Illustrators' Sketchbooks: Inside the Creative Processes of 60 Iconic and Emerging Artists

Image of Illustrators' Sketchbooks: Inside the Creative Processes of 60 Iconic and Emerging Artists
Release Date: 
October 17, 2023
Chronicle Books
Reviewed by: 

“be ready to be inspired by what dreams, doodles, desires, and destinations start to show up.”

People who draw must draw somewhere, on something. It is quite common for people who draw to do so in a private space where they can collect their thoughts or get as far away from thoughts as possible to wander unhindered. The sketchbook is a natural space for dreams, doodles, desires, and destinations to be captured at a moment’s notice. Over time, with entry upon entry, a sketchbook takes on a voice with a personality of its own.

In Illustrators’ Sketchbooks, Salisbury pulls some powerhouse personalities from this strictly personal and private space into the public arena. The collection, 60 strong, is enough to inspire even those who consider themselves creatively challenged. The sketchbook is the place to put anything from stick figures and scribbles to cut out scrapbook-esque ephemera. From abstract ideas, colors, or shapes, to fully developed compositions, a sketchbook is ready to receive it all.

One immensely helpful aspect of this collection is the sheer variety of ways in which different people have used the sketchbook as a tool. Some folks use one book at a time and put all manner of project ideas, journal entries, and bits and scraps of drawing in a more or less stream of consciousness chronology. Others segment out into multiple books for each category of interest keeping plein-air drawings separate from storyboard thumbnails, for instance.

Some artists keep a sketchbook at their side always, while others only revert back to them when they are searching for a new angle or a design solution to a nagging problem. Others use some sketchbooks for personal reasons and other books for professional reasons. Some have shelves and shelves of sketchbooks in their studio and others just a few. Some handmake their own books, others buy specialty books from locations of their travels. The sky is the limit; there is no right way to do it.  

To those tentative souls on the fence about using a sketchbook or too shy to even entrust their creative output to paper, Illustrators’ Sketchbooks seems to extend them a customized blessing: “Permission to experiment granted, now get on with it,” the books shouts out. What better way to connect with one’s inner artist than to be told this by the likes of Quentin Blake, Jean de Brunhoff, Katsushika Hokusai, Beatrix Potter, Charles Tunnicliffe, and of course our venerable author, Martin Salisbury. Indeed, plenty of examples of the next generation of artist/illustrators swell these pages to bursting.

One reviewer commented that this book is extremely necessary and they hoped for it to be turned into a series. In complete agreement with that sentiment, one might add to it that it’s critical to see the practices and the false starts that creative people also produce. They try and try and try again, and the sketchbook is the place to practice. Like watching a gymnast do a tumbling routine over and over, all day, for months at a time, building up skills year after year before competing in the Olympics. Often, spectators only see the Olympics performance with no reference to the preparatory work. In art’s case, people often see just the published material and assume that it all came upon the pages naturally and spontaneously. Sketchbooks are proof that drawing takes commitment and nurturing to wiggle a way through to its best version.

Illustrators’ Sketchbooks is a beautiful, likable book and easy to justify keeping on hand. Pick up a sketchbook too, while you’re at it, and see what there is to uncover. Inspire, inspire, inspire. Definitely be ready to be inspired by what dreams, doodles, desires, and destinations start to show up.