Collage Faces: Class #2
Craftermath Podcast: Season 2 Episode 2

Would a Studio Notebook Be More Like a Commonplace Book or a Sketchbook?

Picking up our discussion from Monday, where does a studio notebook come in?


A studio notebook is kind of the perfect mashup of sketchbook and commonplace book.  I think that's why I've been using one even before I knew what commonplace books were.  I do a lot of writing in my studio notebooks, so they don't feel like sketchbooks.  And actually, I think I get why it works for me now!


Here's how a studio notebook can incorporate elements of both a sketchbook and a commonplace book:

  • Documentation and Reflection: Like a commonplace book, a studio notebook can be used to record ideas, inspirations, observations, and reflections. You may include written notes, quotes, or clippings that inspire or inform your creative process. This documentation helps you organize your thoughts, capture fleeting ideas, and reflect on your artistic practice.

  • Visual Representation: Similarly to a sketchbook, a studio notebook allows you to visually express your ideas and explore artistic techniques. You can include sketches, drawings, and visual experiments within its pages. It becomes a space for you to develop and refine your visual language, test compositions, or experiment with new materials and styles.

  • Process and Progress Tracking: Studio notebooks often document an artist's progress, experiments, and project development. You can include step-by-step visual demonstrations, notes on techniques used, or even samples of materials and color swatches. This aspect resembles a sketchbook's focus on an artist's creative growth and serves as a valuable reference for future projects.

  • Project Planning and Execution: You may use your studio notebook as a place to plan and outline specific art projects. You can include sketches of initial concepts, brainstorming sessions, and project timelines. This aspect aligns with a commonplace book's function of organizing ideas and information.

  • Research and Inspiration: Studio notebooks can incorporate research materials, references, and visual inspiration similar to a commonplace book. You can include photographs, magazine clippings, or copies of other artists' work that inform and inspire your creative process.

In essence, a studio notebook combines the reflective and organizational qualities of a commonplace book with the visual exploration and development found in a sketchbook. It serves as a personal and flexible space for me to integrate various aspects of my creative practice.


As a side note, the terms "studio notebooks" and "artist's journals" can be used interchangeably to refer to similar types of creative notebooks used by artists. However, there can be slight differences in how these terms are understood or used by different artists.  Some artists may use the term "studio notebooks" to specifically refer to notebooks or journals that are primarily used within the artist's studio or workspace. These notebooks are often seen as a tool for documenting ideas, inspirations, sketches, project plans, and other materials related to the artist's ongoing artistic practice. They focus on the artist's creative process and are closely tied to their studio work.  On the other hand, "artist's journals" can have a broader connotation and encompass various types of creative notebooks that artists use. They may include sketchbooks, diaries, visual journals, or any other format where artists record their thoughts, observations, emotions, and artistic explorations. Artist's journals can be seen as more personal and reflective, providing a space for self-expression and experimentation beyond the confines of the studio.


Ultimately, the distinction between "studio notebooks" and "artist's journals" and "sketchbook" can vary based on individual preferences and usage. Some artists may use the terms interchangeably, while others might have specific distinctions in mind. The key is to find a terminology that resonates with you and best describes the purpose and usage of your own creative notebook.

I've used a lot of different books over the years with different names. 

  • In college I started keeping what I called "the everything book."  It was for notes, schedules, phone numbers, journaling, drawing, etc.  I now realize that is was probably my own version of a commonplace book or bullet journal, before I knew what those were.
  • In my thirties, I started art journaling and keeping a sketchbook.
  • In my forties, I discovered bullet journaling, established a studio notebook practice, and now I know about commonplace books!

At the end of the day, it's simply a notebook.  How you use it and what you call it is up to you.  I definitely have taken bits and pieces of each kind of notebook to create my own special kind of book.

Let me know what kind of notebook you like to use!