The goal of this series is to give readers a longform, bird’s eye view of different kinds of journaling habits, techniques, and DIY supplies – with a mind on thriftiness, minimalism, and easy adaptability to your needs!

Welcome & Introductory Housekeeping

Hi! If you don’t already know me, you can call me Bird. For years now I have been mentally writing a book on ‘how to keep a blank-book habit’. This series of articles is intended to build into an e-book once I get the content worked out in blog format, which I will continue to edit while it’s live.

One of my quirks is that I loathe watching instructional videos and much prefer to read my non-fiction instead. If you’re like that too, this is for you. If not, I do plan to make a “Too Long; Didn’t Read” (tl;dr) printable sheet called “Doodle Soup” for folks who glaze over in the face of so much text.

While doing research to understand what else might be available along the same lines of such a popular subject as “journaling,” I found there are many helpful blog articles, videos, and books available to tell you how to make things the way the author does. How does my own goal to write a how-to book differ from the other choices out there?

Well, although my writing will frequently be anecdotal (and verbose until after many edits), my real goal is to facilitate *your* personal interests in a regular analogue creative habit, by touring you around the broad spectrum of how folks keep personal blank books and how you can make your own and fill them up your way. I am a big fan of DIY (do it yourself) ethos and I’m also a tree-hugging penny-pincher; so my suggestions will tend to reflect this status rather than promote a ton of professional grade products that you don’t really need.

Journal Keeping 101

Art school revealed to me that I am a very process-oriented person, I’m typically less driven by “finishing” a creation and more interested in experimentation and studying the structure of how (and why!) as its own artistic practice. I have a lot to share from my long friendship with paper; as with many relationships, this one has included struggles, surprises, and tons of fun.


What is a journal? The word itself comes from French and literally means “daily.”

Drawing and writing are both skills best practiced every day for optimal return. The scale of how much effort you will yourself to put in is bound to fluctuate over time and that’s okay; if you are rigid in your goals and that’s what drives you – that’s cool too, just be nice to yourself. The more often you practice, the quicker you will become at various skills, so a similar given chunk of time in the future might be way more productive than when you first start out.

Aside from an occasional and regretful hiatus, daily drawing in a pet book has been part of my own self-care regimen since I was nine years old (I’m 30 years old as of this writing). My drawing habits have also extended to now lost digital formats and many lost individual sheets. Likewise, my writing papers and digital files are mostly gone forever. That’s okay, though, because I learned from all that effort – including how to archive ideas worth revisiting.

The Basics

Folks typically keep a “journal” by gradually filling the pages in a blank book in chronological order.

Now, this may seem pretty darn obvious, but if you bear with my gross generalizations you might become a genuine “cross-disciplinarian” like me. That is, someone who remains flexible enough to tailor portions of seemingly unrelated practices into their own creative habits, or can otherwise find useful similarities among apparently unrelated subjects.

How might you keep a book differently than simple chronological order, even as the days march after one another?

Consider thinking of your sketch book as a pet that you bring with you everywhere and feed by filling up its pages. You can incorporate writing into your drawing journal or vice-versa, either way it is a classic “key-stone skill.” This is the title given to habits that support a person’s ability to uphold further habits and responsibilities.

Your particular approach to keeping a special book will vary in its effectiveness in your life. You should learn to be honest with yourself to notice what seems to help you and what’s actually fun; versus other motivations that seem good on the surface but might be unhealthy deep-down, that make you feel worse because they aren’t a good fit for *you.*

A regular, private, drawing and/or writing habit of any kind can allow a familiar space to practice accepting ourselves as we are, even if life outside your book seems overly dynamic. When we practice moving beyond perfectionism and chronic comparison-itis we can make room for what’s important. Your journal is meant to be your safe place and as such, it is what you will make of it. One word written, that’s writing. One series of marks on the page, that’s drawing.

practice moving beyond

chronic comparison-itis

For me, it’s obvious how useful it’s been to always keep a blank book available for my emotional expression and idea development. This is more than doubly true for those times when I felt really low-down and in the medication-grade dumps.

I have often gently forced myself to confront a blank page even when I didn’t feel up to it, as doing so creates an accumulation of attempts which are physical validation of effort. The accomplishment of a finished book, in itself, becomes a pick-me-up that can help repair a downward cycle.

In future articles I will share specific exercises to play with. For now, you should know that even writing your name and contact info into your book is a great starting point.

“Write what you know.” + Draw what you see…

Three Instant Still-life Subjects

#shoedoodles should be a bigger trend, because shoes are omni-present and make great still-life subjects, full of details to choose to draw or ignore depending on your intent. Hands and feet, also always available to observe – and not so hard to draw if you forget what these interesting objects are and describe the shadows and weird lines.

Getting Social… or not…

As for the trendy (and overwhelming!) practice of sharing sketchbooks online, I do not suggest that you share your books (at least at first). Intentionally spending private time with a purely self-guided journaling initiative can directly replace mindless social media interaction, the kind of distraction that is the goal of apps that are built to be addictive (to sell ads).

A great power offered by regular writing and drawing is in working through what is on your mind (and journaling frequently can help you find out what *is* on your mind, below all the surface chatter). No need to bog down this process by additionally worrying about what others might be interested in you creating during this special time too.

If you are interested in sharing work on instant-media, consider making work specifically for this audience rather than pulling directly from your special journal. Mindfulness is key, intentionality and otherwise maintaining a privacy around intimate entries will keep this initiative safe. You do not have to share everything you make, at all. Most people who have awesome instagram art sharing feeds make a ton of other art that they don’t share for whatever reason.

That said, to each their own motivations. There are lots of options on how to get feedback about your technique for personal growth; to that kind of sharing, I say “yay!”

Everyone is an artist! (If they do the work.)

Keep in mind, most people have “talent” in bucket-loads. And in truth, it is the active discipline to continue to make art: the ability to endure or even enjoy facing failure and the willingness to accept the smallest victories along the way toward an as yet unknowable eventuality. That spirit will allow you to reap the many benefits of maintaining a life-long creative habit. It’s like any exercise – you just gotta do it, starting with where you are now.

“Doodling is a mental multi-vitamin.”

Eric Wolinsky, graphic designer

Why Journal?

Some motivations are:

  • to record, or archive events and ideas

  • to plan ahead

  • to better understand complexities

  • as active memory bank for frequent reviews

  • to develop an idea or specific skill

Today many things are digital and exist only with a peripheral device which needs recharging and much effort can simply disappear into the mists of obsolescence (RIP Myspace). The basic analogue nature of drawing can be taken into the realm of 1’s and 0’s with digital drawing devices or scanning, or exist only in the tactile realm of physical reality.

Journaling is a timeless effort particular to the keeper and their intentions and differs in effect from a similar drawing or writing habit that takes place on single sheets as it is bound and creates distinct, somewhat magical, objects.

Although usually filled in linear chronological order, there are common instances of other ways to arrange entries. Chief among these are methods of incorporating individual sheets and other creative miscellany into a special, designated, bound book.

What is your motivation to write and/or draw on paper daily?

If you are already engaged in a journal practice, is there anything you like to change about the way you approach this work? When starting anew, you can consider how to incorporate familiar aspects of what you already might do as a seed, to more easily grow your habit in what may be a new format better fit for your needs.

What is a commonplace book?

A “commonplace book” is an historical type of journal which serves as the designated book into which a keeper jots down a favorite quote from a book or pastes a clipping from a newspaper article. It is a personalized repository for that which is considered by the book-keeper to be worthy of future reference.

[author’s note: an edit is due to this article, as more recent research into the subject reveals that the following better describes the practice of keeping a “miscellany” book than a commonplace book. Will edit later. 11-20-2019]

Often, entries include annotations or the keeper’s response to the inscription. Think “Creative Memories” brand of scrap booking, circa the era of dip-pens and candle light. Thankfully, the idea of the commonplace book is very much alive and well closer to its original, simple form – far removed from the high cost of entry associated with the heavily branded archival-quality photo-scrap-album company mentioned above.

Today it is simple enough to have a list of bookmarked websites and fulfill a the desire for cataloging resources to revisit, in the much the same way a commonplace book might have served as a quote repository for historic readers. However, the analogue nature of writing in a physical book forces an additional level of filtration between which facts or portions of ideas you fancy worth revisiting later on.

Consider that these carefully arranged tidbits might be worth others seeing them collected together long after you have left the mortal realm. That is one of the many fun things about paper and also the intention of the aforementioned high-quality/archival-grade scrap book; given the right conditions, books can long outlast their makers.

I mention the traditional commonplace book here as a thought for an additional way to approach maintaining a sketchbook, say of reusing scrap papers and assembling successful doodles or renderings into some portion of your special book, rather than having a single linear sketchbook which generally requires being stuck with the same kind of paper. This refined scrap book is also where you might place printed photographs of impromptu arrangements of ‘things’ or of drawings in the sand or on other ephemeral substrates.

Of note is the potential of a modular approach to paper use and various levels of organization possible with a “commonplace book.” You might even just have a simple acid-free box to stack your tidbits into. I often list “gravity” when thinking of common bonding methods, but there are other basic levels of user-friendliness that you could add to the system aside from binding.

Reference volumes are much friendlier to their purpose when there is an index, and this applies to a do-it-yourself reference volume, too. Page numbers and a list at the beginning can do the trick, or using a binder with dividers might work better if you’re a re-arranger type, even using folders instead of punching holes in things. You could also use washi-tape to mount bits to larger sheets punched to receive the binding mechanism.

Bullet Journal = BuJo

A journal can be a log of observational studies, of notes related to external research or internal goings-on purely imagined. A person can have multiple journals specific to distinct thought processes or working conditions.

Many folks like to have one book to rule them all: the Bullet Journal.

If you haven’t already tried the method for yourself, you may have heard people rave about their bujo or seen more than your fair share of folks’ various elaborate images on social media.

The basic idea of the bullet journal harkens to the simplicity of the “Hipster PDA”, a term which was coined by ultimate organizational blogger-guy and nerdy bad ass Merlin Mann to describe a stack of index cards held together with a binderclip. Designer Ryder Carrol’s Bullet Journal came later and is a *bit* more complex than that, though one of the tricks to using the method successfully may be in maintaining a minimalist approach fit for a simple stack of cards.

This is the basic idea of a bujo: a personal blank-book with numbered pages to help the user manage a series of lists. At the front of the book, the user must maintain an index of the pages that follow in the book. This aspect allows you to quickly go to wherever in the book you were when you wrote about something, and also allows the user to avoid having to pre-determine how many pages will be taken up with any given project managed within.

A most basic bullet journal would allow space for daily and/or ongoing lists of very intentionally chosen tasks, the bullet point for each of which is in itself a code for the current stage of the listed operation. An arrow, for instance, denotes that a task has been migrated to a different list, and has literally been rewritten on the list associated with a future day in this simple instance.

This system is meant for planning purposes and is intended to contain a future log, monthly log, and daily log, all of which are added to as necessary. These are all “collections”, but not the only collections possible. Any lists you choose to maintain become additional collections to be catalogued in the index for easy retrieval when needed.


Beyond this, the potentials get pretty extreme, but only because it’s such a flexible method. So you literally have a list of your lists, which as an active bullet journaler, might extend across multiple books, wherein a note in your hand-written index might include “continued from X Bullet Journal pp.3-4, 66-78”. Some folks cut out lists from one book to migrate into a new one, others would never-ever consider that and instead re-write every list still currently applicable to a new blank book when the former fills up.

The hand-written aspect of this migration process is meant to demand intentionality and focus from the user. Ryder’s version of a hand-written calendar seems to be just a vertical list of days per month, and all task type entries, appointments and descriptive notes throughout the book are kept super brief. This aspect makes it much easier to “migrate” important lists into a new empty book when your last one runs out of pages and also ensures that there is minimal fluff in the way of information retrieval.

Lists and goals are meant to be reviewed, people!

Folks hand-write or print-out/paste-in calendars in different formats to suite their taste, and to fit the real issue of how much space you actually need for each type of entry as a planner book and more. This can get out of hand pretty darn quick when the act of making a planner becomes an all consuming creative effort, as can be seen if you search for images of bujo’s – which I do not recommend because they are frequently crazy lavish and it’s a massive rabbit hole that can distract you from the effort at hand: organization, focus, purposefulness unique to you. *

* If you want inspiration on how to get into complex bullet journal style goal tracker visualizations and what not, I recommend finding a specific bujo blogger and reading their advice. Kim at does a great job at explaining the system and her blog is a great resource on the subject, simple or complex.


I do bujo! My bullet points are empty check-boxes next to each action item and a triangle next to any appointments or deadlines. This simple technique means both my partner and I can keep an eye out for this easy-to-decipher code on any scraps of paper even when they aren’t associated with my dedicated planner book. Further coding: A dot goes in the center of the box when a task is in progress, and it gets colored solid when complete, or becomes an arrow if migrated. The simple vertical list of dates per month is a godsend for me because it hacks past my dyslexia that is otherwise flared-up by a grid style calendar.

Many people in comments on bujo blogs speak about how they typically just use a planner or running list in regular life, but that bullet journals really show their worth when working on big, all-consuming life-projects like remodeling a house or planning something complicated. If you are always juggling lots of lists this system might be for you, regardless of how it functions within a greater creative journaling habit.

People really do rave about how much their bullet journals have helped organize functionality back into their lives, allowing room for something seemingly frivolous like decorating paper for no obvious reason.


Personally, I keep my planner/bullet journal separate from my drawing books. Before, when I was just learning about how I could use the bujo systems I had a lot of fun and also did illustrations in that special book. However, this lead to the bujo’s special book getting filled more quickly than I would like, so that now all my drawings are exported to separate drawing journals instead.

Because I choose to avoid making a decorative planner, my bujo is currently in a lined book. It is my favorite size for writing in, so many pages have been taken up just for writing to help me figure out the break down of complex projects into individual action items or just spill about certain life complexities to later be able to speak about what’s going on in my head.

I enjoy writing in this book, admittedly a spiral bound book is less durable for long-term daily use, but for right now I respond very well to this book in particular. It’s easy to throw in my bag, and I can rely on it as a safe place to write down ideas worth revisiting – at least for the duration of its use as a planner, stuff worth archiving as research gets further treatment as chronology is pretty awful for research storage when your interest is long running.

I choose not to partake in the fun of decorating my planner because I found that it took an inordinate amount of time to do so considering I have a multitude of other creative outlets, and any decorative aspect at all just distracts me from what I personally seek to accomplish with a calendar system.

The Good, The Bad, and the Overwhelming (BuJo's)

There’s always someone who’s ideas are more elaborate or skillfull or perfectly minimal to inspire you or fuel comparison-itis, and there are a billion things in life you can choose to monitor on hand-written or specially-printed graphs. You could have a full time job just researching the possibilities – minus the paycheck.

I found this to be overwhelming when I practiced it at first – back before I built up a sort of immunity to the possibilities (by determining what my priorities actually are versus how much effort I want/can put into making a mini-bureaucracy to track my performance). Now I choose to continue to forge my own path in keeping it basic.

This is another case in which you must be honest with yourself about how much time and effort you are interested in investing in one effort, when it means that same time cannot be spent on another effort. So, if you greatly enjoy the idea of returning to your own hand-designed planner sometime in the future for a review of your past – and both have the time to create that and also do whatever you are planning therein – go for it. Decorative Bullet Journaling may be the perfect way for you to find your own style of book-keeping for creativity.

If you are interested in journaling for the sake of recordation of life events, then basic chronological format might be just for you. You can take the idea of pre-planning your page layouts as a creative restriction where each day gets only a small amount of space for drawing, so that it seems doable for if you struggle to keep up even a little personal creative effort each day or have trouble just remembering to do so.

This same small area per-day is also a fun idea for longer form entries too, as you could get your creative juices flowing in the designated box for a given date – like a summary or cute drawing – but note where it continues and just move to the designated area beyond your day-to-day spreads and keep expressing whatever you want to spill to future posterity or for the moment of the creative process.

Looking back through books I have filled helps remind me of where I have been, what is important to me, of what problems I struggle with on a recurring basis, and what subjects of interest return to the page over and again. If you’ve seen the recent shorty video on my Instagram page, there is a view of my studio closet with archive boxes stacked – At least five of them are filled with journals and formerly-blank-books from over the decades, and since I organized them all recently, I can vouch for this thesis.

Dream Journal – A specialized Practice

Writing down your dreams just after waking is one of the simple and powerful things you can do with a special journal.

As a child, I experienced frequent vivid deja vu where I was pretty sure I had already dreamed previously, that which then occurred in real life at some later time. I didn’t know then about how weird the brain is, and how tenuous is our experience of time, and yet I knew there was a chance my theory was flawed as it was only based on the experience of a young girl.

I set about proving my theory of precognitive dreams true and began journaling my dreams to do so. As memory serves, there was once a solid pre-recorded instance that proved to me that I did actually dream of that which later occurred and that one proof was enough for me to accept the oddly predictive nature of dreams. Sadly, like most folks, I have not kept up with recording my dreams regularly.

Perhaps I stopped my daily dream records as a child because what I would dream and then experience in real life was never useful enough to encourage me to keep up the recordation habit. In college I rekindled my dream-journal practice in tandem with a greater understanding of the unconscious’ use of symbols. These days, I will describe dreams – in my most intimate drawing journal usually – when they exude a lot of symbolic oomph, as they are then usually accompanied by my confusion about what it could mean.

Confusion for me leads to further writing; for hope of getting it all figured out, or written down to figure out later, or as rehearsal before asking someone for help with a problem or interpretation. I find that friends who know me well are apt to understand my dreams quickly even though I find them confusing, and writing them down helps make the practice of recalling more palatable for listeners.

I have also come to realize that certain vivid and seemingly unique dreams are in fact recurring dreams, from finding older written descriptions in previous journals.

Interestingly, when you get into the habit of recording your dreams upon waking, you will actually become more adept at recalling details which might have been previously un-rememberable. At which point you might shrug in confusion about what it all meant, but then you’ll have the option to later review the record with more clarity and hind-sight.

So, why do people journal? A few reasons described above are: to record, as an act to better understand, for review, and just for fun. Many more reasons and techniques to come in future articles, stay tuned!


So, why do people journal? A few reasons described above are: to record, as an act to better understand, for review, and just for fun. Many more reasons and techniques to come in future articles, stay tuned!

Homework 1:

What lists do you keep? What kind of thing do you often wish you had a list to refer to – movies to watch and books to read, favorite songs, favorite words, words to learn… One of the most helpful lists in a basic planner-type book is the “waiting-on” list – what are you waiting on? e.g. packages, payments… Link to Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders Blog on “Waiting-On List”

Homework 2:

Drawing is an ancient act: of discovery and recordation, of story-telling. How does the act and meaning of drawing differ from written word and spoken history or song, in your view? What are the similarities? Refer to your actual practice as a modern human and your experience of cultural artifacts old and new for insight into the overlap and distinctions.

Shadows and Light: Drawing Fundamentals

For the beginning drawer, and for the generally distracted person, there are two ways to keep shadows in mind while working.

  1. Shadows on subject/object make it easier to draw from observation. (high contrast)

  2. Shadows due to poor lighting make it harder to see your work! (work=Writing, drawing, crocheting, sewing, Reading…)

About shadows and observational drawing:

It is easy to struggle through a drawing of an evenly-lit object or scene because we are only intellectually experiencing the beginnings and endings of tonal areas rather than seeing them with ease, as we do when there are shadows present. Shadows create form, and thus are not separate from that which casts them, and should not be feared or ignored. Shadows on and under your subject are your friend.

The fewer the tonal differences and the more contrast between them, the easier to render. In the classic chiaroscuro style, there is only dark and light – two values with complete contrast.

In drawing from observation, lines are typically imaginary as they are human-made tools to communicate the distinctions between surfaces and negative space. A painter tends to perceive the world around them in terms of “color shapes” rather than lines. In truth, rendering with any media draws on the ability to perceive the shapes of tonal differences regardless of hue.

A given style or approach to rendering will require deciding how much difference between tonalities to record. This offers a vast spectrum of potential artistic expression, and proves it is actually easier to draw from a harshly lit model with high contrast between contours, than one with no shadows.

One Approach to Figure Drawing

Drawing people from observation is deeply enjoyable, especially when the lighting is smart. When drawing a friend, forget who she is for the duration of the exercise, and simply record where the dark is in relation to the light; become a sort of computer that only sees in two-dimensions, and map out that reality. Use your pencil like a brush, angled low to the paper to quickly darken large areas, rather than hesitating on details.

Such attempts to render accurately are best done without talking, as speech engages the wrong part of your brain and becomes a distraction whether you think it is or not. So, to avoid frustrating friends, try using a mirror and draw that ever-present model: you! It is not vain to draw yourself if it is for a drawing exercise, in fact the sooner you can forget whom or what it is you are looking at and just get to mapping tones as described, the more like your subject your drawings will appear.

About Shadows due to poor Studio Lighting

A studio can come in many forms. I love to draw on location, in cars, on the couch, boat, while standing – you name it. So, “Studio” refers to working space. Any time you are intent on drawing or making, please be diligent in considering your work lighting. The more precise the work, and the harder your eyes need to focus on detail, the more important the lighting dynamic.

If you are right hand dominant, then typically your lighting should come from the left. This is to prevent a shadow of your hand on your paper, right where you are trying to draw. Often, a simple tweak like switching seats can do the trick. The main point I want to make is that you should be aware of your working conditions so that you do not needlessly strain yourself, and so that you can get ever closer to your true potential.

Unintended shadows which prevent a proper view of your work and make your eyes tired – those shadows are not your friend. A proper lamp is a small investment. The hidden hard part for beginners can be to first cultivate the attention necessary to notice a different solution is needed, while also trying to remember other things about how they want to make art or draw or write.

Be nice to yourself and don’t fall victim to the distraction of worry over social burdens. Then you can focus on the realities of your work environment, however unique that might be.

The more often you practice drawing, the quicker you will get.

And, not just at actually putting down lines or coloring in, but also in noticing these value and shade differences that are what actually indicates three-dimensional form. This is called “seeing” – and it is a proper magic to cultivate this higher observational awareness. It is when seeing that you can better see the truths of your work environment as well.

Line Exercises / Drawing Prompts!

Exercises, techniques, and creative limitations (mix and match)

I often find that having the obvious stated for me does wonders, so, here are a few trusted drawing modes to try.

Contour Drawing

A contour map depicts the features of a geographic area with lines drawn precisely at different elevations, to show in two dimensions the height – and shape seen from above – of mountains or depth of valleys and water.

In drawing, a contour is the imaginary line that traces around the basic shape of an object. The most basic exercise in observational drawing is to transcribe on paper the outline shape of an object in front of you. This notion extends to the additional features of an object or person’s anatomy, directly analogous to the function of a geographic contour map.

A contour drawing is different from other kinds of observational studies in that it focuses on the use of line alone to map out areas that other techniques might shade or omit.

Continuous Line

Perhaps the most fun drawing exercise of all is the continuous line contour drawing.

This technique requires that your drawing be made without picking up your pencil or pen. This exercise can be an important warm-up even after years and years of study. The idea with observational sketching is to keep an eye on the subject more than on your depiction.

The Blind Contour” drawing method takes this exercise to its extreme. Try to draw your subject without looking at your paper and without lifting your pen from the paper. This is a classic method. The results of which are always funky and silly and strange.

An additional layer of “guaranteed failure” is to use your non-dominant hand as well. If the pressure of creating a perfect work is completely dismissed – as is necessary with this approach, then what you are left with is the joy of truly observing the visible physical nature of your subject with the added effect of training your muscles to play with your chosen media.

That said, the “Blind Contour” drawing exercise is a serious technique, not to be dismissed at any level of ability. It is typical to use this as a warm-up before a longer drawing session, as in figure drawing classes with posed models, and just as useful when drawing buildings or complicated scenes.

Making Marks

“Mark making” is a useful way of talking about drawing without focusing on specifics.

One helpful beginning exercise is to simply play with the different marks that your chosen tool(s) can make. With or without color, with whatever media you like, the idea of mark-making is versatile and can help carry understandings learned from one mode of art-making across into a different media discipline. The feelings you may have learned from carving into clay or wood may be directly transmuted to a paper practice with this approach.

As a sample set of potential marks one could make with a given utensil, I’ll refer to the basic “entoptic form constants” as described by the anthropologist team Lewis-Williams and Dowson. They identified six distinct phenomena commonly experienced within the human vision (“ent-OPTIC”) structure and claim an overlap with the marks consistently present in ancient rock art around the world.

Entoptic Form Constants

I happened upon the studies with equal parts skepticism and curiosity after I spent years of my own journal efforts distilling a personal doodle alphabet that fit right on their chart. Mine was made from deconstructing alphabet shapes and years of drooling over images and museum displays of ancient Native American pottery and world-wide traditional tattoo designs.

The entoptic form constants can be described as hatchmarks and cell shapes, straight lines and dashed lines, circles and dashes and dots, squiggly lines and zigzags, curved shapes and curvilinear lines, and fractal patterns like veins or a shoreline.

Further variation of basic marks can be made by combining them or using more or less pressure or changing the scale and proportions.

Cross-Hatching and Stippling

Cross hatching and stippling (lots of tiny dots) are common methods used to shade using pen and ink.

It should be mentioned that most drawings will be better served by choosing a method and sticking with it for the duration of the specific drawing. A cross-hatched pen and ink drawing has a much different feel from one painstakingly dotted in, and the combination of the two can have a confusing effect. Experiment to find your way, but know that general rule of thumb.

Here’s a web search of the terms for images and further reading on these two techniques, which can be used in many media, though they are most commonly associated with traditional ink drawings:


I hope this has been a refresher for those who have been lucky enough to take art classes, and a digestible beginning for readers unfamiliar with the above.

Best of courage as you fill your own blank-books! :-)