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My Sketches Series: Tip 1 - Start Sketching

Updated: Aug 29

How to start sketching and boost your creativity as an illustrator for

Children's Books.

As I flip through my bright orange accordion folder, I reminisce all the stages I have gone through as an illustrator from childhood, adolescence and the various stages of adulthood. The ambitious doodler at 3 years old, the ominous portrait artist in my tweens and teens; shoutout to Mrs. Beasley, my 8th-grade art teacher at Curundu Jr. High, Panama, who, in her quirky, very expressive artistic way, taught me how to work with light, shading and draw a realistic eyeball for the first time in my life!... I digress, and finally, as an adult, the dedicated illustrator for children's literature. All these memories began with a simple little blank page notebook.

Sketching begins...

Back in the day, these notebooks cost 25 cents (USD). If you were lucky, you would get the "dibujo" or drawing notebook, 96 to 100 pages of drawing bliss. However, those would regularly run

out, so oftentimes, I was stuck with the "raya ancha" or "doble raya" (single rule or wide rule) typically used for writing in school. And yes, the cover design was basic. One solid bold color background smacked on the right side of it was the symbolic trademark profile of renowned Spanish Explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who learned about the existence of the Pacific Ocean by trekking through the dense jungled isthmus of Panama.

For whatever reason, Balboa named what we now call the Pacific Ocean "pacífico," which means peaceful, but locals and surfers alike know full well the Pacific Ocean is anything but peaceful. If you want peace, go chill over in the Atlantic Ocean, a.k.a. Caribbean Ocean. Anyway, the time has passed, and these practical notebooks are still in production; however, today, they sport way more intriguing covers with cute kawaii characters, cool robots, and awesome BMX racers, among many other designs.

So, pretty much like the ever-evolving cover design of my first sketchbook, my sketches evolved as I matured my drawing skills, but the important thing that I did instinctively is past kindergarten, I kept drawing. My parents understood by the time I hit first grade, the ONLY thing I cared for was a drawing notebook and colours. These tools were sacred to me; the "sharing" principle learned in kindergarten didn't apply in this case because, well, you know, most kids wouldn't take care of crayons and break them after five minutes or scribble nonsense on those pristine pages. Yes, Carlos, you! Take your sticky fingers OFF my magnificent 64-color pack of Crayola crayon beauties with a built-in sharpener! (Don't worry, this was my first grader mind speaking going through some serious déjà-vous.) You will see, as your drawing skills and techniques get stronger, so will your tools upgrade, or not, if you are nostalgic like me. Your drawing style will dictate to you where to tweak, to go over that hill, or to stand still in the creative alternate universe of your mind.

So, make it fun, make it creatively challenging, or make it easy for yourself, whether you create your own sketchbook by hand, purchase a ready-made beauty from a craft artist online, or buy a handy dollar store variety and deck it out with your own sticker designs. The rule is, START sketching! Carry it around with you to school, at work, or lay it in a visible corner at home so that when you have downtime, EVEN if it's only five minutes, yes 5, little minutes, you can sketch, relax your mind, and low and behold jot down the idea to your next masterpiece, which could complete itself in a month, a year, or 10 years down the road.

Creativity - How to Find it and Hone it.

"Creativity starts in the recesses of your mind, as a tiny drop of an expressive message waiting to be communicated to yourself, the next person or your dedicated niche audience, those admirers of your artistic style." – Andrea Saroya

Once you start doodling and get into that flow state, you may get hit by an "awesome" idea. You know the feeling, your belly flip-flops, your adrenaline gets moving, your hair stands on end with excitement and the next time you look at the clock, 9 hours have passed with no potty breaks, snack breaks or sleep.

Art is and will always be personal. So instead of trying to imitate the renowned artist next door, dig deep, rely on YOUR life and YOUR experiences, and if this is difficult for you, then sketch out your hobbies as cute character thumbnails or one-word art expressions using colors to reflect the mood of each. Know this, if there is anything worthwhile you get out of this phase, it is getting to know who you are...your likes, dislikes, triumphs and failures; yes, those pesky depressing failures are motivators to great masterpieces as well.

Always remember that your sketchbook is your treasure box of ideas. Some of those ideas will be conceptions of future amazing works of art or collaborative projects, and other doodles will fuel your creative artistic fire for the long haul.


Remember, get your pens, pencils, and markers ready, and select your sketchbook that is comfortable to bend, flip and work with. And...

Sketch On!

If my art inspires you, check out my art smacked on some nice little spiral notebooks turned awesome sketchbooks.

or CREATE your own! And share on our online community on Facebook.

As always, Color, Connect and Share (yes, sharing is very well and good at this point)...Compassion.

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