The Sketchbook Medley

Sketchbook Medley
Schools are back in session and art students across the world are working in their sketchbooks. In my own classes I begin each day with a 10 to 15 minute sketchbook assignment. 15 minutes is not much time. Most of my students’ sketches are rough and unfinished after such a short period. However, I encourage them to return to some of their favorite sketches and develop them further.

For my students, sketchbook prompts are just the first step in the development of a project titled, “Sketchbook Medley”. I tell my students that they will, later in the year, combine imagery from their sketchbooks to create a more complete piece. This gives students time to consider what sketches they might combine. By the end of the year, they have a well-developed concept.

Below is the project information that I share with students at the beginning of the year when discussing sketchbooks and again near the end of the year when they actually begin the “Sketchbook Medley”. If you’re a teacher, you may give this assignment a try with your students. If you’re not a teacher, you can still do this exercise using the sketches you may already have in your sketchbook.

Sketchbook Medley Student Handout

Link to Handout (same as image below.)

Sketchbook assignment for art teachers

Sketchbook Prompts

Let’s face it. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to come up with ideas for your sketchbook. There are subjects everywhere, but sometimes too many options leads to indecision. It doesn’t hurt to have a list for some drawing inspiration.

25 Days to Better Drawings
Learn a new drawing concept and skill every day for 25 days. Each drawing concept taught includes a short drawing exercise (less than one hour) that reinforces the concept taught.


The sketchbook prompts that I use with students differ from year to year. Below are ninety-nine sketchbook prompts you can use with your students or for use in your own sketchbook.

  • Draw what you ate for breakfast.
  • Draw an elephant dancing ballet.
  • Draw a corner of the room you are in now.
  • Using only numbers, draw a bicycle.
  • Make a rubbing of a leaf, then draw a copy of the rubbing.
  • Design an insignia ring.
  • Take out what is in your pocket, set it up and make a drawing.
  • Draw the following facial expressions; confused, confident.
  • Draw a cube with a hole in it.
  • Sketch a page of roosters.

Sketch of roosters

  • Mrs. Claus accidentally shrunk the Santa suit. Draw him trying to fit into it.
  • Draw a dog using only triangles (12 or more triangles).
  • Draw a map of the world from memory.
  • Draw a ball bouncing down stairs.
  • Superman needs a new logo. Design one for him.
  • Illustrate the sense of hearing.
  • Draw a person climbing over/digging under a wall.
  • Sketch a house of cards.
  • Draw a map to your home (or if you are home, a map to your school/work).
  • Compare your drawing to a real map. How did you do?
  • Copy a Da Vinci sketch into your own sketchbook.
  • What does the eye of a hurricane look like. Sketch it!
  • Sketch a tattered tophat.
  • Draw a scarecrow and crows.
  • Sketch a cloud that also looks a little bit like something else.
  • Draw a person coming out of a picture frame.
  • Sketch a tree being blown by the wind.
  • What does frustration look like?
  • What does success look like?
  • Sketch a bundle of pencils.
  • Design your own compass rose.
  • Design the most comfortable chair.
  • Draw the illusion of a hole/tear in your page.
  • Draw something that is bumpy.
  • Sketch a thin person with big pants held up by suspenders.
  • Draw a baby in a suit with a briefcase.
  • Draw a family of worms in their underground living room.
  • If you are right-handed, draw your right hand with your left hand. If you’re left-handed, do the opposite.
  • Imagine and draw the room you are in from above (include yourself).
  • Draw an enlarged finger print.
  • Draw lightning in a black sky.
  • Draw a melting ice cube.
  • Sketch two bees drinking coffee.
  • Make-up a random, organic shape, then make it a form using value and shading.
  • Draw a cow in a chef’s hat cooking little people on a grill.
  • Fold an origami animal form (your choice), then draw it from a ¾ view (partly from the front/partly from the side).
  • Draw a meteor streaking through space over the earth.
  • Using your first and last initials only, design a personal logo.
  • Balance a coin on its edge. Draw it AND the shadow it casts.
  • Sketch a line of ants marching through the grass. Draw the view from their level.
  • Combine a bull and a bee.
  • Cartoon yourself.
  • Doodle with your eyes closed for a few minutes, then open your eyes and try to make something of your doodle.
  • Draw a giraffe in the city.
  • Sketch palm trees.
  • Design retro/old-fashioned lettering.
  • Create your own mythical creature.
  • Draw a cornucopia of things that are important to you.
  • Draw a scary face with dramatic shading (high contrast).
  • Sketch a sloth in a foot race. (headband, running shoes, a race number).
  • Draw dinosaurs’ bones.
  • Make a portrait of a lightbulb in in a striped sweater.
  • Draw a landscape with a lake.
  • Draw a pattern based on an animal with a patterned coat/skin.
  • Sketch your favorite food.
  • Draw something you enjoy doing.
  • Draw a flock birds from above.
  • Sketch a tulip.
  • Design a futuristic shoe.
  • Happiness is . . .

Sketch of a golfer

  • Draw a person named Tom. (If your name is Tom, sketch a “John”.)
  • Draw a Vortex.
  • Make-up a pattern using shapes and lines.
  • Draw blind contour drawings for 10 minutes.
  • Draw a huge crater in the suburbs.
  • Sketch a Fiddler’s Crab.
  • Draw memory or dream. It’s OK if parts are foggy or disconnected.
  • Draw stacks of money from a low angle.

Sketch of cash

  • Draw something that is empty.
  • Sketch the closest hallway.
  • Draw a cat that is not sleeping.
  • Design a flag. What does the flag represent or stand for?
  • Sketch your favorite childhood toy.
  • Sketch one of your relatives.
  • Draw hot air balloons, some close and some far away.
  • Set-up a still life of three objects in the room you are in and draw that.
  • Draw a zodiac symbol in 3D.
  • Draw with only value, don’t start with lines.
  • Sketch an unusual mode of transportation. You can make it up.
  • Illustrate the sense of touch.
  • Make a rubbing of a coin and then draw from that rubbing. Try to redraw your rubbing as exactly as possible.
  • Sketch a view from the closest window.
  • Draw water in a glass.
  • Draw a key – double the scale (size).
  • Draw Julius Caesar.
  • Design a door knocker for a large wooden door.
  • Hold a coin in your non-dominant hand. Sketch that.
  • Draw a person from life while they sleep. (They’ll never know if you’re sneaky.)
  • Sketch a representation of a summer activity.
  • Make a sketch of yourself from a mirror, shade as you go.

Now you have lots of ideas, get sketching. If you need more, here’s 101 more drawing ideas.

Now, it’s time for the assignment or project. We’ll combine a few of the sketches together to create a finished work of art. You can use any medium or combination of mediums that you wish. The result should be quite interesting.

The sketchbook medley below is the resulting image from the prompts: “Happiness is…”, “Sketch a page of roosters”, and “Draw stacks of money from a low angle”.

Sketchbook Medley Pen and Ink Sketch

Sketchbook Medley Drawing

The Sketchbook Medley is a wonderful exercise to stretch one’s creativity and re-engage with old sketches. Use it with you students, or try it yourself!

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Lesson Discussion

  1. This is great and I am intrigued. It tells what to sketch but not HOW! What class would you suggest that would teach this particular method? Thanks!

  2. I am truely enjoying The Virtual Instrutor series. the ones I can obtain without becoming a member.
    Even the the price is indeed low I cannot join at this time.
    please continue the free lessons. They have reinspired me to learn beyond any natural skills.
    I would love to become much more prolific and develop more techniques.
    Regards, Christine McClary

  3. Hello My name is Marilyn Hunt. I am a visual artist, painting mostly in acrylic but also in oils and wax. I teach art courses in my studio and currently am revving up to teach through adult continuing education in our area. I just want to express the value of your courses and lesson plans with regard to my teaching. It has been an amazing resource for me! Thankyou so much for all your hard work to creat and maintain this site. There’s a little artist/teacher way over here in Canada that has benefited immensely!

  4. More like this please! I love the ink. Are there any more similar lessons from Ashley Hurst?
    Thanks for sharing.

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