It’s no secret that learning new things helps keep your brain sharp. In art, it’s especially valuable to take time and gain a new skill. Doing so, at the very least, can improve the way you work. But more importantly, it can change the way you think about your art. Luckily, you can learn new things from the comfort of your own home. That’s where Skillshare comes in. They’ve got 15,000 online classes available for you to take from people at the top of their field. I recently enrolled in a class that I was eager to try: Illustration & Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook by Leah Goren. You too can try this class with 2 free months of Skillshare Premium.
I am not good at keeping a sketchbook. I’ve never been good at it. Every page is so precious to me, and if I don’t like something, I end up starting over on the next page. So when I get to the end of a book, it’s all these weird, half-drawn pages that are trying too hard to look nice. I wanted to know how Leah does it, because her pages are a stunning collection of illustrations.
Turns out, she starts over too! In the beginning of the class—which is conducted in Leah’s sunny apartment in Brooklyn—she shares pages from her sketchbook. There are plenty of things, as she points out, which are weird or don’t exactly work. There are also pages where she’s repainted things. And that’s okay. A sketchbook doesn’t need to be precious. It’s a place to explore ideas. For Leah, this exploration has been invaluable, and her fascination with subjects like surfers and circus folks has found its way from her sketchbook pages to products now on the market.
The class is short at just 31 minutes, but it covers three exercises: drawing patterns; drawing from life; and drawing your space.
Each video shows Leah painting with gouache in her sketchbook, based the the prompts. As she’s doing this, she offers insight to what’s she’s doing. Particularly, why she’s making the decisions she’s making. This is easily the best part of the class. It’s her sharing how she thinks, which is the key to these illustrations that so many of us (including me) fall in love with. The tiny things she does during her sketching is what make her work truly unique. From deciding to paint the same leaf a couple of times to including an electrical outlet in her composition, it all adds up to a fantastic image.
I like this class because from the outset, it seems really doable. It requires just a few basic materials—a sketchbook, watercolor or gouache, and pens (optional). The exercises are relatively simple in concept, but you can make them really elaborate in your own sketchbook. They’re also prompts you can use time and again. This offers a great way to gauge how your work has changed over time.
I tried all the exercises in featured in Illustration & Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook.
I don’t have gouache, so I used watercolor. (I’m scared of gouache, but maybe Skillshare’s classes will assuage my fears.) The prompts were a lot of fun! Drawing from life is definitely the way I like to work, but sketching with a paintbrush was different; normally, I start with a pencil. I’ll probably continue to hone this “drawing with a brush” because it was very freeing and spontaneous. Here’s one of my paintings from the “drawing from life” exercise:
Leah’s guidance and inspiration is something I’ll keep in mind for future sketching. Another other thing that Leah talks about is how to travel with a sketchbook and paints. I’m doing some traveling soon, and it’s advice I’ll take heading to the desert. Painting cacti among the red rocks of southern Utah sounds like a lot of fun.
I encourage you to give Skillshare a try, and this is the perfect time to do it. I’ve got a deal for 2 months of Skillshare Premium for free!