I am revisiting the topic of sketching in response to fellow artist Loriann Signori's recent post about sketchbooks. She has asked people to submit posts about their sketching process along with examples. She will compile all the submissions she gets which should be an interesting read. I find it very interesting to see how other artists work.
I use different sketchbooks for different purposes. I usually have three or four sketchbooks going at the same time. I use a large sketchbook as shown in my last post to work out compositions from reference photos in preparation for larger paintings or when I have more time to sit and actually do some in depth drawing. My little notebooks are used on site when I am painting plein air or if I just want to put something down as a reminder for a later idea.
I try to keep a small sketchbook and a 6B woodless graphite pencil and/or a ballpoint pen with me at all times. I have three little sketchbooks because I am constantly misplacing one or all of them. And I can never find the pen, the pencil or the pencil sharpener. When I paint plein air I always spend ten or fifteen minutes (at least) doing thumbnails and notans. (There is a lot of information on notans on the internet. Loriann actually has some good posts on notan.) Usually these sketches are just quick two value studies of various compositional ideas. Sometimes they are just scribbles like the ones below.
Most artists will tell you that sketching is an integral part of the painting process even if you are an abstract painter. Drawing is a fundamental skill that will definitely improve your painting. I highly recommend keeping a sketchbook with you and taking the time to do a few sketches a day even if they are just notes for yourself!