Let's Talk About Sketchbooks Volume 6

It's been quite a while, but I'm finally back with another post in my sketchbook series! Today I'm sharing my most recently completed sketchbook, which I started in at the end of 2015/the beginning of 2016. 

At the time, I was feeling like spreading out on a big surface, so I got this big Moleskine sketchbook. and started working in it (even though I was already working in a few other sketchbooks/journals at the time). I decorated the cover with lots of stickers, including some from BabevibesFeminist Sticker ClubBuried DiamondTuesday Bassen, and a pizza of my own design.

On one of the first pages I made a list of things I wanted to do in 2016. I've accomplished quite a few of them by now. I also ripped out the first page.  In this case, I ripped out my original strawberry painting to frame, but I tend to rip out the first pages of my sketchbooks often. Usually, I'll start a book but I won't stick with it, or I'll decide to use it for something else, so I'll rip out the used pages when I first start a book. I think of it as getting comfy with a sketchbook until I find the right time or the right use for it.

I think that this is the most "traditional" sketchbook I've ever kept. I used it to work out ideas and practice and didn't make very many "finished" pieces in this book. Some ideas worked (like the clouds), and some didn't (those weird lumpy shapes). 

Practicing painting portraits of European queens.

I can't keep a sketchbook without using up a full page for writing, but at least this time I wrote with a paintbrush.

Sketchbook randomness, which is what I think sketchbooks are for. More portraits, lettering, gratitude lists, and songs stuck in my head.

sketchbook floral

Flowers and color palettes

Notes and mock-ups of other projects.

I love both of these pages and have used them digitally as backgrounds for other work. The galaxy is watercolor with pen on top and the colorful page was made while playing with oil pastels.

More gratitude lists with little illustrations. Also, the first iteration of my collaged gems. I tested out the random idea with some scrap paper on this page and developed it later.

Like on this page, where I created a composition of several gems cut from watercolored paper.

Still life practice at the Hillyer Art Space in DC.

Pattern practice. And more chaos, always.

Pulling color palettes from Disney's Alice in Wonderland picture books.

Possibly the most sketchy part of this sketchbook.  Working on ideas for the logo for my Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast, Hot Chicks with Superpowers. The middle drawing on the left page became part of our logo, but I can't wait until I get to draw that axe again.

When I want to practice but I don't know what to draw, I tend to look around the room and draw what I see.  These pages were drawn in my friend Ashely's apartment.

Towards the end of this sketchbook I got new sets of watercolor and gouache, so I spent a lot of time playing around with and getting used to the new paints.

I catalogued all of the watercolors in my new set, which looks pretty and comes in handy when trying to find the right color.


Practicing layering with gouache. I was never really one for abstract painting, but I started to fall in love starting with this sketchbook spread.

Working out handlettering, which I digitally combined with the previous galaxy page to make this piece.

Using up excess paint and loving abstract painting even more.

sketchbook test page

I always use the back page of a sketchbook to test different writing implements/paints to see how they work on the paper or if they bleed through. And doodle song lyrics.

I finished this sketchbook in May, and since then I have mostly been working on loose paper, or working in a sketchbook but ripping pages out to scan. I'm starting to feel the sketchbook itch again, so I'll probably start another one soon.

100 Days of Watercolor Without Reference

Last year everyone on Instagram was all excited about the 100 Day Project (#the100dayproject), created by Elle Luna. It actually started right around the time that I was hitting the 100 day mark on my 365 day drawing project, so I didn't participate, but I loved following other people's projects - I found so many cool artists (notably Elena of Elena's Treehouse - her papercuts are incredible). My favorite part was that people's projects were specific, I was intrigued by having a bit more of a direction than making any drawing (although it might be harder to keep something like that up for a project more than 3.5 times the length of the 100 day project). When Elle announced that this year's 100 Day Project would be starting I decided to participate right away. 

I'm calling my project 100 Day of Watercolor Without Reference (you can check it out at #100daysofwatercolorwithoutreference). I have no idea where the idea came from, I was on a plane home from LA on the day before the challenge started and the phrase just popped into my head. I think I chose it because I liked the sound of the alliteration. I knew that I wanted my project to involve watercolor, which is my favorite medium lately, but I didn't want to be limited to just abstract or just representative painting. I am drawn to abstracts lately, but I also want to practice representative watercolor painting, so I created a project that would let me do both. (I've also done collage with watercolored paper, because it is my project and I do what I want.) But I still wanted something to make the project a little bit more interesting and challenging than just painting in watercolor every day, so I decided to paint without a reference (a photo or real-life reference for representative work and a color reference for abstracts).

With this project I'm not really looking to build a creative habit. After my 2015 drawing project I feel like I have done that already. But there definitely are some things that I am looking to get out of the 100 Day Project this time. 

1. To stop being so lazy about watercolor. As I mentioned, watercolor is my favorite medium of the moment, but it feels like a lot more effort than drawing does. I have to take out a bunch of supplies and then clean up more supplies when I'm done. I have to wash brushes and palettes. I can't do it with my sketchbook in my lap on the couch. You get the idea. It is much easier to just grab a few pens and draw, but watercolor really doesn't take THAT much effort. And the results are so magical - infinite colors, swooshy, unpredictable, watery goodness. Hopefully, having to bust out the watercolors every day will get me out of the mindset that they are too much effort to set up. Thus far I have been dealing with that by leaving my watercolor stuff out on the kitchen table, which I'm sure my roommate loves (Hi Hannah, if you're reading this, I'm sorry for leaving my art crap everywhere!). I also never watercolor while traveling, so I'm excited to be pushed do that, too.

Day 2

2. To explore painting without references. If I am painting or drawing something that is supposed to look like something (as opposed to an abstract) then I typically always Google the thing to look at photos as I'm working, or I'm working from something I can see in front of me in real life. I'm starting to get to a place where I care more about what my work is trying to convey than how much it actually matches the thing I'm trying to represent. Wow, that sounds super pretentious. I just mean that if I want to include a house in a painting it maybe the shadowing and the scale and the detail of each windowpane doesn't have to be exactly like that of a real house for me to be happy with the overall piece. Also, drawing or painting objects around me, or photos from Instagram of Tumblr is my go-to way of practicing. I'm excited to see what subjects and ideas come out of my brain when I deny the impulse to look around my immediate (real-life and virtual) surroundings for something.

3. To experiment with sharing work on the internet. By the end of my 365 day project I was so ready to have my Instagram feed "back." I was so tired of being forced (by me) to share photos of work that I didn't love or that didn't do the work justice. Maybe the idea is to make work until I have something that I'm actually proud to share, but that just isn't going to happen for me. I have a job and a life (kind of) and some days it isn't in the cards to keep making until I get it right. In the months since the end of December 2015 I've been happy to make my Instagram feed look like the inside of my brain - carefully selecting the photos and work that make me happy and hopefully convey where I'm at. But I'm still really interested in the idea of posting art every day, sharing what I'm making in the moment, and maybe being less critical of what I post. So I'm taking this project as a way to dip my toe back into sharing daily art to see what I think of it this time around. I was talking to someone recently who said that I seem like I think a lot about my work (I think the length of this blog post alone shows that I do), so I'm also using the daily Instagram posts as kind of creative check ins that allow me to share some thoughts on my process and the challenge every day. Maybe that will be interesting to someone!

Day 4

I might do some more posts reflecting on the 100 Day Project if I feel like I have things to say, but you can keep up with it on the daily on Instagram @haleyca. If you're participating let me know what your project is so I can check it out!

P.S. I haven't mentioned this here on the blog, but I recently did an interview with the wonderful Denise on her site, My Internet Girl Crush. If you're interested in thoughts on my process and the internet and how those two things relate (and what one of my college theses was on) check it out! While you're there definitely have a look at Deinse's other interviews because they feature awesome creative women from all over the world.  So honored to be an Internet Girl Crush!