Last updated 24/06/2015

23 creative sketchbook examples to inspire Art students

This article contains a collection of beautiful sketchbook pages to help students studying a range of high school Art qualifications, including GCSE, A Level and IB Visual Art. The collection includes sketchbooks completed by students as well as artist sketchbooks. Pages have been selected to demonstrate different sketchbook presentation techniques as well as to indicate the variety of layout styles possible. Descriptions underneath each image provide tips and guidance, outlining the successful aspects of each page.

An A Level Sketchbook page by Louis Trew from Bideford College, Devon, United Kingdom:

A Level Art sketchbook layout
Louis achieved the Top equal result in 2011 for his exceptional A Level Art submission (AQA). In this sketchbook page (exploring the work of graphic illustrator Russ Mills) every splash of paint, every pen line and every torn piece of background material is placed with care. Even in a page that contains multiple elements, the composition of the page as a whole is important. Louis demonstrates superb technical skill, with the ability to place, balance and integrate items in a harmonious layout.

 

An A2 Art sketchbook page by Ruth Beeley:

art sketchbook ideas
This A Level Art sketchbook page is exactly as a high school Art sketchbook should be: an exciting investigation of media and ideas. Using ‘modrock’ (a plaster of paris bandage) and glue to create raised areas, with other mixed mediums such as wire, ink and Biro pen, Ruth adds careful and detailed drawings over a chaotic ground. The piece is not a finished, resolved image: rather, it is a beautiful and competently executed exploration of ideas.

 

An A2 Art sketchbook page by Lucy Luu:

a level art sketchbook ideas - artist research
At its essence, a sketchbook page should provide insight into a student’s ideas and intentions, as well as revealing the influence of other artists. This A Level Art sketchbook page is beautiful in its simplicity: devoid of all superfluous decoration, it shows a dedicated and committed student learning a technique from an artist and then carefully applying this to original artwork.

 

A Level Art sketchbook pages by Lisa Jiang:

sketchbook layout of an artist study
Many high school Painting / Fine Art students worry that their sketchbooks must be wild, gestural explorations, with layers of media exploding from each page. This sketchbook is a reminder that this is not always the case. Here, a sketchbook layout has been approached with the sophisticated eye of a graphic designer; each page taking on the aesthetic of a contemporary magazine.

 

An AS Art Sketchbook page by Charlotte Taylor

AS Art sketchbook page
This AS Art sketchbook page shows visual research at its purest. Students often forget that research doesn’t just involve analysing artist work; it includes the visual investigation of forms: drawing items from a range of angles and in a range of different mediums. Here, Charlotte has worked over scraps of lined note paper (some with maths equations left on them) with meticulous, detailed pen drawings, developing familiarity with the human form.

 

An A Level Fine Art sketchbook page by Sally Al Nasser:  

Chrissy Angliker artist study
This rich and vibrant A Level Art sketchbook page is a reminder that the high school sketchbook is a prime opportunity to demonstrate your love of Art to the examiner. Here, the lavish, gestural, brush strokes contrast with careful annotation, resulting in a composition that oozes passion. Every speck of the page has been considered and worked over, using colours that integrate and link with the Chrissy Angliker artworks analysed. The whole page thus becomes an opportunity to absorb information from an artist; imbued with technique, emotion and style.

 

An AS Level Art sketchbook by David Wasserman from Monks Dyke Tennyson College, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom:

example to help with an A Level Art sketchbook
Above all, a sketchbook should be a place for developing and refining ideas. It should show thought processes and provide insights into a student’s thinking. This sketchbook page is a helpful reminder that a Fine Art / Painting and Related Media sketchbooks need not be overly gestural or expressive: those who prefer working in a tighter, ordered, structured style should not be afraid of doing so. Indeed, such presentations can be less distracting and allow emphasis to be placed exactly where it belongs: the artwork. Here the integration of artist work, student photographs and observational drawings clearly show the journey taken while exploring and developing ideas.

 

Two International GCSE Art Sketchbook page ideas by Amiria Robinson:

GCSE Art sketchbook examples
Although typed annotation is not necessary or recommended, as it is too time consuming and restrictive (this was part of a digital exemplar booklet created to inspire students: annotation was thus easier to add digitally), the two International GCSE Art sketchbook page examples above show how multiple images can be combined successfully within one page. Placement of background washes, torn paper and other mixed media grounds have been positioned so that they balance each other and create an aesthetically pleasing page layout.

 

An A Level Art sketchbook page by Robyn Yeang from Queen’s College London, United Kingdom:

example of great layout for A Level Art sketchbook
This A Level Art sketchbook page by Robyn Yeang is another example of composition at its purist. Two drawings – trailing away and fading out around the edges – both commanding the attention of the assessor, without superfluous decoration, enlarged headings, or busy page layouts.

 

A CIE IGCSE Art and Design sketchbook page, completed by Sarah Loh, while studying at ACG Strathallan College, Auckland, New Zealand.

sketchbook of shell drawings
This is part of an A* IGCSE Art and Design Coursework project based on a Coastal Environment theme. In this sketchbook page, Sarah has produced observational drawings of shells (drawn from life), in graphite and coloured pencil, surrounded by meticulous, thorough annotation.

 

An A Level Sketchbook page by a student from Chalfonts Community College, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom  (image sourced from Dan China): 

a level art sketchbook
This sketchbook page shows the critical analysis of relevant artist work. It is important to note that it is rarely necessary to imitate an entire artist work: copying small pieces is all that is needed to learn about an artist’s technique, style, use of media or approach to composition. In this example, the composition of the page as a whole has been carefully considered: the placement of the small images on the left balance the larger portrait on the right, creating a harmonious page layout. Note also that the annotation is neat, tidy, and small. It thus supports, rather than detracts from, the artwork and indicates to the examiners that the work was produced by a committed, dedicated student.

 

A sketchbook page by Evie Sudlow

architectural inspired A Level Art sketchbook
The sketchbook is a place for essential experimentation and research: creative exploration of technique, surface and materials. These beautiful sketchbook pages by Evie have purpose and intention: exciting exploration and development.

 

Artist sketchbook pages by Adebanji Alade:  

artist sketchbook by Adebanji Alade
One of the best place to look for inspiration for high school Art students is the work of practising artists. These sketchbook pages by Adebanji Alade show overlapping observational drawings completed while on public transport; in depth research into subject matter: captured moments that will inform later work. Note the scrawling text, integrating seamlessly with the imagery.

 

IGCSE Art and Design sketchbook pages (CIE) by Rebecca Betts of ACG Strathallan College, Auckland, New Zealand: 

drawings of shells - gcse art sketchbook page
A sketchbook is the place where initial observations are recorded: there is no need for compositions to be complete or pieces finally resolved. Here we have some draw-droppingly beautiful first-hand drawings of shells using graphite and white paint on a ground of watered down acrylic.
gcse art sketchbook page exploring natural forms
Exploring a natural forms theme, this sketchbook page shows visual research: drawings and paintings of a sculptural flax weaving created by the highly able student. Note the absence of decorative elements: the emphasis is solely upon the creation of quality artwork.

Advanced Higher Art sketchbook pages (SQA) by Catherine Larsson-Wolfe:  

advanced higher art project
This sequence of Advanced Higher Art sketchbook pages shows clearly how a sketchbook should be used to aid the development of ideas. It is the place where a candidate thinks laterally, resolves issues and moves forward with their work. This and more of Catherine’s highly creative project can be viewed by clicking her name above!

 

An NCEA Level 3 Painting Scholarship workbook page, sourced from NZQA

NCEA Scholarship painting workbook
This exceptional NCEA Scholarship workbook page illustrates the true purpose of a sketchbook: to aid the development of ideas and to solve pictorial issues. This page clearly expresses the thought processes of the student, showing ideas being visually worked out through the manipulation of contrasting, linear abstract forms. It is evident that this page is being used to help the student; to assist with decision making and clarify theoretical and practical issues within their work.

 

An AS Level sketchbook page by Jack Broad

A Level Art sketchbook page exploring natural forms
There are so many student sketchbook pages that are filled with extravagant, over-sized headings, decorative fonts, borders and other unnecessary ornamentation: it is refreshing to see this AS Level sketchbook page by Jack Broad. Here, accurate, first-hand drawings in a range of mediums are surrounded by brief annotation. This page is a reminder of what really matters in the initial stages of a project: competent observational drawing and visual exploration of subject-matter.

 

An IGCSE Art and Design (CIE) preparatory work by Georgia Shattky, from ACG Parnell College, Auckland, New Zealand:   

GCSE Art sketchbook pages exploring shoes
Completed in the days when IGCSE Art & Design students had to submit sketchbooks (rather than the A2 preparatory sheets that are the requirement today), these two meticulously executed and skilful pages by Georgia Shattky show beautiful observational drawings completed in a range of mediums. Drawings are arranged alongside original photographs (composed and taken by Georgia), providing evidence of first-hand interaction with the subject matter.

 

An A Level sketchbook page by Sophie Antoniou from King Alfred School, London, United Kingdom:

artist research - A Level Art sketchbook
It is always obvious, when viewing sketchbooks, whether a candidate has been left to their own devices, or has been lucky enough to take part in a programme that teaches students to confidently analyse artist work and then use this learning to inform their own pieces. This thorough sketchbook is an excellent example of the latter: intelligent, informed investigations fill sketchbook pages to the brim.

 

An IB Art Investigation Workbook by Imogen Reeves

IB Investigation Workbook
This rich and vibrant IB Art workbook by Imogen Reeves has passion embedded in every page. With gestural, expressive mixed media drawings spiralling across mixed media backgrounds (such as paper soaked in inks and PVA glue), learning from an artist model becomes more than an activity which is required by the curriculum: it is an experience that is embraced and relished from a student’s core. Enthusiasm like this is appreciated immensely by the examiners.

 

AS Level Art and Design sketchbook page by Iona Skinner:

striking a level art sketchbook presentation
This AS Level Art sketchbook presentation again reminds us of what the essence of a quality sketchbook should be: quality drawings (image sources clearly shown), surrounded by unobtrusive, comprehensive annotation. A simple yet striking black and white sketchbook page.

 

A sketchbook page created as a teacher example for IGCSE / GCSE students by Heather Garland:

tips for GCSE Art sketchbooks
This teaching example shows clearly how an artist model is analysed, with imitations of technique leading to original works in this same style.

 

Need more art sketchbook ideas?

The examples above have been collected specifically for students who specialise in Painting and Related Media or Fine Art courses. Other collections are available with inspirational Photography, Graphic Design, Sculpture and 3D Design and Textiles and Fashion sketchbooks. These articles are continually updated, with new examples added frequently. Please bookmark these pages so that you can return to them for inspiration whenever you need!

If you would like to understand what sort of drawings, illustations and artist analysis should be included within a sketchbook and how to annotate a sketchbook, please read: Tips for Producing an Amazing Sketchbook.

If you are looking for creative ideas for use of media within sketchbooks (such as exciting materials to draw upon and ideas for creating backgrounds) you may be interested in: How to Make Your Art Project Exciting: Inventive use of Media.


This article was written by Amiria Robinson. Amiria has been a teacher of Art & Design and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of Art and Design work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. Amiria has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. She is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor. Follow Student Art Guide on Pinterest, Facebook or Follow Amiria on Google+