Sketchbook Activities, Behaviours & Skills

By Paula Briggs

This resource explores what kinds of activities take place in sketchbooks, and how we can use those activities to help widen and deepen our creative experience.


Granny Story sketching out spreads by Rose-Feather
Image by Rose Feather

Sketchbooks are not just books for sketching. There are a wide range of activities and skills which take place in sketchbooks, and when introducing the idea of “sketchbook” to learners, it’s important that we show and validate the various activities equally. Not every activity will suit every person, and the tools we use in our sketchbooks will change over time, but the more inclusive we can be in terms of the sketchbook activities we advocate, the more accessible sketchbook use will be to the whole class.

Sketchbooks can be visual or textual – most are a combination of the two. Think of sketchbooks as being places where you can “think out loud”, albeit in private. How you think out loud, is up to you, but remember sketchbooks are places where you can ask more questions than answers, so the spirit of the thinking out loud is explorative, open, and investigative. Sketchbooks should be places where those processes can be as idiosyncratic as the sketchbook owner.

Sketchbook activities encourage sketchbook behaviours (traits, attitudes) – and those two things together: activities and behaviours, develop skills.

Use the following list as a way to ensure you introduce all sketchbook activities, and then create opportunities for learners to put them into practice and develop their behaviours and skills.

We have ordered the activities into three main groups: Taking In, Testing Out and Reflecting, though in reality these activities will interweave each other throughout the sketchbook.

Taking In (Be a Magpie! “I Like so I borrow!”)

Activities: Collecting, Cutting, Drawing, Noting (single words, lists, sentences, quotes), Record, Photograph, Video,

Behaviours: These activities encourage learners to be observant, look out for, be curious, trust instinct, make decisions, copy and borrow, build upon, be open, be interested.

Testing Out

Activities: Drawing, Doodling, Mark-making, Painting, Printing, Collaging, Writing,

Behaviours: These activities encourage learners to experiment, explore, take creative risks, respond, practice, connect, develop, respond, manipulate, make mistakes, wonder, ask, provoke, express, reimagine, make our own.


Activities: Looking, Talking, Writing, Sharing, Drawing

Behaviours: reflect, evaluate, discuss, think, understand, connect, discover, realise, share.

activities that take place in sketchbooks: notetaking

Graphic sheds

Sketchbook activities: sketching

Finding and then cutting animals out of magazines

Mark making integrated with collage building

Autobiographical drawing and collage

measuring shed

Painting flowers at the Fitzwilliam - de Heem

Walking Drawing

Sketchbook by Jo Blaker

Pizza making invention

Message to the World

Sketchbook made of screen printed pages

This is a sample of a resource created by UK Charity AccessArt. We have over 1500 resources to help develop and inspire your creative thinking, practice and teaching.

AccessArt welcomes artists, educators, teachers and parents both in the UK and overseas.

We believe everyone has the right to be creative and by working together and sharing ideas we can enable everyone to reach their creative potential.