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.
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).
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.
Now, “flesh out” those lines with your pencil. The lines will transform into “branches” that are 2-3 mm wide.
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!
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.
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.
Continue to trace over your pencil draft until you’ve inked over everything.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks so much for reading, and I’m wishing you a peaceful, healthy weekend!