First, make a shopping trip to your local art store to buy a sketchbook. What to choose? Think carefully about size, shape, weight, type of paper, type of cover. Your artist’s journal is going to be your constant companion, so you will need to buy one that you are happy to carry everywhere, in your pocket, handbag, rucksack or shopping bag. If you are a weakling like me, it mustn’t be too heavy either. It should be ideally no bigger than A4 size and you may have to experiment with different sizes and formats before you settle on something you really love. I personally waver between an A5 bound hardback which provides an A4 size spread when it is open, and an A4 spiral-bound which opens nice and flat. You may prefer a square format which will open out to a panoramic landscape, or a tiny A6 size to fit in your breast pocket or evening bag.
I would not suggest the cheap spiral-bound type with a paper cover, as the cover detaches itself after a week or two of being shoved in a bag, but they ARE cheap and you may wish to begin with one of these.
Lastly, the paper should be quite sturdy cartridge paper as you will be using all kinds of drawing and painting materials eventually so it would be a shame if your pen marks bled through to the next page or your watercolour paints buckled the surface badly. I find 160g/m2 (109lb) works well for most media, (Daler-Rowney have loads of formats in this weight, all with black covers) but if I use a book with thinner pages, I often glue two pages together to make one thicker page, or stick in bits of watercolour paper or coloured pastel paper.
Some people make their own books with a variety of papers – I haven’t tried this yet, but plan to have a go soon and will talk about it here.
2. Something to draw with
If you are a beginner to drawing, the best advice I have ever had is to DRAW WITH A PEN, NOT A PENCIL. A rollerball, a fountain pen, a dip pen, a ballpoint – it doesn’t matter as long as you can’t rub it out. The reason for this is that mistakes are a vital part of learning to draw, and if you rub out your mistakes, how can you remember where they were and not make them again? Also, there is something about the fact that you CAN’T rub your lines out, which helps you to observe better in the first place. And finally, we are all familiar with the look and feel of a pen for writing – and the way you draw will be an extension of the way you write, not a special event that frightens you. Try it, and let me know if it helps – it certainly helped me.
When choosing your pen, bear in mind that drawing is a sensual experience. Do you like the feel of the pen, the sound it makes on the paper, the thickness of the line, the colour of the ink?
Later on, we will explore all kinds of other wonderful drawing and painting media, but for now – sketchbook, pen. That’s it.