ideas and covered in annotation, she isn’t very pretty but she is invaluable. The second is for practice and is only suitable for pencils, she isn’t very tough but she contains a lot of perseverance and dedication. My third one, the one I am going to be showing a little of in this blog is my watercolour sketchbook, the only one that I can use my paints with, she is full of bright colours and fun illustrations, some are finished illustrations but most of the pages are full of idea generating doodles and colour swatches.
I have just completed my current one which took almost exactly a year, it is an Arteza square watercolour sketchbook and is the second of its kind that I have filled. They are great sketchbooks although the watercolour texture is only on one side of the paper so the reverse can get a little blurry when you paint on it which you will see in some of my examples. I don’t mind that too much if it isn’t a finished illustration.
I have found that, between my projects and commissions, it is good practice for me to get my paints out and doodle with them, no particular end goal in sight. It helps my mental health which is fantastic and also helps me to generate ideas so that when I sit down to a more goal oriented task, I have a back up of ideas that I can turn to when the ideas won’t flow by themselves. I truly believe that this habit of paint doodling has helped me to be a little more adventurous in my illustrations particularly in using brighter colours and a more varied colour palette. I tend to use the same colours over and over again if I don’t check myself so this practice helps me to try colours that are out of my comfort zone. The main thing is to not draw anything out before you start painting, just get that colour on the page, it is scary at first with no outlines but it is also freeing.
Despite my paint doodles being in watercolour, the practice of experimentation has had an influence on all of my artwork. I think that this encouragement to try new colours and push compositions further has helped me to shape my latest book ‘When Georgie Grows Up’ into a much more beautiful, vibrant and energetic book visually than any of my previous books have and I hope that it continues to help me improve.
I illustrate both digitally and in watercolours and if I am working full time on a digital project it really is beneficial to me to spend time each day (usually in the evening when I’ve finished working) to get out my paints and doodle even a little. Not for social media, although we must sacrifice even some of our rough art to the algorithm gods, not for clients and not even to improve but just for my own mental health. Digital work is beautiful and has so many benefits but for me, I can’t see how it will ever compare to the experience of painting on paper.
Give it a try, maybe dust off some of your old art supplies, you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy art, you don’t have to share it with anyone or compare yourself with anyone, you just have to have fun!
Thank you for reading my ramblings, let me know what you think of my paint doodles,