Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sketchbook Profile: Carla Sonheim

Carla Sonheim is a painter, illustrator, and creativity workshop instructor known for her fun and innovative projects and techniques designed to help adult students recover a more spontaneous, playful approach to creating. She is the author of Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun.  Carla lives in Seattle, Washington.

One of her students writes, “Carla just shines and is so gentle and generous that you will work hard all day and come out energised and inspired. Most importantly though, [her] class was a touchstone in my artistic journey, giving me the courage to stop resisting, and open myself to my creative voice.”

“Blowed kisses are like little ghosties. They can go through cracks in doors.” 
–Wes Sonheim, age 4

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
I've been keeping a sketchbook on and off for 18 years (when one of my first painting teachers suggested it... I was 29!). Sometimes I lose them temporarily and will go some months without a formal sketchbook (but during that time those little drawings/ideas get written on scraps of paper, envelopes, etc... the drawing/writing habit is strong!). 

Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once?
I usually have one main one that I carry around with me, and several more that are "almost finished" and so they hang around on the top of my desk for awhile longer (rather than go in the bookshelf or a cardboard box).

I'm prone to losing things, so it's good to have another book with blank pages lying around for sketching emergencies.

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet,spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?
In the beginning I was comfortable with the book format, but somewhere along the way I got terribly blocked about working in a book (too precious)! During that time I worked on single sheets of 8.5" X 11" paper (card stock from an office supply store... less precious) and just kept the growing stack on my desk.

Now I am back to using a sketchbook, but only ONE SIDE of the paper... somehow it feels less permanent for me to do it that way!

I finally found my perfect size: a 5.5" x 5.5" hand•book journal (purchased at Daniel Smith or Blick's). I use pencil, black ultra fine point Sharpie, PanPastels, ballpoint pen, and watercolor. I usually fill the front half with drawings (either sketches from life or imaginary creatures), and the back of the book gets all the written stuff... notes to myself, quotes I come across, haiku's written in frustration at airports, etc.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?
The blank page is scary. Always, in my experience! I find it helpful to give myself "assignments." An example might be, "On this page I'm just going to draw for five minutes all the hands I can see." And I always have to add, "It's okay if they suck. This is just for practice." 

Anything else you'd like to add?
I don't write/draw in my sketchbook every day. A part of me wishes that I were a different person and would be more DISCIPLINED about it, but the truth is, I'm just NOT.

We all come to our sketchbooks differently. You will find your stride. Just do what you can. And keep it fun!

Visit Carla's website here to see more of her work.

Get all the details on the Sketchbook Challenge here.


  1. Hi Sue,
    I hope you are enjoying every moment of your holiday time. I'm writing to ask, since I signed up for the challenge too, how do I post my sketches? Do I post on my OWN FAMM page or is there a place to upload my photos of the sketches? I'm all geared up for the challenge; I can't wait to get going!

  2. I've just acquired Carla's book and can't tell you all how lovely and fun and freeing it is. Two of my daughters (ages 6 and 17) and I have been having great fun doodling, drawing, and generally playing in our sketchbooks.

  3. I love Carla's book, "Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists." It's amazing! Thank you for this interview.


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