How To Start a New Sketchbook 100% Happy (Overcoming the anxiety of the “first page”)

juanestey

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My sketchbook videos here: youtube.com/sketchantics

My Facebook here: The Art of Juan Estey

Hi! I’m on my 22nd sketchbook. I’m on my third year of New Year’s resolution of a-sketch-page-a-day (no misses). Like you, I know what it is to purchase a blank sketchbook and have it blast you in the face with its emptiness and slug you in the gut with its arrogant, blank surface. “Prove yourself!” comes a challenge-scraping whisper. But…your reference gathering continues, your hands are weak to begin and powerless to lift the pencil and “get started”. Must you be doomed to the same awful experience of defeat and struggle EVERY single time you start a new sketchbook?

“Is this your sketchbook?” gasps an excited fan. Your body, together with your gut, lurches towards your sketchbook in a “Don’t you dare open that!”-cat-like move…only to miss the intended pray in a very uncat-like manner. It’s too late. You’re face drops in dread as the menacing fingers of your fan crack open the cover of the sketchbook as if she were Sherlock Holmes opening a coffin. Not the first page!

Why are the fates against you! Not the first page! She could have begun in the back, beginning with “wow” and moving toward “oh,…y-you’ve really improved!” BUT NO! Her eyes fall on the corpses that tell of your heinous artistic crimes. The last raise of sun scurry over the hill and a thick night chill cuffs you’re wrists. The moon’s light a bright spotlight or the peering eye of an accomplice against you. Your heinous crime will be discovered if you do not do something quick. But what can you do? “Uh, yeah…it’s just…um, yeah” you stammer. Laying before your fan in silent witness of your artistic inability are what appear to be mutilated and dismembered specimens of humans (bad anatomy structure), very light colored pencil scratches that resemble an acupunctured head rather than a head of hair and the stings and stitches of failed font rendering. The judging eyes of your fan remain fixed on the page…eye contact is entirely unnecessary. The evidence needs not any ocular aid to secure your conviction. Advancing slowly from the first page to the second you see the disappointment and the frustrated silence. It is as if you have betrayed a faithful lover, a loyal friend. Your fan is slightly annoyed and you catch a glimpse of fatigue. Her strategy of one-bad paged after another is wearing her thin. Suddenly, she thumbs page one hundred and something, pinching a chunk of pages and fan-flips through, allowing two and three pages to fall without even returning to view their content! “HEY! WAIT! I LIKE THIS ONE! THAT ONE TURNED OUT GOOD! Y-YOU SKIPPED A BUNCH! OUT OF ALL OF THEM THIS IS THE BEST!” scream your thoughts. But you purse your lips and your hands receive back the sketchbook like an unwanted baby. “Nice work! Keep it up!”

You cough once, more in frustration than necessity (or perhaps because of the plumb of dust from your fan jetting off to something more interesting and attention titillating). Here are three reasons we fear the first pages of our new sketchbook. 1. Fear of initial failure: drawing something unimpressive (or, worse yet, something artistically condemnable). 2. Fear of rejection: having others classify you by first impression. 3. Fear of total failure: Fear of others doing the “I’m-bored-show-me-something-good-speed-flip” (i.e., going through the first couple of pages and assuming the rest of the book is just as bad). Now, let me give you a strategy for victory and progress. This is an avoidance strategy. But it works (100%).

If you use this advice you will ease into a new sketchbook like you ease into a new pair of comfy shoes or nice fitting pants. The white page will be inviting. Your pencil will be courageous. And you will feel relaxed. When finished sketching…no matter the result, you’ll feel satisfied and filled with expectation. When the notebook is finished…the first impression will be the lasting impression. Here’s how you achieve that result.

1. Begin your sketchbook 4-5 pages in. Because we all feel the angst of “just finish this thing already!” if you start more than 3-4 pages in you run the risk of becoming frustrated at the end of your “sketchbook experience”.

2. Upon arriving at the end of your sketchbook, having more than 4 “left over pages” still waiting “in the blank” can get aggravating. Left over pages? Yes. See, when you begin, say on page 5, you bypass the fear #1 of getting off on a bad start. Nobody really cares or remembers what was on page 4 or 5. So those sketches can be “bad”, but since, after you finish the book you return to pages 1, 2 and 3…those pages will be loaded with the expertise gained from pages 5 through 138. When your viewers see page 5 (where you started the sketchbook) they will think “good artist on a bad day” rather than “bad artist”. Does this make sense? What’s that you say? You don’t think you can survive “first page fright” even if you start on the 4th or 5th page? You want to walk away from this “first” page actually “liking” something you’ve drawn. Sheesh! You want everything 😉 No prob…I got ya covered!

3. Try this: On page 5 (your first “blank page”) choose to sketch a couple different things. If you take a couple shots you’re bound to hit something, right? So invest time or cheat on this initial page by making sure at least one of the 3-4 sketches on this page “turn out.” After the book is “complete” you can return and finish off 1-4. Again, with your improved skills these sketches should look quite good! And if they don’t, you know you’ve already done some great work and a few bad sketches won’t ruin the entire book…and after 138 pages…you really don’t care by this point anyway, do you? DOES THIS HELP?

My sketchbook videos here: youtube.com/sketchantics

My Facebook here: The Art of Juan Estey

To see my 365 sketches…search for “Juan Estey” on Facebook and 1) pm me and 2) friend me. 😉

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5 thoughts on “How To Start a New Sketchbook 100% Happy (Overcoming the anxiety of the “first page”)

  1. Great post! Really useful, can’t believe I hadn’t thought about it before. My previous strategy was just to trash the first pages with stupid marks on purpose. Or just writing sentences or dates or even grab a marker and “X” out these pages. But your strategy is brilliant!

    • Thank you, Bernadette! I’m glad you found it inspirational and useful! I love the design of your blog! Great content too! (fonts are very emotional for me) 🙂

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