The Sketchbook Project and Perfectionism (Online art lesson #50)

Weekly Art Lesson: Your Online Oasis for Fearless Drawing and Painting

Proceeding with Imperfections:   Subscribers received a version of this post with gobbledegook instead of words because I accidentally published when I meant to save a draft.   When starting a post, I  run my fingers on the keyboard to create stand-in  lines of type.   Then I place the photos.  That is the point when I  must have pressed publish.

My embarrassment inspired a change in concept for this lesson; we all make mistakes and fear big mistakes. Occasionally we need to contemplate our perfectionism.  Of course we want to do our very best, but perfectionism is a great crippler of creative expression… you can’t express yourself if you are obsessed with having things perfect.

Lillian Kennedy, sketchbook project, In Ten Minutes

Lillian Kennedy's sketchbook on the theme of "In Ten Minutes"

The Sketchbook Project!  got people around the world creating and thinking about creating.  Knowing that our books would travel for a year and then be archived at the Brooklyn Art Library made all of us need to consider our level of  perfectionism.

We will visit the Sketchbook Show in April as part of The Spring New York City Plein Air Painting and Museum trip

Participants could select from a list of themes or have a theme randomly chosen for them.  I chose “In Ten Minutes” thinking that this theme would be a possible antidote to my issues with perfectionism.  If you suffer from perfectionism, look for ways to have the system help you function – this theme allowed me to imagine a casual response.  Having a deadline and not starting too early led me to be productive with my time and to give up fussing about small things.

Breathtaking sketchbooks are already in the collection.   My goal became to hold the faith and see the project through doing my best without driving myself crazy.  I didn’t set my sights on “breathtaking”; the bar seemed high enough just to get the book sent in by the deadline.

Click on any illustration to enlarge it.

Lillian Kennedy, coffee shop drawing, sketchbook project, in ten minutes

Coffee shop sketches embrace the movements of the people. They aren't meant to be the ultimate art.

Lillian Kennedy, sketchbook project, "In Ten Minutes", drawing in doctor's office waiting roo

In Ten Minutes we can all look a bit more closely at something wherever we happen to be.








The paper in the books was so thin that even a firm pencil mark could show through to the other side.  Many people replaced the pages.  Some people turned the whole thing into elaborate pop-up books, I kid you not.   I decided to enjoy the thin crinkly paper – it helped to reduce  tension / perfectionism.  What could be expected in ten minutes on low grade paper?  My book became a series of ideas to inspire others to create by using cheap paper and ten minute blocks of time.  It evolved as I went.  I wanted to communicate that you can USE a sketchbook and not make it precious.  Embrace coffee stains, try out ideas… explore and express.

Margaret Bobb  created Moose the Goose, an illustrated children’s book, to carry her chosen theme, “Travel With Me”.  Margaret is interested in this field and used the project as an opportunity to

Margaret Bobb, Moose the Goose, sketchbook project, "Travel with Me"

Margaret Bobb, Moose the Goose, sketchbook project, "Travel with Me"

practice her skills and get used to having her books seen by the world.  Her sketchbook became a mock up of a finished book.   As she coped with the paper quality and time constraints, she adjusted her level of polish always staying reasonable.


Margaret Bobb, Moose the Goose, sketchbook project, "Travel with Me"

Margaret Bobb, Moose the goose meets Goose the Moose




Tisha Wood’s theme “Underground” was randomly selected for her.   A few days before the deadline and still holding a blank sketchbook, she stopped considering all the possibilities and returned to what had been her first instinctive response.

In the oblique “don’t ask, don’t tell” manner of existing by expressing through riddles, she tackled the issue of patriotic gay men and women who serve in the military but must remain hidden.

Tisha Wood, sketchbook project, "Underground"

Tisha Wood, sketchbook project, "Underground"

Tisha Wood, sketchbook project, "Underground"

Tisha Wood, sketchbook project, "Underground"









She selected a  style that confuses and masks and thereby resembles the underground state of these service people. This style also contained built in allowances for imperfections.

YOU can join this project  next year!  It is an opportunity to develop and share your passion (note how in the three featured books each artist had a completely different passion to communicate).

Does perfectionism stop you?  Leave a comment.

If you want to see the complete books, they will be scanned and available online in the future through the Brooklyn Art Library.



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4 Responses to The Sketchbook Project and Perfectionism (Online art lesson #50)

  1. Wow! …so beautifully expressed, Lillian! Thank you for sharing this post. I have discovered that Art House Coop has a site that is sort of like Facebook for artists–and anyone–who would like to sign up and peruse the artists on the site. Here is my page:

    I put up a few pics from my sketchbook, but the book itself has not been scanned yet. I think it will take a few more weeks. I LOVED working on this project. It felt soooo great to make the deadline, too!

    As for perfectionism, yes, I have had to learn to deal with that in my life’s journey. I first realized that I was a perfectionist when I was in 5th grade and working in a group on some sort of project that required drawings. I wanted to do them all, so that they would be “right.” I realized then, that I had hurt some of the other children’s feelings. That made me stop and understand that people are more important than perfect little pictures. Upon reflection, I am glad I learned to start dealing with my perfectionism early-on in my life. I have really learned to let some stuff go! Maybe that’s a good thing?! …in other situations, maybe not… Hmmm….now you have me thinking–am I still a perfectionist? Hmmmm…

  2. tisha says:

    Thank you for expressing so beautifully in words the journey that I have taken with the sketchbook project. The experience has been awakening and fascinating for me as an artist, connecting to so many in the virtual world and sharing with such inspiring soles is invaluable.
    Thank you Lillian Kennedy
    My Sheppard My mentor and friend

  3. thevaliantx says:

    Hi Tisha! I have mentioned this article over on, thinking it might be as enlightening to others as it has been to me. I am struggling with perfectionism, greatly, and am hoping that the 10 minute drill is something that will help get me past some things in my artistic journey.

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