Sketching Ideas For Beginners. How To Get Started?

Here are some sketching ideas for beginners that are easy to follow if you struggle to maintain a sketchbook.

I have a confession to make. I am terrified of sketchbooks. I am scared to share my messy incomplete drawings. I worry that someone who looks at my sketchbooks might say that I have no right calling myself an artist.

When I was at art school, we were required to keep a sketchbook. But I never maintained one for long. They would eventually become a notebook, and I would bin them. I did not feel proud of them.

I would draw on loose sheets of paper and get rid of them before anyone saw them. The only drawings I would keep were those that got me the validation I thought I deserved.


Additionally, social media made me believe that every one of my drawings needed to be perfect. Most artists don't share the hundreds of bad drawings that help them create their final pieces.

The truth is, I was comparing my sketchbooks to artists who had much more experience and whose rough drawings had much more finesse than some of my carefully planned drawings.

After spending years being afraid of bad drawings, I encourage you to keep a sketchbook. And fill them up!

Here's why...

Sketching is not drawing or painting. You can get away with light, sketchy marks. It's meant to be imperfect. It is one of the easiest ways to record ideas, memories, and observations.

The incomplete, messy, ugly sketches all have lessons that help you notice your strengths and weaknesses. You can sketch out your initial ideas and work through them.

There is no right way to sketch. Sketchbooks help you stay curious, explore ideas, and help build your drawing muscles.

Need I say more?

So, how can you develop a sketchbook habit?

Always keep a sketchbook with you

Instead of scrolling through Instagram, find an interesting spot you'd like to capture. Find a small sketchpad that can fit into your bag or pocket and carry it with you wherever you go. You can pull it out anytime you find yourself with nothing to do.

A portable sketchbook can help you capture spontaneous thoughts, ideas, and 'empty' moments and turn them into little observations. If you keep your sketchbooks, you will see a growth in your artistic progress and the ideas that you come up with.

Study of a Skull, Paul Cezanne. 1902–1904.

Study of a Skull, Paul Cezanne. 1902–1904, Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection, Princeton University Art Museum. Via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

Collect your materials

Don't just stick to a graphite pencil. Get curious about the many marks different materials create and add them to your arsenal. You can even experiment with different coloured paper.

I don't work with watercolour in my sketchbooks because I like the ability just to shut my book and go running into my next activity rather than waiting for the paint to dry. Similarly, you will discover what works for how you like to run your life.

Study sketches of other artists

Find books, photos and videos of other artists sketching. Observing how they sketch can help you get ideas on what to draw and find areas that you would like to improve.

If you want to challenge yourself, you could also try an artist study by copying their work to get into their mindset and absorb some of their brainiacs. One of my favourite free online resources for art books is the Internet archive, with thousands of books to browse and borrow.

Young Hare, Albrecht Dürer

Young Hare, Albrecht_Dürer (1502), Watercolour and bodycolour (Albertina, Vienna). via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

Sketching ideas

One of the biggest challenges for beginners is finding ideas to draw. This is probably because of the pressure we put on ourselves to have meaningful and beautiful art.

Try drawing things that interest you; it doesn't have to be fascinating. Reimagine the mundane by drawing it and making it a part of things you notice. Focus on small achievements and perhaps even share them.

As much as I would love for you to join my drawing prompts, pick a list that inspires you – specific themes and topics that light you up!

Visual Exploration

How can you capture your visual exploration of your world? Sketching is all about the experience of drawing rather than carefully crafted art pieces. Make it fun without overthinking the purpose and meaning behind every sketch.

Two Old Men in Conversation, Rembrandt

Two Old Men in Conversation /Two Jews in Discussion, Walking, year unknown, black chalk and brown ink on paper, Teylers Museum. via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Kill the pressure

Let your sketchbook be a collection of experiments, trials and errors. Don't compare your journey to other fellow artists; it's the fastest way to feel incompetent. We also tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves by expecting beautiful drawings every single time.

In my last blog, I discussed that you don't need to draw daily to be successful. You just need to stay as consistent as your schedule permits and be dedicated to your practice.

Join a meetup

On the first Wednesday of every month, I go to a life drawing meetup. This has helped me build connections with other aspiring artists, and we love encouraging each other. Meetups are a fun way to draw, sketch and make friends while holding each other accountable for attending.

Embrace mistakes

Give yourself permission to be curious and make mistakes. Don't let your next bad sketch session ruin your progress. Keep at it. A messy drawing doesn't make you a bad artist. Try to embrace the ups and downs of your creative journey.

Drawing Prompts

List of drawing prompts

So you got your new sketchbook and cannot fathom what to draw. Try a list of drawing prompts. They are the easiest way to keep track of and not run out of ideas. Print them from the comfort of your home and tick the ones you have done.

I have designed a list for those who need a little nudge. Check them out here.

What's in my art bag? Sketching on the go for artists

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