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Mindful Drawing: The Mindful Sketchbook

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Someone drawing leaves in pencil

What is mindful drawing as opposed to any other type of drawing? What is a mindful sketchbook, as opposed to a normal sketchbook? And why should you have one?

In this article, I’ll explore what a mindful sketchbook is and what the benefits are of having one in your pocket or your bag at all times. We’ll also look at some ideas for taking up the practice of mindful drawing and what to expect from it.

What is a Mindful Sketchbook?

A mindful sketchbook can be any commercially available sketchbook that you can find in a stationery or an art supply shop. There are lots of designer ‘Mindful Sketchbooks’ on the market with fancy covers and the words ‘Mindful Sketchbook’ emblazoned across the cover, but you don’t need these. They’re expensive and apart from the words ‘Mindful Sketchbook’ on the cover, are just like any other sketchbook.

So how do you make an ordinary sketchbook into a mindful sketchbook?

A mindful sketchbook is an opportunity for you to slow down, enjoy nature’s beauty, and enrich your life through daily journaling as a tool for mindful self-exploration. Just one page a day of mindful drawing would be enough, but, by all means, do more!

Just 10 minutes of mindful drawing a day is an act of kindness towards yourself and help clear space in your mind that encourages new perspectives on the world around you. Taking up a mindful drawing practice will help you slow down, relax, and embrace your creativity.

If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unable to focus, or suffering from anxiety mindful drawing is a powerful method that you could use to help you find peace of mind and calmness in the middle of any chaotic or stressful situation.

Picking up a pen or a pencil and doing some mindful drawing will help you to get focused on the sounds, smells, feelings, and sights that you are experiencing right here in the moment.

There are lots of benefits from mindful drawing, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving your ability to focus, and developing your feelings of compassion and kindness. It’ll also change how you see the world.

Do you need to be good at art?

Artist working on a painting

No, you don’t! A mindful sketchbook is for you to own your own experience in the moment. Connect to your creativity and let whatever flows from your pencil or pen, simply happen, naturally and organically.

Be willing to accept, without judgement, imperfections: lines that are wonky, proportions all over the place, and lack of symmetry. Mindfulness is a practice that requires a total lack of judgement and simple acceptance of whatever is, in the moment. Being free in this way will allow you to make a deeper connection to everything around you. Enjoy the journey of creation rather than falling into judgements about how you can’t draw or how bad the finished result is. Art for mindfulness is a journey of free-flowing exploration.

Practical Tips

· Firstly, be mindful of how you are sitting to draw. Perhaps take a deep breath in for five seconds and then breathe out slowly for five seconds and repeat this a few times. This will help your mind to settle and your body to relax.

· When you select whatever it is you’re going to draw with, just take a moment to focus on how you hold it. How is your grip? Tight or loose? What happens if you change it or hold the pen/pencil in some other way… perhaps further away from or closer to the drawing point?

· Try to work slowly. Although I am used to working at a frenetic speed when I draw, I’ve discovered the sheer joy of drawing slowly, mindfully, and with abandon, giving up my normal judgemental approach to my work. It’s a good idea to pay attention to the attributes of the drawing material you’re working with. Can you sense the movement of the pen/pencil/pastel etc. as it glides across the surface? Can you get an intuitive feel for the marks it’s making? Can you appreciate the slickness of an oil pastel as it glides across the paper as opposed to charcoal which has a much rougher quality about it?

· Can you ‘take a line for a walk’ across the surface of the paper and allow that line to explore the space without you guiding or making decisions over where it should go next?

· Try to make marks of different qualities. Long lines, short lines, fat lines, thin lines, jagged lines, and smooth lines. Circles, loops of various kinds.

· If you wish you can journal your thoughts and feelings during the drawing process with your non-dominant hand. Again, do this without judgement of the mark-making process. Allow your writing to flow just as you allow the drawing to flow.

· Make a point of noticing the marks that appear on the surface. Can you see when the marks skip, get darker or lighter, overlap, and form shapes and patterns?

· Can you also get a sense of how your body feels while you are in the process of drawing and when you cease drawing? Is your body tense, relaxed, or loose? What is going on with your emotions also?

Painting by Wassily Kandinsky


You might like to try producing a drawing inspired by music. What happens to your drawing if you are playing a song that you really like or one that you don’t like? Does the sound affect the line in any way? When playing the music, place the drawing point on the surface and allow the line to wander around the page and change direction, creating shapes that are inspired by or dictated by the sound that you are hearing. Keep going until the song or piece of music ends. In this exercise, you’re ‘taking a line for a walk’ that is inspired by music. Perhaps we should say you are ‘taking a line for a dance’!

Blind Portrait

This is one of my favourite practices. Try to draw a portrait of someone that you can see in front of you. If there is no one you can use a photograph or just use your own reflection in a mirror to work from.

Place your drawing point on the paper and begin to draw your portrait, but you must not at any point look down at your drawing. Keep your eyes focused on your subject the entire time and allow the drawing to unfold as it traces the shapes and forms that your eyes see. Try to focus on the connection between your eye and your pencil/pen.

Emotional Drawing

Can you allow a line to express whatever emotion you are feeling? What does a line look like that expresses happiness? Sadness? Excitement? Anger? Fill the page with lines that express your emotions.

Emotions and Silhouettes

Draw a silhouette or outline of yourself. Feel free to work from a photograph or from your reflection in a mirror. Fill the inside of the portrait with words that describe how you feel and what you’re thinking about. Can you be aware of these without judging them? Then once you’ve finished filling the silhouette image with words, can you surround it with lines and shapes that represent whatever emotions you are feeling?

Abstract painting

In Conclusion

There are lots of ways of approaching mindful art. Play around with the concept yourself and have fun. It can be difficult to get past our judgemental mind about what good art looks like and how we personally measure up to that but try to let this judging mindset go. The one biggest block you have that could be preventing you from being a successful and phenomenally creative artist is the stories you tell yourself about your own abilities. Just let go and let your drawing flow.

Do yourself and your mental health a favour and keep a mindful sketchbook with you at all times.

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