Sketchbooks and sketching

By Aneesah, 8 Jun 12

I was trying to recall what it was that triggered me to start sketching again. Perhaps it was writing the last few blog entries, and discovering sites like Doodlers Anonymous, re-discovering, and Moon posting about Urban Sketchers on Facebook. But also, I had a realisation that went something like this:

It just dawned on me recently… this whole ‘creative’ way of doing da’wah (or really, spreading any kind of information or good thing)… It really does matter how attractive you make the product, because it directly affects how effective it is.

When you really think about it, there is no problem in giving da’wah by speech, written articles, two-hour lectures, etc. except for the fact that it probably won’t reach all of your target audience. So some different ways have been taken – fictional stories, songs/nasheed, poetry, infographics, comics, etc.

The ummah is blessed to have members with talent in such fields. The product is a means to attract people to at least receive the message. May Allah guide us to be sincere in any kind of effort we put forth, and may He grant us success in this life and the next. Ameen.

— from Facebook

In other words, because I now ‘doodle’ (or draw or design) for da’wah, I have … a very, very strong motivation to increase the quality of my work, partly by improving my skills and abilities inshaAllah. Previously, when these ‘creative’ things were just a leisurely endeavour / phase in my teenage years, I didn’t really care about being consistent or taking quality to the next level. But volunteering for ProductiveMuslim and Islamographic, as well as producing notes from seminars / speeches has given the ‘hobby’ a new purpose, alhamdulillah.

And also — I’d like to think that I won’t be just a designer if/when I make my work recognisable through its style. Does that make sense? I guess I still want to become an artist; one who makes art, in one way or another. :B Pray for me please.

My latest ProM doodle. Click to view the collection so far (although my works are just the doodly-styled ones, of course.)

And one 'poster' done for Islamographic. You know I used to do this kinda stuff in Photoshop for website layouts? 🙂 So it's old skills, really, just renewed after a few years. ^^;


And so, in an attempt to pump myself up about becoming a sketcher again, I made a sketchbook and sketchpads from a pile of art paper I’ve been hoarding under my bed. (True story. They were expensive paper leftover from architecture/art projects back in college & uni. I shall not throw away expensive paper but I shall let them collect dust bunnies for years. 😆 )

The first step was just cutting the pieces into uniform sizes (in any which way that wastes the least amount of paper), using a cutting mat and scalpel and metal ruler. I quite enjoy cutting like this, it felt therapeutic. (…Did that make me sound psycho? :X )

Yummy rectangles of thick, plain off-white paper. 😀 (It is no secret that I despise pages with lines on them.)

Most of the rectangles became sketchpads, ie. books with no front or back cover, and the binding is the sort that allows you to pluck the pages off individually. To make them, you hold the pages together as tightly as possible (binder clips help), then spread glue (I used PVA glue) all over one side which becomes the spine. The paper spine cover is optional. When the whole thing dries (keeping the clips on them), the papers should be stuck together!

Note: Green Chair Press seems to have an awesome tutorial for a similar type of binding but with a cover.

And the largest set of papers became a proper sketchbook. I followed the stitching part from this tutorial by Curiously Crafty, although Tortagialla’s tutorial looks suitable as well.

  1. The stitched ‘signatures’.
  2. I actually had to purchase that huge clipboard-like clip. Luckily it was very effective.
  3. I totally love those hole punches that require the use of a hammer. SO THERAPEUTIC. ^_^
  4. Oh, the hole was a way to attach an elastic hairband to the back of the sketchbook. That metal bit there: part of a paperclip.
  5. I just taped the mess to cover it.
  6. The tape is actually electrical tape I bought from Wilkinson’s back in the UK. (How come electrical tapes are just plain black here? :/ )
  7. The thick cardboard covers were actually an A4 sketchbook cover. I bought the sketchbook (for an architecture project, not for personal sketches because I did not really do personal sketches in uni 😛 ) from Paperchase. Paperchase is awesome.
  8. The back. Oh, this sketchbook is small, by the way. Like A5 or B5 size thereabouts.
  9. This book can open more than 180 degrees. Yes!
  10. Done.

The elastic makes the sketchbook look legit (and Moleskine-like 😉 ). And obviously it keeps the pages closed so I won’t lose car keys in between book pages when I stash them in my bag. (Sadly also a true story… :suspicious: )

Below is the family of sketchpads. Three of them actually contain watercolour paper. :boogie: Watercolour paper is good. And expensive. But very good because it never buckles.

While I’m at it, I have two more book-binding tutorials to share, because I am a link hoarder who never really manages to apply the link contents in real life.  🙄 This makes nice chunky-looking journals, and this one uses cereal box cardboard and a sewing machine. And question_f8’s Flickr is total eye-candy for me.


So far my sketching-time seems to be allocated whenever I’m waiting. Waiting for the car after work, waiting inside the car while my mum’s off to grab a few things in the supermarket, etc. Waiting is less of a patience-tester now that it is also sketchtime. I post some of the sketches in an album on Facebook. But some previous ones aren’t in my new sketchbook so I’ll post those here too.


Oh, very recently it occured to me to practice both sketches and doodles. In the Aneesah Dictionary of Random Words, sketches seem to refer to those drawn based on real-life references (or perhaps photo references, though I’m staying away from those if I can). And doodles lean more towards imaginary, pen-moves-without-thinking sort of subjects. Although obviously this is not always the case, for instance, the ProductiveMuslim doodles are called doodles, but there were a lot of image references used and definitely a lot of thinking. 😛 (They just happen to be in the ‘style’ of doodles.)

The habit of sketching also makes for a brilliant excuse reason for stationery-shopping. My office is very near an art shop, so I popped in after work the other day and bought a few shiny new pens. OMG they make so many kinds now. o_O In so many colours. o_O And so many thicknesses and tip types.  o_O Many of the sketches above were done in Faber-Castell Pitt Pens which I bought online (in the UK) when they were on sale. But here, they seem kinda pricey — the small-tipped one I bought was RM9.50! 🙄

Please note that how good your sketches turn out likely depends very little on the kind of tool you use. Some artists do amazing work in ballpoint pens. I just believe that quality tools are more comfortable, and lends that artsy ‘flair’ to the sketches. A little bit. 😉


Stop-motion by Meditating Bunny Studios. Please check out the tutorial video too!

Sunni Brown’s talk about how doodling is good for you. 🙂

Lynne Chapman is a new discovery of mine, her website is awesome mashaAllah. I have great respect and admiration for people who share so much of their knowledge, experience, and themselves, out there. For free.

Neil Gaiman’s lovely speech.

This is an even more recent discovery (ie. I am editing this post to add this video :P). Brilliant tutorials and guides by an artist whom I have followed on Flickr. Do visit her website too!

And plugging Zen Pencils because Gavin is awesome (he quit his job to do quote comics full-time!) and his post led me to Neil Gaiman’s speech above.

There are so many other talented and inspiring artists out there, like at deviantART and Tumblr. Some others off the top of my head are elvie studio and her journaling (which is a step up from just sketching, I feel), and Craftberry Bush‘s amazing watercolouring skills. Oh, and Lynne Chapman’s website is here. (Notable pages include the videos and blog.)


Goodnight everybody!


  1. hime s says:

    How about organizing a sketchcrawl like the urban sketchers? would be fun,and could share sketching techniques too 🙂

  2. Nabeelah says:

    ooo book-binding is one thing I should try whenever sempat! And my last sketchbook was masa darjah 6 or form 1, I think (I sketched family members, potted plants, dead objects, my feet), but I don’t know if I’ll sketch anymore (seriously) now. Doodling I shall always do lah kan.

    My kind of therapy :boogie:

  3. Mashallah – what a talented Muslimah! May ALLAH reward you always.

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