Sketchbook Starters – Filling a Sketchbook with Ideas

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A list of ideas to encourage students to work on their own sketchbooks. This is a good jumping off point for teachers and students who wish to try creating sketchbooks during the school year.

By Eileen Urbanski [Eileen is a teacher at Eagle & Union Elementary in Zionsville, IN]


Students will understand what being an artist means and demonstrate this through:

The use of a sketchbook to record their ideas.

Students will be:

  • drawing from their imaginations
  • drawing from real life objects
  • using “how to draw” instructional resources

The creation of their own Art Book (portfolio).

Students will create:

  • several pictures about famous artists
  • paintings/drawings using new materials like pastels, oil crayons, paint
  • drawings/paintings using new techniques like crayon rubbing, pointillism, computer art, printmaking

What You Need:

  • Sketchbooks
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Craypas®
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Printing ink pad and stamps
  • Watercolor
  • 12×18 paper
  • Plastic binding combs
  • Tagboard

Resources/Books Used

What You Do:

Big Idea:

Everyone is an artist – it is our very special skill! Out of all the creatures on the earth only humans possess the ability to be artists!


  1. Ask the students if they know what a sketchbook is and ask if any of them have one at home.
  2. Discuss how an artist uses a sketchbook.
  3. Discuss how they will use a sketchbook.
  4. Tell the students that because some of them work fast (rabbits) and some work slow (turtles), everyone will be getting a sketchbook to use for the rest of the year in art class. Tell them that It is used whenever there is extra time in art – if they finish their work before other students. It is a special place just for their art ideas!

Day 1:

  1. After Intro, read the book Drawing Lessons from a Bear.
  2. Have the students say out loud “I AM AN ARTIST!”
  3. Hand out sketchbooks and give the following assignments:
    • Draw a picture of yourself on the cover (this is a self-portrait) and write your name and grade on it.
    • Draw one picture inside using your imagination.
    • Draw one picture inside from a “how to draw” book (students can look through the books you have on hand).

Day 2

    1. Read the book – The Artist.
    2. Write a list of jobs that an artist can do on the white board.

Assignment (in the sketchbooks):

    • Draw a beautiful sunrise
    • Draw a rainbow
    • Draw anything you wish (free choice)

Day 3:

    1. Read the book – Hands Growing Up to Be An Artist
    2. Enjoy the format of the book.

Discussion (talk about the following):

      • How the family works on hobbies/projects at home.
      • Talk about how the students will be creating their own Art Book. Emphasize that it will take a while to do each picture, but when they are done, they will be able to take it home and show everyone what they learned.
      • Talk about famous artists’ paintings.
      • Talk about materials like pastels, oil crayons, paint.
      • Talk about new techniques, pointillism, computer art, printing.


    • Make a picture inside the sketchbook using a new material.

Day 4-8

Activity/Vocabulary Ideas for the Sketchbook:

  • Van Gogh – Starry Night Crayon Rubbing, Markers, Expressive, Texture, Brushstrokes [lesson plan here]
  • Edvard Munch – The Scream Oil Pastel, Crayons, Bold Colors, Movement, Emotion [lesson plan here]
  • Piet Mondrian Compostion in R-Y B – Paint, Primary Colors, Shape, Line [lesson plan here]
  • Leonardo DaVinci – Mona Lisa Watercolor, Crayons, Portrait, Depth (showing near and far)
  • George Seurat – Sunday Afternoon In the Park Marker, Dots, Computer Pointillism, Landscape [lesson plan here]
  • Wassily Kandinsky – Improvisation Printing, Non-Objective [lesson plan here]


Continue to come up with ideas for the sketchbook. When the school year is complete, students can take the books home and share with family and friends.

Also See:

The Art Book – Portfolio Assessment