A sketchbook is a place to record observations and ideas. It is a wonderful, portable resource. There are as many kinds of sketchbooks as there are people. Some people merely record what they see with a pencil or pen. Others record what they see and transform it, often into unrecognizable things. Some sketchbooks have only pictures, others have lots of words, others have photos and other elements added to them, others have things taken away. Some have only pen or pencil, others have paint, found objects, collages, examples of artwork or materials, pages or parts of pages removed and any number of techniques within their pages. There is no limit to what a sketchbook can contain or how. A sketchbook can be a simple collection of loose pages in and envelope or box, or it can be ideas pinned to a wall.
A sketchbook is a great place to play and to experiment with art and with ideas. It is a great place to think your way through things and to record those thoughts and processes. A sketchbook can help you gain focus on a topic or broaden a topic. The purpose of a sketchbook is a place to explore, it is not really a place to try and create finished artwork. Give yourself permission to play and make mistakes rather than try to create perfection or even finished work.
You can have one sketchbook that holds ideas for various parts of your creative life or you can have many different kinds of sketchbooks: small ones that travel, large ones that stay at home, private ones, public ones, ones where you play with colour, ones where you develop ideas, ones where you doodle, ones where . . . well, you get the idea.
Sketchbooks can be specifically made to be a sketchbook by a manufacturer, they can be hand made for the purpose, or they can be made from old books or other recycled things.
Many famous and unknown artists have used sketchbooks. Leonardo DaVinci sketchbooks are a prime example of a famous artist’s sketchbook. See http://www.unmuseum.org/leosketch.htm and http://library.thinkquest.org/3044/adv_skch.html.
In class, children decorate one store bought sketchbook and also make their own small sketchbooks to fill with their wonderful ideas. Children are given access to various kinds of paper and materials to fill their sketchbooks with including printer paper, drawing paper, envelopes, tracing paper, recycled papers, watercolour paper, etc. The children then assemble the papers into simple sketchbooks. Younger children bind their sketchbooks using staples while older children make simple, pamphlet stitched sketchbooks.