• A “Processing It All” Sketchbook Page (June 2020)

    The olive branch is an international symbol for peace, which is why I chose it as the theme of today’s sketchbook page tutorial. It’s my hope that creating artwork like this will help you to reflect and recalibrate, which is exactly what it did for me.

    A "Processing It All" Sketchbook Page (June 2020)
    Creating this sketchbook page helped me to process everything that’s gone on the past few days. My hope is that making something like it can do the same for you.

    When I was a junior in high school (2006), everyone in my class had a history assignment. You picked a year, then you made some sort of project over everything that happened that year. I chose 1973, and as I created my project — an illustrated handmade book — I couldn’t help but notice how chaotic and dramatic all of the events seemed. Watergate, hostages at Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War coming to an end … it was a lot.

    Richard Nixon
    This was my spread over President Nixon.

    As I created that project as a highschooler, I was interested in the history, but I also felt detached. All of the events had happened so long ago that it seemed unfathomable to run into those world-changing situations again. The kinds of events and changes that bowl you over seemed to be something that occurred with regularity in the past, not something that I’d ever personally experience. Then, 2020 rolled around, and this past week knocked the wind out of me (and the rest of the world).

    Vietnam Wa
    This is another spread honing in on the Vietnam War.

    1. Processing It All: Making a Pencil Draft

    TPK has always had one focus: helping you to flourish through creative expression. To wrap my own head around what’s going on in the world, I decided to make an olive branches-themed sketchbook motif. I’m going to show you how to make one today in the hope that doing so helps you, too. First, begin by drawing a series of organic, connected lines in pencil.

    Olive Branch Draft
    Feel free to use the same line positioning that I did here.

    Now, “flesh out” those lines with your pencil. The lines will transform into “branches” that are 2-3 mm wide.

    Olive Branch Draft
    Try to taper each branch at its end. This will give the finished art a more realistic look.

    Next, use your pencil to draw several olive leaves, a few olives, and a couple of stunted offshoots that connect to the branches. Olive leaves are easy to draw: they’re slender and remind me of a cat’s eye or a super elongated football. Give all of your leaves different angles and space them out generously!

    Olive Branch Draft
    You can work from this example to draw your olive leaves, or you can look up a photo of a real olive tree for inspiration.

    2. Add Text to the Leaves

    At this point, you’ll add tiny text to the leaves. The words that I chose reflect everything that’s going on this month.

    Olive Branch Draft
    You’ll find that writing these words gives you an opportunity to reflect on your thoughts.

    3. Add Ink to Your Sketchbook Page

    Now, use a straight pen, a Nikko G nib, and waterproof ink to trace over your pencil draft. It’s important to use waterproof ink because we’ll go over the ink with watercolor in the next step! If you’re afraid of using a dip pen, Muji gel pens are a good waterproof substitute.

    Adding Ink to the Sketchbook Page
    The Nikko G is the best nib to use for this project because its medium flex allows you to write tiny text.

    Continue to trace over your pencil draft until you’ve inked over everything.

    Inking the Sketchbook Page
    I added a little bit of Kaitlin Style calligraphy on the bottom right to record the date.

    4. Add Watercolor

    Once your ink has dried, use a light green watercolor and a small brush (size 00 is good) to paint over the leaves. Then, use any brown tone of watercolor to paint the branches.

    Adding Watercolor to the Sketchbook Page

    Finish up the watercolor part by filling in the olives with black or watercolor. Remember: olives are circular, so you’ll want to shade them accordingly! (See Painting with Watercolors for Beginners.) Then, use a dark shade of green to add some depth to your leaves. Finally, go back over various parts of your branch with more of the same brown watercolor to represent shadows.

    Adding Watercolor to the Sketchbook Page

    5. Give it a Touch of Gold

    Everything that’s happened lately hasn’t been neat and clean, and I thought it was important for this sketchbook page to reflect that withs some paint spatters. If you’d like to add this final gold touch, use your Nikko G nib and gold watercolor to draw more leaves (and leaf outlines) that connect to the branch. Once you finish the leaves, soak a size 3-ish paintbrush in your gold watercolor. Then, use your finger to flick the bristles a few times, spraying gold paint over the page.

    A "Processing It All" Sketchbook Page (June 2020)
    If you’re not sure how to use gold watercolor with a dip pen, see this article. I wanted an almost-copper tone for this project, so I used Tibet Gold from the Finetec Golds palette.

    Right now, we are grappling with an overwhelming amount and magnitude of issues. Making a sketchbook page isn’t going to fix any of these issues, but creating one can help you to respond intentionally and thoughtfully to what’s going on around you. That’s why I decided to write this tutorial, and I sincerely hope that it helps you in some small way to navigate the world today!

    A "Processing It All" Sketchbook Page (June 2020)

    Thanks so much for reading, and I’m wishing you a peaceful, healthy weekend!


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