Most artists keep sketchbooks in which they experiment with ideas and collect drawings of their environment.  


  • The most famous artist sketchbooks are those of Leonardo da Vinci. His sketchbooks are filled with drawings, diagrams and written notes of things he saw and ideas he came up with.
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  • Picasso produced 178 sketchbooks in his life time. He often used his sketchbooks to explore themes and make compositional studies until he found the right idea and subject for a larger painting on canvas.
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Andy Warhol


Henri Matisse


Tim Burton


Marc Chagall


Frida Kahlo


Vincent Van Gogh


Claude Monet


Real progress in developing yourself as an interactive designer will depend on you frequently and habitually sketching out your ideas and their variations, reflecting on your ideas, and then developing those that seem promising. Use your sketchbook to help you develop this habit.

Sketchbooks are useful in many ways.

  • It will serve as a way for you to refer back to your ideas over time.
  • It is a place for you to document and annotate your own ideas.
  • You can write down good ideas you see elsewhere e.g., in other systems, in your readings, and in your classmates’ work.
  • You can also collect existing material (e.g., pictures from magazines, screen snapshots) and tape them into the sketchbook.
  • Regular use of the sketchbook will help you develop your skills, your accuracy and your confidence in sketching out your ideas.

Sketches do not have to be pretty, beautiful, or even immediately understandable by others. 

The sketchbook will help you learn the following.

  • You will develop your skills in freehand sketching and annotation as a way to describe visual information (ideas and descriptive details) related to the the course materials you are learning.
  • You will develop the sketchbook as a personal reference of tracing your design ideas and for reflecting on the progress of these ideas.
  • You will acquire the habit of using a sketchbook for freehand sketching and annotations of interface ideas (from casual and spontaneous ideas to studied interface design development) and for detailing where inspirations came from (other systems, students, magazines, etc.)
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Carry your sketchbook around with you wherever you go. Look for things to record in your sketchbook. Remember that as an artist you have to look closely at things. 


A sketchbook is a creative document that contains both written and visual material. It is a place for researching, exploring, planning and developing ideas – for testing, practising, evaluating and discussing your project. It is the place where you learn from other artists and express and brainstorm ideas.

The sketchbook is an important part of your Coursework project. It shows the journey (or development) towards your final piece and usually contains:

  • Drawings, diagrams, thumbnails, composition plans, paintings and/or designs (particularly those that are incomplete or experimental)
  • gcse-art-sketchbook-fisha-level-art-sketchbook-ideas_0a-level-sculpture-sketchbookgraphic-design-sketchbook
  • Practise and trials of different techniques and processes
  • a-level-sketchbook-examples GCSE-art-ideas-sketchbook3D-sculpture-sketchbook
  • A range of mixed mediums and materials
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  • Evidence of first-hand responses to subject matter and artworks, demonstrated through observational drawings, photographs and annotated pamphlets and sketches from exhibitions or gallery visits. (Note: the sketchbook must NOT be used as a dumping ground for fliers and pamphlets. If you are going to glue something in, evaluate it, discuss its relevance and explain how it helps to inform your own work)
  • sculpture-sketchessketchbook-NCEA-photographyncea-scholarship-sketchbook7506841622_306b252dd4_z
  • Digital printouts of relevant artist work
  • images-7
  • Annotation
  •  5038925715_753092fbe6

Note: The sketchbook should NOT be used as an all-purpose journal for doodling cartoon characters or scribbling notes to a friend. All work contained within your sketchbook must support your Coursework project as a whole.


The following tips and guidelines should help you understand how to add quality notes to your pages:
  • Reveal your own thinking and personal responses (rather than regurgitating facts or the views of others)
  • Explain the starting points and ideas, emphasising personal relevance and your own connections to subjects
  • Critically analyse and compare artwork of relevant artist models (both historical and contemporary artists, from a range of cultures). Discuss aesthetics, use of media, technique, meaning/emotion/ideas and the influence of an artist upon your own work. While it is important to conduct research into your artist models (and to convey an understanding of this information), avoid copying or summarising large passages of information from other sources. Instead, select the information that you think is useful for your project and link it with your own viewpoints and observations. Use research findings to make you sound clever and knowledgeable – to prove that you are aware of the artists and cultural influences around you – and to help you to critically evaluate artworks (by giving you background information and a peek into the mind of an artist): do not use it to fill your sketchbook with boring facts
  • Demonstrate good subject knowledge, using correct vocabulary (phrases such as ‘strong contrast’, ‘draws the eye’ and ‘focal point’ etc)
  • Reference of all images, artwork and text from other sources, ensuring that artists, websites and books are acknowledged (it should be obvious to an examiner which work is yours when viewing a page, so cite sources directly underneath the appropriate image. Photographs taken by yourself should be clearly labelled, so examiners know the work is yours and reward you for it)
  • Communicate with clarity. It doesn’t matter whether you jot down notes or use full sentences, but never use ‘txt’ speak and try to avoid incorrect spelling, as this indicates sloppiness and can hint to the examiner that you are a lower calibre candidate
When annotating a sketchbook, it may benefit you to contemplate the following:
  • What subjects / themes / moods / issues / messages are explored? Why are these relevant or important to the artist (or you)?
  • What appeals to you visually about this artwork?
  • How does the composition of the artwork (i.e. the relationship between the visual elements: line, shape, colour, tone, texture and space) help to communicate ideas and reinforce a message? Why might this composition have been chosen? (Discuss in terms of how the visual elements interact and create visual devices that ‘draw attention’, ‘emphasise’, ‘balance’, ‘link’ and/or ‘direct the viewer through the artwork’ etc.)
  • What mediums, techniques (mark-making methods), styles and processes have been used? How do these communicate a message? How do they affect the mood of the artwork and the communication of ideas? Are these methods useful for your own project?
  • How does all of the above help you with your own artwork?
Remember that these questions are a guide only and are intended to make you start to think critically about the art you are studying and creating.

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