Sketchbook Sneak Peek

Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Kristy Heilenday

by Maxwell Tielman


When I was a sophomore in high school, my studio art class spent several weeks creating sketch book journals. Exactly what they sound like, these journals contained daily entries—visual documentation of our feelings, artistic experiments, and thoughts for the day. Although my own drawing skills (and inaptitude with both wet and dry media) prevented me from continuing the project after the end of the semester (I was always frustrated by my utter lack of sketching talent), the concept of sketch book journals has always appealed to me. I love peering into friends’ sketch books because, in a way, they represent chronicles of their lives as certain points in time and parts of their personalities that, sometimes, they keep hidden from the rest of the world. This is a notion that is quite familiar to today’s sketch book artist, the Virginia-baesd Kristy Heilenday. Her sketch book work, a combination of from-life observations and irreverent, oftentimes humorous illustrations, is what she describes as “record-keeping,” a way to transport herself back to a specific place in time. With stacks upon stacks of old Moleskines in her studio, they function almost like handmade photo albums, a creative (and refreshingly non-tweet-based version of daily chronicling) take on personal documentation. Check out some of Kristy’s fantatic sketchbook pages and some of her own thoughts and tips for sketch book keeping after the jump! —Max


Why do you use a sketch book?

I really appreciate the record-keeping capability of sketchbooks. Their portability allows me to take one with me wherever I go, and capture moments I may otherwise never remember. Whether I’ve drawn from direct observation or just scribbled down what was going through my mind at the time, I’m able to go through past pages and immediately transport myself back to those moments. It’s great to have these stacks of books that chronologically document the progression of my subject matter, materials, ability, etc. In a more basic sense, sketchbooks are just a really effective way to keep my eye trained and my imagination active.

What are your go-to sketch book supplies? Are there any brands or media that you’re particularly drawn to?

I use Moleskines almost exclusively – either the basic or watercolor sketchbooks. Occasionally I crave variety in regards to size and paper, but I always go back to Moleskine. I’ve been using Pilot Precise pens on and off for several years and more recently started using their Parallel Pen. The Pocket Brush Pen by Pentel is another long-time favorite. For large areas of color, I tend to use DecoColor or Molotow paint pens.

Aside from preliminary sketches for larger projects, are there any things that you like to sketch just for fun? What are some things that you most frequently fill your sketch books with?

People, particularly women, animals and typography are a few of my favorite things to draw. I think all of my friends at some point have been asked to “sit still!” for a few minutes while I sketch them, but these days I’m more open to the idea of drawing from photos (that I’ve taken) and imagination. Any semi-interesting inanimate objects that happen to be nearby are likely to end up on the page. I enjoy creating new environments by layering images drawn from life with patterns or abstract, non sequitur backgrounds. I’m very interested in how each sketchbook page works as a cohesive design, but I try not to let that inhibit my weirdness and experimentation.

kristensketchbook_2 kristensketchbook_3 kristensketchbook_4 kristensketchbook_5 kristensketchbook_6 kristensketchbook_7 kristensketchbook_8 kristensketchbook_9 kristensketchbook_10 kristensketchbook_11 kristensketchbook_12 kristensketchbook_13 kristensketchbook_14 kristensketchbook_15 kristensketchbook_16 kristensketchbook_17 kristensketchbook_18 kristensketchbook_19 kristensketchbook_20 kristensketchbook_21 kristensketchbook_22 kristensketchbook_23

Suggested For You


  • Beautiful work, Kristy! The drawing of the Karhu can at the very top caught my eye. I looked a little closer & can see that it’s a thank you drawing to Arteles. I spent a little time there in the summer of 2012!

  • Big fan of this series! Thanks for sharing, Kristy. The “please,” armchair, deer, & lip print is my favorite.

  • Amazing. I love Kristy’s work. Just beautiful and inspiring. I wish someday I would I do something like that. =) I love the 10th one with the writing. Thanks

  • Hey Max ,
    there’s always the “sketchbook project” at the Art Library of Brooklyn in Williamsburg. My bloke and I spent a couple of hours one afternoon looking at some beautiful work by some very talented folk. I just love the idea of the “project” !

  • So amazing. I wish I had the dedication to follow through with something like this; I remember having to do it at University for one of my drawing courses and my sketching skills improved out of sight that semester! Of course, they have atrophied again through lack of use… sigh. One day… ;p