Thoughts & life experiences of a Chicago area graphic artist

22 May 2017

Starting Young at Keeping Sketchbooks (Part 2 in a series)

Parents can be an important influence on their young artists.    © O. Douglas Jennings. All Rights Reserved.
Parental encouragement had an enormous impact on me as a young artist. Most children enjoy the tactile and visual experience of creating with paint, clay, blocks or even sticks and leaves. I was no different. Yet around the time I entered Junior High, a gesture made by my father persuaded me to determine to make drawing much more than a peripheral interest.

It was at this time that my dad bought me a sketch pad and set of colorful markers.  The act surprised me and filled me with feelings of value and pride in the revelation that my dad considered me skillful enough in art to bestow such a gift. My father was, in many ways, a distant figure to me. In that context, the unspoken message of the art gift had profoundly affirming and life-directing significance.

Although perhaps the most significant adult to initiate and to encourage my artistic aspirations, my father was not the only source of a motivating spark. Later, my oldest brother’s gift of an artist’s anatomy book was pivotal as well as the frequent words of affirmation by a friend of the family who was an artist.

So, not only did my father help encourage me to begin my useful habit of keeping a sketch book, but he and other adults kept me going along the way to eventually complete several volumes of drawings. These sketchbooks represent practice, growth and the learning of what would eventually become a vocational skill.



My dad bought me my first sketchbook and he was also the subject of a few of my sketches!


My father’s greatest role in my artistic development continued as a facilitator. He provided the materials and even paid for a correspondence art course to help me grow as an artist.

In addition, I see the role of what I’d like to call the “affirmer of accomplishment” as being vital to the sensibilities of most artists. While some personality types might have more or less need for a pat on the back, I believe that the artistic temperament has a particular need for his or her accomplishments to be recognized and praised. Praise and affirmation by older artists went along way in keeping me interested in the pursuit of artistic excellence.

The impact of kindly parents, care-givers and/or “significant others” that I have enjoyed as an aspiring artist has been one of the primary influences that led me to become an Art Instructor.

But what if you’re an adult who wants to begin learning to create art? You might have no parent or family member to encourage or facilitate your aspiration. Assuming that you are availing yourself of books, online tutorials or classes to help improve your art skill, try also to find other artists to meet with regularly to discuss your work and perhaps schedule “Open Studio” sessions when you can all draw/create art in one place (I find having music playing in the background and also sharing some refreshments during these group art sessions adds to the creative atmosphere).


Sketches I made when I got together with fellow artists for a drawing session.
Creating art in room with other artists is a great encouragement.
Each artist can work on their own projects or collaborate. It's all good.


You might have to be your own encourager and facilitator at times as a artist (and, again, keeping a sketchbook is part of that encouraging record of progress), but you’ll be surprised at how helpful it will be to find positive connections through local Park District, Public Library or Art School programs in your area.


My parents and I when I was 4y.o.
My dad, Rue Edward, and my mom, Bernadine,
were big supporters of my artistic aspirations.
See part 1 of my series of posts about the importance of keeping sketchbooks.

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