How to Use a Sketchbook to Boost Creativity

Have you ever kept a sketchbook? Are you on the DPS (Double Page Spread) journey with me? Have you thought about joining, but you haven’t started yet?

how to use a sketchbook to boost creativity

When I introduced the DPS Challenge, I talked about the importance of starting a visual journal practice as a way to nurture your own creativity. But did you know that modeling habits of creative thinking such as experimentation, exploration of materials, problem solving, imagination, and a willingness to make mistakes is also one of the best ways to foster creativity and creative thinking in your child?

There are a number of ways to do this, and keeping a visual journal of your ideas is an easy way to begin.

drawing ideas sketchbook
by @Angelata, via Instagram

Are you blocked?

Are you on the fence? You really want to do this, but how on earth could you find the time? Maybe you’re waiting for the mood to strike, you have a fear of drawing, or you’re on the hunt for the perfect journal? I share these points because these are some of the things that have stopped me in the past: my day got off to a bad start, I slept in, I felt uninspired, or I had nothing to draw on. Wait until you see the last image of this post for a fun solution to that last problem.

I hope you won’t let these things stop you because this will only take a few moments of your day and the creative rewards…for you and your kids…are huge.

I should add that while I think I do a decent job in the drawing department, my three year old insists that her drawings are better than mine. And yours might too. Don’t let that stop you either.

happiness quotes

When I came across this quote, it reminded me of my commitment to myself to get right down to business and make something happen in my art journal on an almost daily basis.

It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. My kids demand a lot of me. My house will be a bloody mess unless I clean it. I never get enough sleep and could always use just a few extra minutes of rest. And this weekend, the weather was just too gorgeous to be tied down to a journal. But I can’t let these things stand in my way. They’re necessary, yes, but I search for pockets of time when my kids are playing independently, making art, or napping to jot down a quick sketch, collage, or visual reference to something I don’t want to forget.

how to use a sketchbook to boost creativity
by Nicky from Artful Genius

I thought I’d take a minute to share a variety of DPS entries to inspire you and further illuminate how motivating it can be to show up for something when there are others there to support your efforts.

Helen from Curly Birds drew this picture of her picking garden…the inspiration was found right in her backyard.

sketchbook drawing ideas
Please Grow Garden by Helen from Curly Birds

If you’ve been following my #tinkersketch journey on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that many of my DPS’s are imperfect, sketchy, and experimental. I’m not about perfection, but I do want to capture fleeting ideas and play with materials in a new way.

I love how Chelsey has taken on this challenge for herself and her daughter — in this example, they worked with similar materials (Cottonelle plastic bag) to create individually inspired pieces.

drawing ideas sketchbook
Mother + Daughter sketchbooks by Chelsey, @cmarashian at Instagram

The plan is to get the ideas out of your head and onto a page and create a visual record of experiences that you can refer back to at a later point. You may spend anywhere from three to twenty minutes (or more) on a DPS, and you shouldn’t worry about what the product will look like. This is about the process.

Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree took a risk and used the huge collection of her daughter’s stickers to build this stunning mandala. No drawing necessary for those of you who don’t think you can draw!

sketchbook drawing ideas
by Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

And what happens in this process? Some of your ideas may be crap, but crummy ideas can lead to other ideas that are fantastic. If you have a fear of making crap, you’ll make nothing at all and lose the possibility of getting to the good stuff. Simple as that.

And finally, if you don’t have a sketchbook, that’s fine too. Many of us have cameras and smart phones that can document our ideas drawn on napkins, the backs of receipts, or even hands. Maya, from Meme Tales, and her daughter created these delightful mendhi designs on their hands and then uploaded them to Instagram with the hashtag #tinkersketch.

mendhi doodle
by Maya from Meme Tales

This week’s DPS prompts:

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

  • Manipulate paper bags: paint, tear, collage
  • Draw only with straight lines
  • Make a map of a childhood place from memory
  • Set a Timer: Make a 3-minute painting
  • Pick one object from nature and repeat it into a pattern
  • Write for five minutes. Circle all the words that stand out. Color them in.
  • Make a picture with tape + one other material
  • Take inspiration from a children’s book

Do you have ideas for prompts?

The more ideas, the better! I’d love to share them, so go ahead and add them in a comment or tweet them with the hashtag #sketchstarter


  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Google+: Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch
  • Twitter: Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
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  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids


  1. i love seeing everyone’s sketchbooks! thank you for doing this, rachelle! you are always an inspiration! the *one* DPS i managed to do for your challenge was soooo much fun for me – my mind needs to get down to work again!!! 😉

    • I love seeing them too, and I’ve been inspired by the variety and good ideas. Your one DPS was beautiful and I hope you’ll do more. xo

  2. This is great! I love all the prompts. Sketchbooks have always been difficult for me because I’m not as into drawing as much and I think that is what I think I have to do in a sketchbook. This experience is really making me think of all the possibilities of what can go into a sketchbook. As a soon to be HS art teacher, this will be such a valuable experience to teach kids too. Thanks…I hope to keep up the whole summer!

    • Today Baby R smeared play dough all over my sketchbook and I actually thought, “hmmm, how can I incorporate that into a DPS?” I’m not always inclined to draw either, and your sticker mandala is a great example of how compelling an image can be in any media. I always thought that if I ever taught HS art, this would be an ongoing project that I’d definitely share with my students. Look forward to hearing more about how your journey unfolds!

  3. I feel so lucky… I found people who look what I do and who wants to share with me what they create (and nobody judges nobody creations), I can express myself, I delight with beautiful sketches, collages, compositions, paintings… I think about what (or most important… HOW) can i create something… some days it takes me 5 minutes and other days I spend about an hour… I create with my kids, alone, or with my dear husband playing his guitar… and because create something is the ONLY WAY to create. Maybe some of our #tinkersketch creations ar imperfect, as you say, but I love them because they are a present for myself. I am a proud confetti owner (and, al last, I recive free english lessons, too ;-D) So… thank you, Rachelle and my lovely #tinkersketchers.

    • And I’m so thrilled that you’re part of the Tinkersketch movement, Angelata (and a top #tinkersketcher to boot!). You’re absolutely right that the only way to be creative is to create. It won’t just happen by itself. After seeing so many of your drawings and creations these past two weeks, it’s really nice to know a little bit more about YOU! Look forward to more DPS magic and watching us all grow.

  4. Trying to find you on twitter?? @yummy_jen

    • I’m @tinkerlabtweets
      I’ll find you 🙂

  5. I have been tinkering a sketch everyday! It has done wonders for my creative process. I will share a few more as the challenge goes. I just didn’t want to bombard your wall with every single sketch. Thanks so much for creating this fun challenge!

    • This makes me so happy, Crystal! Don’t ever feel bad about plastering my wall — I really do love seeing all of the inspiration and sharing it with more people only fuels the fire!

  6. This reminds me of what sometimes happens at my son’s art group… the kids tire quickly of the project and the moms sit and chat and create while the kids play. It’s great!

    • That is so true, Lindsey. It would be fun to set up a grown-up art table while the kids play — why have I never done that?

    • Awesome, awesome, Amy. I would be honored to have you join us and can’t wait to follow your journey if you’re inclined to share. xoxo

  7. I hope it’s not too late to join in, I’ve got to get myself an art journal stat! This is just too cool!

    • Hi Carla,
      It’s not too late at all! This is an open call to play, tinker, sketch, and make whenever it works for you. Look forward to having you join us…stat!

  8. Thank you for sharing your ideas. I definitely want to start a sketchbook on a regular basis. I like the idea of the double page spread, as it encourages you to ignore the border of the middle of the book and therefore to think more creatively. You inspired me to do some oil pastel drawing with my 2 year old son. I used an old breakfast cereal box, cut it in half and we both had great fun drawing and talking about the colours we were using. There was an oval shaped indent in the cardboard that I used as a frame to draw some poppies.

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