I made a list of some things to keep in mind while sketching for the purpose of exploring. I’m going to use it as an addendum to a class description and materials list for my Sketchbook Exploration class I teach. I always share and demonstrate all kinds of technical information regarding materials, tools and techniques, but in my classes, we also share about art as it relates to life, emotional, spiritual, cognitive and science-based context as well. So I decided to compile a list of a few points because this sketching class has an emphasis on exploration. I find it’s important to share these points as reminders of what to keep in mind while sketching for the purpose of exploring and experimenting, and I thought that this would be a great list to share here as well.

For a bit of context, I did not have any idea what any of these sketchbook explorations (the images in this article) would be before I began making them. My sketchbook explorations are created from imagination, experimentation with all kinds of materials, and with an open mind and heart. This list below comes from that space.

Allow this to be a time for true exploration in order to discover something new or different.

Don’t think about what any of this will be, but be attentive to what is unfolding as you keep going.

Try not to project an outcome, but when you are finished, be sure to spend a little time observing the pieces you make.

Don’t worry about the unknown. If unknowns cause fear or worry, flip the narrative in your mind about what it means to not know something. See it as an opportunity, not a hinderance or a shortcoming. The best way to flip the narrative, is to do the unfamiliar until it becomes familiar, or at least less unfamiliar.

When things feel difficult, know that you can keep going. When you make the choice to keep going, you are choosing to dig deeper and live fuller, rather than staying just on the surface of the potential of your existence.

Let it be a call for introspection. Be mindful of the decisions you make and the way you feel and think while in this present creative space.

All kinds of thoughts will arise. Just let them be. Thoughts and feelings will come and go while you’re in this explorative creative space.

Don’t worry about the past or future. Just be in the present moment and as you have thoughts of past and future, acknowledge them, and return to the present. Repeat as needed, forever.

Be malleable. Don’t hold any shape. Stay open to new ways of seeing and being.

There are a lot of things we can’t control. Learn to become at peace with that. We can control, however, where we point our attention and what we put effort into.

When you’ve reached a finished state, spend time with your creation as an observer – as a viewer who is experiencing it from that perspective and for the first time, and be mindful of what you notice from that perspective.

With all this in mind, you’ll recognize that just by putting your attention to this moment, things begin to orient themselves within your being.

Be as open as you can be to exploring. This will require a few things on your end: To begin. To do. To trust. To allow everything, even/especially the difficult things. And to keep going.


In addition to learning a lot about process, tools, and technique, you can learn so much about yourself through exploration and experimentation. As both the creator during the process and as the viewer when a piece is finished, it can open your eyes and mind to new possibilities. What you learn will carry over into future work, whether it be for explorative and personal work or growth, or for a show, a job, or a client.

If you’re interested in finding many of the other articles I’ve shared here on Muddy Colors regarding sketchbooks and process, you can find them in this list here: Vanessa Lemen on Muddy Colors