A Faster Way To Get Better At Drawing

Adam Westbrook
9 min readMar 4, 2021

I filled five whole sketchbooks in 2020 — and my drawing ability has improved significantly. I even drew my first comic!

This is down, in many ways, to changing how I use my sketchbook.

Before I begin, I should say I am not a trained artist, just an enthusiastic amateur. This process, new to me, won’t be new to the professionals among you but hopefully it will be inspiring or helpful all the same!

The Sketchbook Problem

First of all, the frustration.

A sketchbook is supposed to be a place where an artist (of any kind) can play, experiment and practice. It is a place for quantity not quality, a place where we can build momentum that might lead to a finished piece.

It is not supposed to be a place for finished works and it is not really supposed to be seen by other people.

As it turns out, this is difficult.

The first thing many of us do — myself included — is buy a nice shiny Moleskine notebook. These cost at least $20 and are carefully made with lovely smooth high-quality paper.

Big mistake.

The second thing we do — again, guilty-as-charged — is buy into this social media culture of sharing pages from our sketchbooks. Search for the hashtag #sketchbook on Instagram and you’ll find 46.1 million (that is 46.1 million) photographs people have taken of their artwork.

Bigger mistake.

Thirdly, through no fault of their own, sketchbooks are finite, creating a scarcity that gives each page an intimidating value.

And so turning to a pristine new page in my lovely Moleskine, my phone on standby to take a photo…I become paralysed.

The marks I might make will be final, the drawing needs to be as good as those 46 million others.

So when it falls short, I feel demotivated.

My Moleskine is not a sketchbook

Adam Westbrook

Video artist working at The New York Times. I write a weekly newsletter about visual storytelling and creativity. https://adamwestbrook.substack.com/