Fine Art

[5-Minute Expert]

Start sketching: ​​Drawing can be fun, easy and less expensive than you might think

Photo: Gig Depio / Courtesy

Oh, the joy of keeping a sketchbook. To sit at a coffee shop or park bench and quietly capture the surrounding scene in a state of graphite-induced zen. Or to flip through pages of your past drawings and bask in the well-earned glow of artistic accomplishment. Even to show off your doodles to friends on social media. The joys of a sketchbook are many, and it’s one of the most accessible hobbies around. You don’t even need artistic talent!

How to start

• Find some paper, ideally bound, but that’s not necessary.

• Find a pencil, pen, marker, whatever.

• Sit down and remove all judgment.

• Draw what you see, what you want to see and/or what you remember.

• Repeat for at least 10 minutes a day, several times a week.

Begin with cheap materials

Accomplished Las Vegas-based artist Gig Depio sketches on junk mail—the backs of envelopes and old newspapers. “It takes the anxiety out of having to ruin perfectly good paper,” Depio says. “I try to get the cheapest stuff: free ball point pens from hotels, cheap Bic mechanical pencils.”

Setting yourself free from worrying about wasting expensive art supplies allows you to “open yourself up to the unexpected,” Depio says.

He likes to be his most experimental and daring when sketching. And the sketches leave a record of ideas to which he can return later for inspiration. If Depio sees something he likes, he transfers the drawing to clean paper, and again later to its final form.

Sketch to improve your eye

You don’t have to be “good” at art to enjoy it. Artist and art instructor Daniella Etel Courban tells her UNLV figure drawing students to sketch from observation for at least 10 minutes, five times a week. “It’s amazing,” says Courban, who also owns and runs Open Art Las Vegas at the Arts Factory and will soon have work displayed at Priscilla Fowler Gallery. "You get so much better by just taking 10 minutes a day. It really makes a difference."

A portable hobby

“Try to keep a sketchbook with you at all times,” advises Las Vegas artist Dan45 Hernandez (Instagram @xDan45x). Don’t be intimidated by the cliche of an artist taking a giant wooden easel, heavy canvas and a fish-tackle box of paints out in the wilderness. That could be fun, but it’s certainly not required. Right now, Courban carries a tiny Moleskine sketchbook and “just a couple of pens.”

Remember, it’s more important to have a small sketchbook on hand when you want to draw than to have a giant sketchbook stuck at home. You could even look at sketching as a way to replace your phone habit.

Draw from observation

It might seem anticlimactic when you finally have your supplies gathered, to sit down at a coffee shop and then draw the latte in front of you. But Courban says observational drawing “expands your knowledge base of what things look like,” so you later can draw from imagination.

Quick Tips

• “Jot down your thoughts when creativity is high, and you’ll have material when creativity is low,” Hernandez says.

• Don’t feel limited to just drawing. Hernandez also uses sketchbooks for lyrics, poetry and song titles.

• Use your phone to record ideas in a pinch, and copy them to your sketchbook when you get home, Hernandez advises.


While you can start a sketchbook practice with materials you have laying around the house, sometimes it’s fun to upgrade.

Pencils Any regular pencil will do, but you can buy a set of pencils with a variety of hardnesses relatively cheaply. For example, the Faber-Castell Goldfaber Sketching Pencil Set costs less than $10.

Color pencils Who says you need to draw in gray tones? Professional comic artists, including Las Vegas Sun cartoonist Mike Smith, often sketch in light-blue color, because color pencils are less likely to smudge and because the light blue isn’t picked up by a copy machine. Prismacolor is considered the best.

Sketchbook It’s impossible to recommend one type of sketchbook—they come in multiple sizes, styles, paper type and binding type. Pick one that you might like and try it out; there’s no wrong answer.

Pens & markers If you like to go bold, pens and markers are your answer. The options are endless, but even a humble Sharpie will do.

Watercolor set Some travel watercolor sets are about the size of a cellphone and offer infinite color mixing opportunities. Winsor & Newton is a high-quality brand, but each paint will be slightly different. Experiment to find what you like.

Sketch wallet If you want to be sure to never forget your sketchbook, get a wallet/sketchbook combo, available at

Where to Buy

Desert Art Supplies 2003 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-382-5404; 2750 N. Green Valley Parkway, 702-384-3337.

Blick Art Materials 6300 W. Charleston Blvd. #130, 702-368-0209.

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