31 Day Sketchbook Challenge

sketchbook day 27 - lighthouse

Back at the beginning of March I mentioned in our weekly newsletter that I was undertaking a sketchbook challenge. That is to say I would commit to doing a sketch a day, every day, for the whole of March. Maybe a drawing, maybe a painting, anything as long as it meant committing a proper amount of time to paper.

So some rules – I like rules, they make me do things. If anyone wants to get me to do something then create a rule-based system and hey-presto. My sketchbook challenge rules were:

  • That it had to be more than just a couple of minutes of effort, ideally 20-30 minutes each day.
  • I also had to do one sketch, not a selection that I could pick and choose from. I couldn’t reject or ‘lose’ a day just because I didn’t like it.
  • And I had to experiment, so avoiding the pitfall of doing one picture I liked and then churning the same one out for a month. Why? Because I wanted to feel like I would discover something I might not have otherwise. That is what the creative process is about to me – finding something unexpected through challenging yourself.

The idea for this came thanks to Mike Lowery, an illustrator of books, maps and travel journals. I came across a video of his where he suggested a daily challenge. I think I might have converted that into a March-daily-challenge, or maybe that was his idea. I know I didn’t stop to think about it too long – that way doubt would creep in. I also know I had this vision of 31 days of 3rd-rate Mike Lowery style drawings set out before me.

It didn’t quite turn out that way. But I’m glad it didn’t. Along the way there were doubts (days 1 to 3 for sure), nearly-forgotten days (hello day 19, I’m looking at you), days of high-hopes dashed by the final result (sorry day 9, I tried so hard). But overall an amazing sense of enjoyment fed in no small part by liking the results even when I challenged myself to do something different to the day before. And a huge surprise at being able to visualise an idea and execute fairly well, whilst never quite knowing what I was doing at the same time.

The daily sketches

The conclusion

So will I go on? That is the big question I am asking myself now. Sadly a daily output is quite a tall order – somewhere between forgetting, not having the time and not wanting to it just won’t happen. But I now see things I want to put down on paper, so I think I will try and if I miss some days then so be it.

The tools

I choose a small-ish square sketchbook from Seawhite and was determined to stick to it. I loved the book I choose, and the paper took watercolour really well, but the small format was quite a challenge. Especially after several days when the pages became quite bulky. But I also quite like the ever-expanding nature of the book as it gets filled up.

I also started out with my trusty Sakura fineliner pen set, which made it through to day 31. Other pens fell by the wayside, mainly because I discovered watercolours and fell in love with them. I started out with a basic watercolour set which I quickly upgraded to a bigger set that gave me a wider set of colour options. Oh, and I obviously needed some brushes and this set seemed a bargain, and I have got on well with it so far.


It’s been a few days now since the sketchbook challenge ended, and I did wonder if that it would go no further. Happily I have kept it up almost every day since and look forward to finding a daily subject.

  1. The 24th and 25th look as though they form part of the same picture. Was that intentional? I quite like the idea of creating a mural over a month’s worth of pages, but I know I don’t have the discipline to keep at it for long.

    1. No, there was no obvious connection with those days. I have always wanted to work with a concertina sketchbook, but have yet to work out how I would make it work. One day…

  2. Silly question: where are the drawings? I’ve tried Safari and Firefox on iPad and iMac and not found all the images.

    1. Not silly at all. It’s very odd but they are not there, at least not in certain browsers. It works for me in Chrome and was working on Safari but not now. This looks like a complicated one to resolve and thank you for letting me know. Will do my best to fix

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