Friday, May 19, 2017

Markers and Sketchbooks -- a Few More Thoughts

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember me writing about my experiments with markers in my sketchbooks. I first bought some markers when Dana and I were working on our 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration. I didn't really like them in the beginning. Then when Matthias got sick I became determined to learn how to use them because I needed easily transportable (and colorful) art supplies to take with me during his treatments.

When I finally let go and allowed working with markers to be about play, I started to truly enjoy them. But I ran out of pages in the sketchbook I was using.

My new sketchbook did not get along with markers at all. You might remember this page and my disappointment with it:

makers, sketchbook, birds, sketching, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The paper was too absorbent and the markers bled through with even the lightest of strokes. Blending was nearly impossible.

I stopped using markers for a while, embracing other things in my sketchbooks (I did have three other sketchbooks I was using), but finding a new sketchbook that I could use with markers (and was large and fairly inexpensive) never left my mind.

Then I read a blog post by Mia Whitmore where she shared her favorite sketchbooks and on her recommendation I decided to try a Canson XL Mixed Media sketchbook.

sketchbooks, Canson, Canson XL, Mixed Media Sketchbook, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'd never picked one up before for a few (silly) reasons. I didn't like the look of the cover and I didn't like the idea of perforated pages. I shouldn't have been so biased!

sketchbook, sketching, birds, markers, drawing, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This paper loves markers and even when I layer and layer and layer, they don't bleed through (the exception, as seen above bleeding through from the previous page was the Prismacolor Markers).

sketchbook, markers, flowers, sketching, drawing, pansies, violas, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

These deep purples didn't bleed through at all and I layered a LOT of ink. I did find that there was a little "pilling" of the paper when I continuously worked the wet areas, but nothing that was a big deal. This is sturdy paper.

In addition to the Koi Coloring Brush Pens, I've just started using Tombow Dual Brush Pens. They have a brush tip and a "fine" tip and like the others also have a colorless blender (I started with the Bright Palette set of 10).

markers, Tombow, Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The two brands work well together and they also combine well with Pitt Artist Big Brush Pens (which are no longer being sold in the same sets or colors that I bought years ago).

There's something about blending the colors that brings me so much joy. Even adding just a small bit of color to a page of pencil sketches makes for a fun addition (perfect if you're short on time, too).

sketchbook, markers, pencil, sketches, sketching, drawing, tulips, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Many of my Koi markers have smooshed tips from hard use, which makes it hard to make sure the ink goes where I want it go to. I see it as a lesson in letting go. I think the tips on the Tombow markers are a bit nicer (only time will tell how well they last), but I wish that the fine point was a little finer. I'd love to be able to add tiny details.

sketchbook, sketches, markers, strawberries, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Even so, this new sketchbook has made working with markers fun again.

sketchbook, markers, sketching, drawing, garden, dandelions, fuchsia flowers, color swatches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Which is perfect timing now that I want to bring my sketchbook out to the garden with me.

Some tips for working with markers:

  • To avoid frustration use sturdy enough paper to handle layering and prevent bleed-through.
  • Don't get too hung up on details. The most joyful thing about markers is COLOR.
  • If you want to add some finishing details, a white gel pen or paint marker and a black micron can help give some finishing touches to your sketches. 
  • Use a lighter color or a colorless blender to smooth strokes and blend colors.
  • Clean the colorless blender and lighter colors on a piece of scrap paper. Just a few strokes made will clear out the other colors from the tip.
  • Have fun! Maybe it's an association with childhood, but markers, in my mind, are all about play.

Although I definitely believe in making do and using what you have, sometimes it's worth it to purchase the right tool for your project.

Are there supplies or tools that you wish you had on hand for what you've been working on? Maybe it's time to add them to your collection? (Especially if it's something as inexpensive as a new sketchbook!).

I have one last marker story for you before I end this post.

As I shared before, the cats we adopted in February immediately gravitated to my studio. They are in it most of the day every single day of the week. Their presence here brings me so much joy and I am grateful that they have settled in so well (and oh, do we love them!).

They spend most of their time snuggled up together in their favorite chair and are good about not bothering my work.

Pepper, though, has developed a funny habit.

Pepper, black and white cats, rescue cats, adopt don't shop, studio, art table, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

He likes to explore and is curious about every cabinet, drawer and shelf. His name when we adopted him was Bandit and true to that name he does like to make off with things. His favorite thing to take is markers (which is why I keep the ones I use in the lidded cigar box where he can't find them). I have a tin of other markers on the shelf above my table.

markers, studio, catnip mice, storage, shelving, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The catnip mice are a recent addition, added to distract him. He likes them, but loves markers. He stands on his hind legs to gently reach up on the shelf and grab a marker from the tin. I've watched him do it. He carries them in his mouth, very gently, and brings them downstairs (or sometimes over to me at my desk and even across the hall to Matthias in his office), not to play with, but to give to us. His record is eleven markers in one night.

I think he's encouraging me to get back to work.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren) -- a Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Jennifer Orkin Lewis. You might know her from the feed August Wren on Instagram where she shares her daily sketchbooks. At least one of my previous Sketchbook Conversations artists has mentioned Jennifer as an inspiration for her own work and I think it's clear to see why. 

I'll let Jennifer take it from here:

I'm an illustrator and painter and a RISD grad in textile design. I live in a pretty little village just a bit north of NYC on the Hudson River. For many years I was a stylist in the textile industry.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

Keeping a sketchbook for me keeps me fresh, it gives me the chance to experiment with ideas, color combinations, compositions and techniques. If I didn’t have a daily sketchbook practice that I am committed to I’m afraid I would rarely do anything new. 

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

It has become a chance to play everyday for even a short amount of time. It has become a kind of diary for me, I can look back and remember things that were happening at the time, I record my travels and my every day life and imagination.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

I have tried keeping a sketchbook for 25 years but I never managed to complete any. I started this daily practice in January 2014 and have filled it every day since then, I have about 20 full sketchbooks now.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

I find my inspiration everywhere. Taking a walk, seeing spring flowers blooming, a crowd of people, a color combination. I try to open my eyes and see what is happening around me and use that as inspiration for my paintings. 

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

Its the little everyday things I come across that show up in my paintings. That said it isn’t always easy. Some days I’m just not in the mood, I’m busy or I don’t feel well. 

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

I do make myself start, just the act of picking up a brush gets me going. I don’t love every piece I make but as a large body of work it becomes something else.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

I love painting with gouache the most. It’s something I learned to do very well when I began as a textile designer after college so it feels very comfortable to me. I also use watercolor fairly regularly.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

My advice if you're just starting out is be yourself. Practice everyday or as much as you can, it can take years to develop your style, make marks, use colors and paint subject matter that excites you, your style will emerge from that over time. 

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

If you look at others work for inspiration close it down when you’re doing your own work so it is really yours and not a copy. Don’t worry about the final outcome during your creative playtime. That's where you discover the most about yourself.

sketchbook, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Wren

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your sketchbooks with us today! 

Dear readers, you can connect with Jennifer:

Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews

*Photos in this post ©Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Used with permission.

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Joy Lists

Ever since I read the comments from last week's post I've been thinking about Joy Lists. Why I write them, why I started writing them, what they mean.

I started writing Joy Lists when my life was falling apart. I was overwhelmed by everything that was not joy. My thoughts were flooded with negativity, with pain, with fear. I started writing Joy Lists to try to turn that around. To find light in the darkness. To regain hope.

spring, garden, roses, Above and Beyond Rose, May, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

At that time, and even after life began to move forward again, I needed the practice of keeping Joy Lists. It might have been work, but it was important work.

hearts, hearts in nature, messages from the universe, garden, sweet alyssum, flowers, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

When life is more joyful, it's easier to see the joy. It doesn't take the practice of writing Joy Lists to be able to see it.

While I was working in the garden this weekend and thinking about joy, Joy Lists and gratitude, Anne Shirley kept popping into my head. In particular I kept thinking about her initial thoughts on prayer:

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.”
                               --L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
garden, fuchsias, flowers, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I love her idea of feeling a prayer. I am not a religious person and talking about spiritual beliefs isn't really part of my blog (except, at times, when I talk about messages from the universe), but talking about gratitude is. Gratitude is a form of prayer, no matter your beliefs. Being in tune "with the Creator" as Nancy put it and "being open to joy" as Karen put it, are both ways of "feeling a prayer", don't you think?

strawberries, spring, garden, flowers, strawberry flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable with this post, or to misinterpret or trample anyone's beliefs. But I do want to encourage you to find your joy. If you're in a joyful time of your life right now, that might be easy for you to do. If you're in a darker pace, joy might be a bit more elusive. I know both places. And I know how hard it is, sometimes, to slow down enough to appreciate the joy even when it is abundant.

clematis, Aliana Clematis, flowers, spring, pink flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I haven't made up my mind about Joy List Monday, yet. I haven't yet formulated the new plan for my blog. What I do know is that joy, a focus on joy and my encouragement for you to daily discover it, will remain at the heart of what I do (no matter what form that may take).

I hope you are taking the time to notice and experience life's many beauties, graces, magic and joy, today and always.

p.s. If you need a little extra joy today, take a look at this short film which premiered today on Shorts of the Week. It's a documentary by Yoko Okumura sharing her mother's love of strawberries. I'm not obsessed with strawberries, but I do believe they represent joy and I do agree with Yuko that joy can save the world.

Strawberries Will Save The World🍓 - Short Documentary from Yoko Okumura on Vimeo.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Gone Fishin'

The sky is blue and without a cloud. The birds are singing and the air is warm. I can't spend the day inside, even as much as I love my studio.

gardening, spring, traveling studio, sketchbook, wagon, radio flyer, plants, flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

So, if you need me, I'll be in my other studio, playing with flowers and plants and dirt. I've packed a basket with art supplies and my sketchbook, too, just in case.

I hope you'll make some time today and this weekend to fill the well.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shani Nottingham -- a Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Shani Nottingham.  Here is her story:

HIYA! My name is Shani (rhymes with rainy). I am a creative/blogger, living in rural Central West NSW Australia. 

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I try to live a creative, happy, content life. I regularly exhibit, am quite partial to doing challenges on Instagram, I do commissions and collaborations, create content for social media, host creative workshops (mainly watercolour and drawing), blog sometimes (not as often as I should), and am generally always creating and making. I am currently wrangling with technology, and refreshing my website and updating my little online shop… and learning photoshop.

I am a bit sporadic with my sketchbooking. I will use one lots and lots, and then not so much again. I tend to work directly on each piece with no idea what I am doing a lot of the time! I should probably use sketchbooks more often, I might make less mistakes!

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I mainly use my sketchbooks when I am traveling, because without something to draw in I feel a bit insecure and naked. It is like a protective blanky, knowing I have it with me to use at any moment. I draw everyday, so if I do not have paper and sketchpads at hand, then naturally, the sketchbook is the next thing I grab.

I often stick things into my sketchbooks too…bits I pick up, random stuff.

I like the story of my whole life, not just my creative journey, that my sketchbooks tell. They are a real insight into the times in life when I have been short of time (studying, breeding etc) and what has been influencing me. 

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I have been keeping sketchbooks for as long as I can remember. Since High school!

I used to go camping with my family, and traveling, and I always had a cheap little visual art diary to draw in. At the end of year 12, when I went traveling, I took one with me. When I went overseas for a few years, backpacking etc, I was never without one.

I feel like they are things, along with a camera, that I have ALWAYS lugged around in a bag, backpack, handbag…. 

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I completed a Sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project based in America last year, and this revived my joy in the process of sketchbooks, and then I did one on Instagram. And I was hooked again. It keeps happening! Cannot imagine that it will stop anytime soon.

I find inspiration in my garden, where I live, Pinterest, other people on social media, old books... I am a real bowerbird. I collect images like crazy. My walls in my studio are COVERED in visual imagery I love. There is art all over my house… I am really needy when it comes to stimulation. I need fresh input all he time. Luckily, I am easily inspired. It is actually the filtering and editing of ideas I find much, much harder.

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I work predominately in watercolours, with ink and gouache sometimes, or pencil. But I also collage (I am the Founder of a group on facebook called The Collage Club) sporadically! I majored in Photography at uni, along with plant and wildlife illustration, and I still have a huge passion for photography.

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

I actually struggle a lot with knowing what it is I should be doing, what is my style, because I jump all over the place with my mediums and my styles. When I am having fun with it, I choose to think, oh well, Picasso had lots of styles too! People tell me I DO have a style, but then when I go and do something neutral soft colours… I get lots of WTF! kind of comments! So it does sometimes worry me. As I have been on social media longer, lots of “experts” tell me that when you are so varied it confuses your audience and muddies your message. That it is better not to be so random. Unfortunately … I just get bored doing similar things, and cannot help myself. If I am honest, I think I will always be this way! 

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

In sketchbooks though, I admit I am pretty old school. Pencils, lead, inkpen!

If you're just starting out, have faith in yourself. Keep practicing, keep experimenting. Try not to be too influenced by what others are doing. Turn off the phone, the screen, and get back to the base kinesthetic joy of drawing. Draw anything and everything.

sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations, Shani Nottingham, Rare Pear Studio,  My Giant Strawberry

Thank you, Shani, for sharing your story here with us today.

Dear readers, you can see more of Shani's work and connect with her on her:

Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews

*Photos in this post © Shani Nottingham. Used with permission.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Joy List Monday -- Spring Joy

One of the things I asked in my survey was whether or not you keep Joy Lists. None of you who responded said that you write them every day. About 40% keep them sometimes. The rest either don't write Joy Lists or mean to but never get around to it.

spring, flowers, bulbs, tulips, red tulips, garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I get it.

Lately, the only Joy Lists I write are here on my blog. It makes me feel a bit of a hypocrite. Writing Joy Lists, practicing gratitude, is important. I encourage you to write them, to make a practice of writing them daily. I used to write them daily. Now I keep meaning to, but...

It's just another symptom of this fast pace I'm on. That I don't want to be on. I'm finding messages every day to SLOW DOWN. And yet, it's hard.

maple tree, spring, maple flowers, maple leaves, blue skies, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I don't really have any answers. All we can do is just keep trying. All we can do is try to make the best of each day. To savor each day. To be grateful for life's joys and beauties, for life's magic.

maple tree, spring, maple flowers, maple leaves, blue skies, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Something as simple as the trees leafing out in the spring is magical. It deserves our attention. I don't ever want to be too "busy" to notice it and be grateful for it.

I've been thinking about cutting these weekly Joy Lists from my blog. Half of you who responded to my survey count them as some of your favorite posts. I started including them as a weekly feature, in part because I thought they'd be quick (they often sprawl into something other than that) and in part to encourage me (and you) in the practice of keeping Joy Lists.

Whether I decide to keep going with Joy Lists as a weekly feature on my blog or not, I'm encouraging you to write one today.

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

Today's list:

  • spring weather
  • a perfect weekend
  • celebrating my Dad's birthday with two special dinners and a breakfast!
  • the first farmers market of the year, now back in place in the middle of town (just a few blocks from our house)
  • time spent gardening
  • recent customer feedback (including these reviews and another email from a customer with a photo of her 9 prints hung in her home)
  • a trip to Decorah, Iowa for the Seed Savers Exchange Spring plant sale
  • taking the scenic route
  • laughter
  • plans to garden shop at some of the Amish greenhouses with my mom today (our area has so many of them!)
I hope your list is long.

sketchbook, watercolor, color swatches, paint, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Friday, May 5, 2017

This and That

Spring weather has finally returned and it's making me giddy.

spring, garden, violas, cinder blocks, cinder block garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I much prefer sunshine and blue skies to last week's snow!

snow, spring, April, Tulips, Garden, Wisconsin, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I just stepped out to the garden to take a few photographs and noticed a distinctive spring sound amid the goldfinch and robin song. An oriole. Not long later, I spotted him in the maple tree.

spring, trees, skies, orioles, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Can you find the flash of orange? Even without it, I love the chartreuse of the maple flowers against that blue, blue sky.

This weather, the spring growth and blossoming lifts my spirits like nothing else.

garden, lilac, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I've missed spending time in my garden.

euphorbia, garden, gardening, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Gardening is so much about hope. Hope and faith. Tiny seeds tucked into the dirt miraculously transform into something amazing. Sunflowers, tomatoes, sweet peas, zinnias... It's exciting to watch seedlings emerge. Like these cup and saucer vine seedlings.

cup and saucer vine, cathedral bells, seedlings, newspaper seed pots, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I had given up hope of them sprouting (my fault, I didn't give them enough heat when I first planted them and then a couple days after I moved them outside to my mini greenhouse on the patio with the idea it would get warmer in there, it snowed!). Yesterday I peeked into the greenhouse and saw that they finally had sprouted, nearly every seed, too!

Now that it's nice enough to spend time in my garden again, I'm going to have to figure out a new schedule, juggling art, gardening and my work at the library. All the more reason to revise my blog plan.

Thank you, to each of you who have already taken my survey. It's been interesting to read. I expected some of the responses and some have been surprising. I will leave the survey open a bit longer, but I plan to share the results with you soon. (If you haven't yet taken the survey, please do!). I also appreciate all the thoughtful comments that were left on my post from the other day. I truly appreciate each and every comment.

One surprising response asked about my blog/business name. I forget the people might not know the story behind My Giant Strawberry. (The strawberry at the bottom of the page links to the story, unless you're viewing my blog in the mobile version, in which case there is no strawberry at the bottom of the page. My Start Here page also shares a link to the story, but, again, if you're viewing the mobile version there's no sidebar with that link. Hmmm...) I wrote a blog post about the giant strawberry, but that was a while back. If you missed the story and are wondering what the name is all about, follow the links above (or this one or this one). Here's a hint: it's about re-capturing childlike wonder, creativity and joy. I think I'll also add a link back to the top navigation on my blog.

sketchbook, tulips, painting, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Before I return to my painting table* (and then out to the garden), there are a few things I want to share with you!

First, my newest class is now available on Skillshare! Here's a peek:

I created it because of requests from some of my students (thank you for sharing your feedback!!) and because for the month of May Spoonflower's design challenges are all watercolor-based. If you've been wanting to push yourself, now might be the time! You can join my class here.
And speaking of Spoonflower, right now they're having a sale! They say it's their biggest sale of the year. If you've had your eye on something or if you'd like to try printing and purchasing some of your own designs, do it! As I said in the intro video for my new class, it's so exciting and satisfying to see your artwork on fabric and products!
As for products, Society6 is having a sale right now, too. 20% off everything, plus free worldwide shipping. I might have to buy a few more notebooks!
I finally got around to reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (thanks to Karen's recommendation). Wow. A powerful, beautifully written book.
In addition to a big stack of inspiring books from the library (might be time for another Books post?), I also recently got this book in the mail:
Uppercase Encyclopedia of Inspiration, Feed Sacks, Uppercase Magazine, Janine Vangool
Do you know about the Uppercase Encyclopedia of Inspiration? Such a cool project from Janine Vangool of Uppercase Magazine (if you don't know about Uppercase Magazine, you should! It's independently published and ads free. Expensive, but worth every penny). Feed Sacks is the first of the series and it is huge, beautiful and filled with inspiration. I imagine it helping provide me with ideas for my sketchbook when I'm feeling uninspired. Watch the video, you won't be able to resist. The second volume, Stitch*Illo, is at the printers right now and I'm so excited that I'll get to see it in person soon, too. Preorders of the encyclopedia are funding the project, so if you're interested, don't wait. You'll get Feed Sacks now and the others as they come out. The third book, to arrive later this year, is called Botanica.
For more artistic inspiration, take a look at Jen Hewett's blog. She's doing a series that spotlights a different printmaker each week. Last week's was Valorie Wells. So inspiring!
Ok, that's all for now. I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with creativity, sunshine and flowers!
garden, spring, peonies, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
*here's another painting that I nearly gave up on. That first flower wasn't working and because I kept getting sidetracked by other things, my model had shattered and I couldn't refer to it for help. I cut more flowers and started painting another, just for practice beside it. Letting go of any intention of creating a finished piece is incredibly freeing. Sometimes changing your intention is all you need in order to turn things around. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jesse Zhang -- a Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Jesse Zhang who is sharing a peek into her sketchbooks and chatting about the role sketchbooks play in her creative process:

I'm Jesse, a painter and illustrator from Brooklyn, NY. I enjoy drinking lots of tea, watching sci-fi shows, and staying up too late creating. 

Sketchbooks are so vital as an artist. It's a place for discovery, putting down all your ideas, and honing your drawing skills. Most importantly, it's a place to experiment without the pressure of creating something final. Sketchbooks are for being messy and making mistakes because there is always the next page.

Jesse Zhang, Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

What keeps me motivated is drawing as much as possible. Creating a lot of terrible work that I don't show anyone. Keeping an "ugly" sketchbook where I can draw out ideas quickly for the sake of remembering it. 

My inspiration comes from creating constantly. Eventually, an idea emerges that I'm really excited to delve further into. Inspiration isn't some magical thing to wait on, it comes from deliberate practice and demanding for it to show up. 

Jesse Zhang, Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

My favorite materials are FW inks, gouache, and a 0.3 Graphgear lead pencil. I use Moleskine "Art Plus" sketchbooks the most because the paper is thick enough for layering and mixed media. I also like Muji Sketchbooks for traveling because they're cheap ($4), light, and cute! 

Jesse Zhang, Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

Trying to have a perfect sketchbook can be paralyzing. Instead, focus on creating daily and making that habit stick. Have fun and enjoy the process! One of the best things about keeping a sketchbook is seeing your work progress and change over time.

Thank you, Jesse, for sharing your story with us today.

Dear readers, you can connect with Jesse:

on Instagram: @imjessezhang
on her website: 
and on her blog:

Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews

*Photos in this post © Jesse Zhang. Used with permission.