Sketchbook Journaling

In light of the recent popularity of artist coloring books it behooves us to take another look at an artistic expression that has been around for a lot longer and has also seen a recent resurgence: sketchbook journaling.

Having worked at Cheap Joe’s for over twenty years I have had ample opportunity to collect and fill up my share of sketchbooks. They are an odd assortment of thoughts and pictures that span two decades of my life. That’s the beauty of journaling: when you look back you wonder how you ever had the time to do it all. Journaling is inch by inch and not mile by mile. Each entry or drawing collects a moment in time and over the years that kind of dedication certainly adds up.

The instructor in our workshop this week is Leslie Fehling teaching a full class entitled “Sketchbook Journaling Comes to Life!” Every student is excited about being here and learning more about turning their everyday sketchbook into an illustrated journal of their life.

Leslie was able to take a few minutes away to talk with us about sketchbook journaling.


CJAS: Let’s say I am interested in sketchbook journaling. What do I need in order to get started?

LF: First of all, you need a sketchbook. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. I would recommend starting small, something like a 7” by 7” or 5 ½ x 8 ½ because it takes less time to fill a page. You need something to draw with and there is nothing wrong with just using a #2 pencil although I have found that a mechanical pencil is much easier to use. I would also recommend a beginner paint set, something portable and simple. Most of my sketches are done with an ink line and I like the Pigma Micron 01 size pen. It is waterproof and can be water -colored over. Some basic synthetic watercolor brushes are also a good way to start. A travel brush set is really handy. I also recommend a little piece of screen for spattering. That is pretty much the basic starter kit.

CJAS: Are there resources out there that would help me get started as well?

LF: I have some tutorials on my website,, that would help. I always recommend a wonderful book on sketchbook journaling by Cathy Johnson called “Artist Journal Workshop”. It’s fantastic. There is also one by Danny Gregory called the “Creative License”. Both books have inspired me and both are very encouraging. They follow the “start where you are” theme. There are also some online resources that can be used as well. My recommendation is not to spend to much time reading books or watching videos; it is better to sketch and the techniques you need to create will come along.

CJAS: What is your process for creating a page in your sketchbook?

LF: Generally, I will do a pencil drawing and block in the large shapes of my subject. This only takes me a minute or two. After that I will go back over that with my pen and do as much drawing as I want to or have time for. Then I go over this with watercolor. I really like to do this as much on sight as possible because I think this way adds a vibrancy and a life to that is lost when you are painting from a reference photo. If I can’t finish onsite I will snap and photo and use that as a reference later.














































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    […] recently hosted a full class taught by Leslie Fehling ( that was all about sketchbook journaling. And while she did cover some drawing and watercolor […]

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