I forget where I heard it but I heard a story of a professor who made all his students pour tea or coffee on their sketchbooks. His aim was to help students remove a common self-imposed obstacle: fear of creating something less than perfect.

But, in the case of creation, trial and error usually trump careful contemplation. And, in the case of drawing, it takes muscle memory, practice, and experience to improve.

3.1 Phillip Lim, FW 2017 Fashion Illustration by Katie Cadamatre

A Sketchbook is a Place for Fun

In the age of “look at me,” “like this,” “share it,” it’s challenging to create for creations’ sake. When I’m working in my sketchbook, instead of focusing on what I’m doing, I can’t help wondering, “will people like this?”

I wish I could be cool like, “I don’t care! I’m an artist. I’m just creating to create!” Back in the day, no one would ever lay eyes on the contents of my sketchbook. But, nowadays, it’s (sorry 😂) literally an open sketchbook!

3.1 Phillip Lim, FW 2017 Fashion Illustration by Katie Cadamatre

Having super beautiful and expensive sketchbooks doesn’t help. (I’m too scared to put anything in them!) So, I’ve come up with a couple of easy techniques to bring the sketchbook back to what it used to be for me, “a judgement-free zone to put down ideas, practice, and have fun.”

When I’m able to get past my mental blocks, I’m actually able to create some pretty awesome stuff (like this Phillip Lim sketch.) Removing distractions and fear, lets me fully focus on my work or just enjoy the act of drawing.

3.1 Phillip Lim, FW 2017 Fashion Illustration by Katie Cadamatre

Avoid the Creative Choke

1| Think about why you’re creating. Is it actually to gain followers? Or, are you trying to improve your technique? Exploring an idea? Unwinding?

2 | Approach the sketchbook like a diary. It’s a visual conversation in your head. Don’t psyche yourself out with the prospect of sharing the image with the entire planet.

3 | At the end of the day, the more you fill your sketchbook – the better you’ll become. And, the better your overall work will be.

It’s hard, but I try to remember this. When fear of failure keeps you from trying, there’s zero chance for success.