Monday, August 06, 2012

frequently asked questions- sketching supplies and process


I get all kinds of email and asked TONS of questions about all sorts of creative things and in the weeks and months ahead I will be answering many of the frequently asked questions here on my blog!

I can't tell you how many questions I get about the supplies and the process that I use in my sketchbook pages and while I teach them in many of my online classes I thought it would be helpful for my blog readers (and those of you who haven't taken my classes) to provide a simple overview of the most asked questions.

In my opinion you don't need much for the sketching process- a pencil or a pen and a sketchbook will be sufficient but there really are all kinds of fun supplies that will elevate your sketchbook pages. Many of the supplies that I use are simple and economic- I save splurging on expensive and higher quality supplies for art that I sell or show, art that gets published or art that will be hung on the wall. My sketchbook is a place to work through ideas, inspiration and a place to warm up my creativity so I am not too concerned about the latest and greatest tool or supply. In my opinion it is important to feel comfortable with your sketching tools and supplies- what works for me might not work for someone else. That is why it I always like to recommend taking a little time to figure out what you may want to use in your own sketching process.

Picture 4

When it comes to sketchbooks I will use just about anything! From drawing paper to watercolor tablets to tiny little pads of paper to index cards I always find a way to put a variety of paper to use. My favorite sketchbook to use is a an all purpose sketchbook (any brand- size 5.5 x 8.5 - typically 65lb sheets of paper). They are affordable and work great for me. While the paper is not made for lots of wet media (like watercolors or even acryclic paint) I still use it with anything and everything.

The answer is yes and to be honest I don't care too much! Once again, I am using my sketchbook to work through ideas, to practice and to "hone" my drawing and sketching skills so I am not that concerned about what my paper is doing. While I am painting I always use a rag to soak up excess water on my surface and when my page dries I end up smoothing out my paper by ironing the pages on a low setting.

If I know that I will be working with LOTS of layers of lots of wet media I will use watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is thicker paper made for watercolor painting and comes in a variety of different surfaces and weights-
Rough paper- has a textured surface
Hot pressed paper- smooth surface and paint dries quickly
Cold pressed paper- slightly textured surface

Honestly I am not too picky about which type of paper to use. I will use any of them- but the cold pressed paper seems to be my favorite option for a variety of projects. I know there are TONS of wonderful sketchbooks, moleskine journals and tablets out there and I think that it's best to select a sketchbook that YOU are interested in using but try not to don't get too hung up on name brands or something being perfect. Remember sketching is more about the process than it is about having the perfect tools and supplies.

Picture 10
You will probably be surprised to learn that I really could care less about the brand or even the quality of my pens and sketching supplies! Once again, I just want something simple and accessible to use when I sketch and work through ideas or practice techniques. Much of the time I find myself using a ball point pen but I do have a handful of favorite pens and supplies that I seem to use most often.

Picture 24
Water resistant pens are great to use if you are working with wet media- like watercolors- because they don't bleed when you paint over them.
1. micron pens 2. sharpie pens 3. ball point pens
Picture 25
1. water brush 2. pentel and pilot pens 3. ball point pens
Water based pens are great to use by themselves or with a little bit of water and a brush. Instantly you can transform a drawing into a watercolor by brushing water onto your pen sketches. You can take a look at how to use a water soluble pen in this post here

Never underestimate the power of lines in a sketch or a doodle! There are a numerous ways to use all those pens and drawing tools to draw lines that will change the look and feel of your sketching- they can be bold, fine, flowing, dotted, blended and the list goes on!

Picture 3
1. pencil 2. water added to pilot pen 3. pilot pen 4. water added to grey marker 5. micron pen 6. fine tip micron pen 7. sharpie
Picture 4
1. vary the width of lines 2.crosshatching 3.repeat lines 4. stippling 5. use a brush to create lines

Picture 12

My favorite supply to use when I am sketching is watercolors. There are a variety of different brands, they either come in pans or in tubes. I prefer the pans because I typically take my watercolors on the go with me and the pans (or the sets) are easier. If you haven't worked with watercolors I would recommend starting with a cheaper set- like a kids Crayola set just so you can get a feel for how they work and then move up to something higher quality.
Picture 14
1. I love my Koi Travel Set for on the go sketching. 2. I also enjoying using a Prang set 3. I have lots of Crayola sets all around the house and my studio- they are economic and great quality!

I almost always use a water brush when I am working in my sketchbook- a water brush has a brush tip that attaches to a handle and gets filled with water. This means that you don't have to worry about having a water vessel on hand, you simply fill the handle with water and squeeze to release water as you paint.


For me the next best thing to add color is anything water soluble- like watercolor pencils, crayons or even water based markers.

Picture 5

I tend to work in a variety of different ways- Sometimes I start by drawing or doodling in pen. I then go back into my drawings and fill things in with color- kind of like a coloring book. This is where the magic happens! Color brings everything to life. In my opinion this process lends itself to doodles and drawing things that have more details.



Sometimes I like to start with a background of messy watercolor and then draw over the top in black pen. This process really lends itself to working more expressive. I work this way when I don't have lots of time but I want to complete a few fast sketchbook pages.


Untitled-3 copy copy
And then many times I will start with a loose watercolor painting and then add the details with pen to the top. This is another process that I use when I am working more expressive.


Picture 2
I try to sketch everyday! In my opinion the only way you are going to get good at something or even make it a habit is by doing it consistently and this is the way that I treat my sketching process. While there was a time when it wasn't much fun and it felt like work- these days sketching is a JOY and it feels like a "creative workout" and a time for me to get warmed up and ready to dive into my creative projects.

Picture 1
With a baby and a business to run I am a little more challenged when it comes to time but I just try and set aside a little bit of time each day for sketching. Back when Lucy was little I would sketch while I was nursing or if she was napping in my arms. Now that she is on the go, I sketch while she is playing. Sometimes a page may take me 1 week of 10 minutes each day to complete, while other days I knock out 5 pages of sketches in an hour. And of course there are days when I am not able to fit sketching in but because I enjoy this process I find myself making time for it no matter what I have going on.

This should answer the basic sketchbook questions that I seem to receive over and over again! For more details and the complete run down of techniques- check out my online classes- Sketchbook Delight and Sketchbook Delight Part 2 and Watercolor Bliss they all cover most of the process and techniques that I use in my sketching.


Craftcherry said...

Eek! Love this post. I kept checking stuff off on my supply list and was so excited that I have most of what you use. Then hubby came home from work with a fist full of sharpies for me. :o) I will be sitting in front of the tv trying my hand at watercolor tonight. Thanks!

Christina said...

I love this! Some of my favorite sketching supplies are basic #2 pencils and water-proof gel pens, so I can definitely connect with simple supplies. Now thanks to this post, I would love to get a water brush! You've also inspired me to try to make it a priority make SOMETHING every day.

Julie Arthur // said...

I love your aesthetic and am so happy you're sharing all this knowledge for free on your blog! I plan on taking the sketchbook and watercolor classes as soon as I have time and money!
p.s. I love the purple flower bouquet sketch in the last video! Gorgeous!


se7en said...

What an amazing, amazing post!!! Love it, all the factoids and tips - just amazing!!! Thank you!!!

Victoria said...

What a fantastic post Alisa, sort of like a mini course!
I can't wait till the Seaside Retreat in September, I'm so stoked:)

Kate I said...

Thanks so much for inspirational and encouraging! I'm ready to jump in now and just DO IT!

Megan said...

Wonderful post Alisa!!!

Lori said...

Love this post. But I must say that I just love the pic of you sketching with the baby in your arms, her little legs curled up. So sweet. And I sure know what you mean about finding the time and making the time. With my two kids, it is pretty difficult.

Unknown said...

This is a really helpful post, this is great information for those who are learning the basics and those who need to be reminded of the importance of the basics! Thanks so much!

the wild magnolia said...

you are rare
a giver of gifts
sharing knowledge
guideline for tools
you are rare

i read through and will go back and watch video clips tomorrow. then....i will begin small....10 minutes a day, with less expensive tools.

thank you, good karma cannot be bought...yours is on the way.

the wild magnolia said...

you are rare
a giver of gifts
sharing knowledge
guideline for tools
you are rare

i read through and will go back and watch video clips tomorrow. then....i will begin small....10 minutes a day, with less expensive tools.

thank you, good karma cannot be bought...yours is on the way.

Chelsea said...

This is amazing stuff and you're amazing. The music you use in your videos is awesome and seems to fit with what the video is about so perfectly. Every video you make I end up looking up the song to enjoy it more. Keep the excellent work coming!

Kathrin said...

Thank you so much for sharing! This is great for beginners like me.
You light up my day.

Anonymous said...

You are brilliant! Thank you! I was just thinking yesterday - 'Have to find this post in Alisas blog about supplies'. And here you are today!!!

Feutrella said...

Thank you so much for sharing! your blog is so full of inspiration. I like your artistic work.

Ali said...

Hi Alisa
Bizarrely I don't sketch at all, I used to in my teens. However I always have a look at what you doing. Your work is beautiful and inspiring. So much so that I've decided to take up drawing once again. Thanks for the wonderful tips.
Ali x

Anonymous said...

Lovely inspiring post, thank you!

Kelly said...

Thank you so much for this post - wealth of information! I've taken your Watercolor Bliss course and loved it. This is a wonderful companion to that course.

HeARTworks said...

Yes if you do something every single day, you really will improve! I do my faith journalling every day, first thing in the morning and I enjoy my work more, and I now can draw hands! I even amaze myself sometimes! Thanks for sharing this! Especially the videos- Patsy from
HeARTworks and

KBecker said...

The water brush is amazing! I totally agree about the crayola watercolors! I use watercolors for sketching as well and the watercolors my kids had laying around were great! Alisa- you have been a source of inspiration while I started my new business- i need to keep sketching and painting to design the cross stitch patterns and have loved your blog posts for a push to keep going!

Jane Wetzel said...

Thank you for this incredibly awesome post! I LOVE your blog..and that baby is A D O R A B L E :)

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful encouragement! I work full time and have a family, so scetching can be a challenge, but I so enjoy it when I do even a little here and there.
I enjoy your blog so very much, thank you!

Felicia said...

Thank you so much for these FAQ answers!! What a treat for those of us who love your work and are inquisitive about your process! You answered many a question I had all in one post!! What a blessing to us who enjoy expressing ourselves through the world of sketching!! Thanks again!

TB said...

Thank you for a wonderful, inspiring course. Now I want to take the watercolor bliss course!

I have been following you for a long time and enjoy your artwork very much! You are an inspiration!

Thank you,


Linda m said...

Thank you for this. Very inspiring!!

Krys72599 said...

I just wanted to mention that I think you're awesome for sharing all of this with your readers. I've taken several of your online courses in an attempt to develop my artistic side. You provide not only inspiration, but how to, and in a way that's easy to understand and replicate and to use as inspiration. How lovely of you to provide all this to your readers who might not be able, for any number of reasons, to take your classes... Someone mentioned karma... surely your life will be that much more rewarding and fulfilling...

Unknown said...

What a helpful post! I shared it on Pinterest. :)

Colleayn said...

I loved seeing what your process is. Thank you. I am inspired to sketch more!

Barbara said...

You do get a lot of questions! I love that you're so generous with your knowledge and so inspiring with your creativity. I've learned SO much from your classes. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this amazing post. Your sharing and caring shines bright for those of us that follow you.
North Carolina

Unknown said...

You continue to inspire me with every post. Thank you, Alisa!

Marie aka Grams said...

That is one great tutorial and info session. I learned so much. I get inspired by everything you do, so keep up the great work, er, um, PLAY.

HollyM said...

I think it's wonderful that you've taken the time and effort to share all the information and videos in this post. It's all great information and it's a real joy to watch you work! Thanks!

dawn said...

How sweet of you to put this together for us, THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I read thru it once then went back again and watched the videos, how fun they were.

This was very helpful and encouraging to know it takes just simple things to make beautiful art.

I do spend at least 10mts daily on some form of art, just have to give in to the need. Some days it can go on for hours.

What I really learn from you isn't just the art it's the way you include art in your daily life, anything goes from a stick to a tree, you just have to keep your eyes and heart open. Even with Lucy in your life this hasn't stopped from creating and moving forward with your dreams. Be proud of all you've done and inspire us with.

livethegoldenrule said...

Thank you so much! You make it look so easy, which gives us confidence. You are such a giving and talented soul. Lucy sure is growing :D

Potiron said...

you changed your banner!!! so nice!!!

Blond Duck said...

I love your work. It's so inspiring you can still create with a baby--that's one of my biggest fears!

FloridaBird said...

Great post. Can you say more about smoothing out the paper with an iron? Do you just put it on your regular ironing board or do you put something down first? Thanks.

Preeti Dubey said...

dear alisa, thanks for writing and sharing such wonderful blog. i am sure u must be getting tons of questions about your techniques. i salute your passion about the work and sharing it with everyone, by your heart, its truly commendable. your each and every piece of work inspire me to the core. keep working , to inspire us ! :) lots of love, to u and lucy.

Colleen said...

What a great idea for a post. I think I'll link to this on my blog. I can imagine it would help lots of people.

Quitterie said...

Thank you so much for all those tips that you provide us with!
Everything seem to be easy by your side. You are a great source of inspiration !

Fra' said...

Great post! Thanks a lot for sharing!

Lalav said...

Thank you Alisa, everytime I read you I wish I had a teacher like you at high school! I am lucky enough to have a boyfriend who completed a Fine Arts high school and he often buys me colours or art tools to enjoy some sketching time together, that's so intimate and nurturing. Also, we often look at your blog together!

Ms. L said...

This post was so so helpful and lovely!

Ewik21 said...

Thanks so much for this post!!! You make it look so easy!!!This is great for beginners like me. Hugs Ewa

Danie at Pasadya said...

What an AMAZING post! Ha, I got confused for a second because I was listening to a song almost exactly like the one played in your first video, and I was wondering if I had forgotten to turn off the sound on my own song. I'm already in love with your blog!

Patty Palmer said...

Beautiful and informative post. Lovely!

S said...

I'm so glad I found you're blog, you've got amazing talent.
I'm sharing this on facebook.

himuka said...

These tips are just what I have been looking for. Thank you very much!
Such a great inspirational blog. Bloglovin it!

Unknown said...

It's been a long time since I haven't done a sketcbook, but you just pushed me to get back on it! I used to hate sketching when I waa at university, but you're completely right, we are not going to get any better if we don't practice regularly. I loved this post!

Anonymous said...

Great post. If I want to learn how to draw, where is the best place to start?

Unknown said...

I was thinking about painting an apple a day, after reading this I really will.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for the inspiration. I love your work and philosophy ;-)

Timelesslady said...

Well I know what I'm going to buy next for my artwork after watching your page start to finish, a water pen. By the AMAZING tutorial. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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