A Sketchbook History


100 pages. Twelve years in the making.

I wanted to digitally archive some of my old drawings, and it turned into a huge sketchbook scanning bash. In this post, I’ve collected 100 pages and laid them out chronologically. It was a great project, and I ended up learning a lot; it’s probably more fun for me than for you, because I get to walk down memory lane a bit, but hopefully you’ll gain something from my little experiment.


Some stats:

    Years represented: 1995-2007

    Ages represented: 12 to 24 years old

    Total # sketchbooks represented: 23 + a few loose pages

      # that are unfinished (half or more of the book is blank): 10

      # that were assigned/for class: 6, and many others are filled with sketches for various assignments


Most of my early stuff consisted of head portraits. Looking back, I find it very interesting that I didn’t really draw cartoons, comics, or cute furry animals. I was obsessed with Star Trek as a kid (and as an adult, but I have since found additional interests…), so that’s what I drew most of the time. I remember getting annoyed at the ridges on some alien’s nose or forehead because they were so hard to draw. I didn’t like hair either. I drew Captain Picard a lot because he had a nice smooth, round head.

High School

Eventually, I branched out and started drawing other movie and television stars. This got me started on the bad habit of buying tons of magazines every time I go to the grocery store or the mall. I loved looking at and drawing from the pictures. Bonus points to those of you who can tell who they are. As you’ll notice, this group includes some of my first attempts at caricature, and drawing with something other than a pencil.

Early College

I was in love with shading! Big fully-rendered drawings with 6B pencils! They left large smudge marks all over these sketchbooks. You’ll also see some perspective notes from my very first college art class – Drawing I. There’s also a lot of figure drawing from Jack Hamm, Geoge Bridgman, and Burne Hogarth books – probably forced on me by my instructors. I was also trying to branch out and create more stylized characters for the first time. They look a bit awkward, and I was terrible at creating full body poses from scratch because up to this point, I mostly drew floating heads.

Late College

Looking back at all these old sketches, I realized that my style really took a turning point in my third and fourth years in school. My idea of sketching changed. Figures came more easily, so I was experimenting more with different styles (some outright bizarre); and instead of simple portraits, I started drawing more situations, stories, and environments. My artwork was starting to tell a story, and it was at this point that I was seriously considering an illustration career. I was producing TONS of sketches during this time, and you can see how drastically my style evolved because of it.

After College

There was a period after college where I was still riding on its momentum and produced a lot of sketches, but it gets harder and harder to find the time. Most of my drawing nowadays is for work, and I’m still not the best sketchbook keeper. After looking back on all these sketchbooks and seeing how much they have helped, I am resolving to do better at this.

Some things I learned

  • Sketchbooks aren’t precious – the best pages in my sketchbooks seem to come from moments where I didn’t care about creating a “beautiful” page at all.

  • I have to learn to follow my own advice.

  • Date your sketchbooks.

  • I need to have more fun. When you draw for work all the time, you tend to forget to just draw for yourself sometimes. There is a lot of great craziness in some of my old stuff that I don’t think I’m doing as much anymore. I need to get back to that place.

  • Cringing at your old work is good. It means you are improving.

  • Diligence does pay off. It is encouraging to be able to look at your old work and see how much you’ve grown. It’s a little reminder that after all those painstaking creative struggles you endure every day, you will be rewarded in the end.

So that’s it! The evolution of me…on paper. I’ll give you an update in another 12 years…

Have you looked at your dusty pile of sketchbooks recently? Did you learn anything by this small journey through my drawing history? Let me know in the comments…