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Sketchbook Ideas for Art Classes

Updated on December 28, 2017

A Fashion Sketch


The Value and Practice of Sketchbook Assignments

Art teachers often give sketchbook assignments to their students. Sketchbooks are great tools for trying a new technique or jotting down ideas the artist wants to remember for future reference. Unfortunately, many younger art students do not yet appreciate the importance of the sketchbook. As every art teacher knows, some students will awaken the morning before sketchbooks are due and realize they need to do ten more sketches. I know this because I was once that student and I grew up to be the mother of one of those students.

I offer here a number of ideas for making a sketchbook the real learning tool it is meant to be. Teachers and parents may want to look at these ideas the next time their young art student says, "I can't think of anything to draw!"

Fresh Ideas for Sketches

Everything Old is New Again

Find an old sketch in your book and redraw it using colored pencils or oil pastels. For a unique effect, make a photocopy of a picture, cut it into two-inch squares, scramble the squares, and sketch the resulting picture. I once cut my sketch of an owl into two inch strips, glued the strips on paper again while staggering each strip about an inch, and sketched the result-a distorted but still recognizable owl. Finally, consider zooming in on one area of a sketch and drawing the magnified view of just one portion of the sketch.

Come to the Dark Side

Play with light and shadow. In a darkened room, place an item such as a vase on a table. Put a small light near the vase and draw the vase showing shading and shadows. Try illuminating the object from the top or from behind. A variation on this idea is to look at a daytime picture and try drawing what it would look like at night.

Last Minute Sketches

Look at your immediate surroundings. Everything you see is a potential sketch. Sketch various items on your desk, in your purse, or in a kitchen drawer. Draw your bed, lamp, or toothbrush.

Draw a bird's eye view of a common object. Notice how different an aerial view can be compared to the street-level view. What would your yard look like from the air? For a different twist on this idea, try drawing something from a worm's viewpoint.

Do a study in colors. Divide the paper into several sections and draw the same thing in each section using a different color scheme. For example, draw four views of the same tree to depict winter, spring, summer, and autumn. If you enjoy fashion, draw the same outfit in multiple color schemes.

Keep Those Sketches

I still have my high school sketchbooks from 1980-81 and use them for inspiration at times. Be sure art students understand their sketchbooks are not just another assignment, but will become a valuable resource for future reference.

Preserve and Display Student Artwork

Students are encouraged to be creative when they see their artwork valued by the adults they respect and love. Go beyond hanging pictures on the refrigerator with these simple but effective ideas.

Matting, mounting and framing

Two-dimensional art such as paintings and drawings can be placed in inexpensive poster frames or colorful mats from the craft store. Measure the work to be framed or take it with you to the store to select a mat color that complements the work of art. Perhaps the child who created the art would also like to decorate a frame. Plain frames of wood can be painted or decorated with stickers, shells, or decoupage. Magnetic frames are a great option if you want to stick with a refrigerator art display.

Digital art gallery

If out-of-town friends and relatives are on social networking sites like Facebook, why not take digital photographs of children's artwork to place in an album? Grandparents and other special friends can view sculptures, pottery, or even a video clip of the young artist at work in the studio. Photography is a great way to display three-dimensional art if shelf space is not abundant in your home. Use a slide show of students’ artwork as your screensaver.

Scrapbook or portfolio

The serious art student will produce more art than you can ever display at one time. Invest in an oversized scrapbook or a real artist's portfolio to protect large drawings and paintings. Small, flat pieces can be stored in a filing cabinet drawer, separated from one another by sheets of acid-free paper. Create a catalog in a small notebook by recording the name of each piece, the date created, media used (e.g. pen and ink, oil pastels, watercolor,) and location (e.g. portfolio 1, scrapbook, portfolio 2.) If a student later applies to art school, this will be a valuable record of artistic growth and accomplishment.

Create custom gifts with digital photography

Use a digital photo of a student's artwork to create T-shirts, coffee mugs, and more. This service is available at most stores that have photo service. Simply go to the store website, upload your digital photos, select the products you want to personalize, and pick up your merchandise later at the store. An online option for the same services is Zazzle, a service that also allows you to set up a store and sell designs to others.


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