Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice by Lisa Sonora

the cover of Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam

Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice


Buy Sketchbooks Now



Digital Edition: .pdf document. 500 pages.

Your Digital Edition will be available for download immediately — from your purchase confirmation email!

Since childhood, I’ve kept visual diaries in blank sketchbooks. My writing illustrated with drawings, collage and photographs. While I messed with combining writing and mixed-media techniques, I never considered what occurred in my sketchbooks art.

In fact, I was never formally trained in writing or visual art at all. My educational degrees and professional trainings are in music, therapy, and business administration. Diverse career paths further confounded by my need to write and paint…and travel and study with all manner of spiritual teachers.

The writing and image-making I did in my sketchbooks were not art, but explorations that helped me survive a difficult childhood, then find my way in the world as an passionate creative, uncertain of her true gifts, or the right medium or career in which to share them.

“I recently bought “Sketchbooks” and wanted to share some private thoughts. First of all a huge THANK YOU for writing it.
It helped me in ways I hardly can describe with words. The mixture of your raw writing from your heart and the visuals in between are so powerful and courageous. SO GOOD.
For me it felt like big soul sister energy I received.” – excerpt from a letter to Lisa by Uma, from Austria


It was in the late 1980’s, when I was a young therapist working in psychiatric hospitals, that I began to teach others how to use expressive writing and image-making for healing and insight. I showed my patients how to keep their own sketchbooks when I hit a wall with significantly traumatized girls, finding that talk therapy got us nowhere. What they needed were some simple tools and a private space to mine their own inner wisdom.

There is an incredible power in honestly and in vulnerability.

At the end of Chapter 20 I was crying.

Thank you, Lisa Sonora for sharing this. Thank you for doing this work.” – Susan Carmen-Duffy

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam. Chapter 19 page spread.

These days, my sketchbooks still continue to document the process of art-making, life navigating and business building. Along the way I’ve had the privilege of sharing my process with thousands of people outside of psychiatric hospitals—from teen delinquents in jail, stalled artists, engineers running global technology companies, genocide survivors in Rwanda, and every manner of creative soul in between. Everyone benefits from having permission, and a process, for confronting the blank page of their life.

“I am so proud of you for sharing your story.

You are brave. And in your bravery, you are a healer.”  
— Sam Tucker


Buy Sketchbooks Now

What You’ll Find in Sketchbooks:

It’s writing, it’s work-in-progress, it’s thought experiments, it’s what I’m reading that inspires me and what I see in the world that gives me hope.

It’s the raw edge of creation, where ideas, passion, and excitement intersect with doubt and fear.

It’s about my dreams and ideas, and how I work toward making them real. It’s about the rougher edge of creativity, where the destructive tendencies are rooted and how I wrestle with those, too.

It’s how I deal with money, in a crazy economy as a single, self-employed artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.

It’s how I crave belonging and connection and community, and yet am by nature a hermit, a true introvert, who is shy and prone to isolation.

It’s my living experiment with art-making, economics, marketing, and how the intersection of all these makes thriving (and sometimes just surviving) as a working artist possible in the 21st century.

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam. Interior page example with artwork.

The Story of Sketchbooks

Sketchbooks was originally published as a sort of digital apprenticeship. More than any formal education, there is a particular kind of learning that you get by apprenticing, being in the studio or at the office and watching someone work.

Much of what I’ve learned about creativity, healing, courage—and being able to support myself as a self-employed artist for more than 20 years—comes from watching and learning from people who were already doing what I wanted to do. So this is one way I’d like to pass it on.

An apprentice learns about the lifestyle of the artist, how they manage the details and derailments, and still get their work out the door. For over a year, I shared excerpts from my sketchbooks in the form of a twice-monthly paid email subscription.

Each issue documented my own creative practice, composed in the moment and from typed excerpts of my handwritten blank books. Readers could virtually peer over my shoulder as I worked and interact if they wished. The next best thing to getting to hang out in the studio together.

Buy Sketchbooks Now

While there are some opportunities to come and work with me in person, I didn’t want geography, travel and the associated time and expense to be limiting factors. And while I create online courses, too, the focus of on the content of the course and the experience of the students, not on my personal process. Sketchbooks offers readers insight into my own private creative practice.

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam - Chapter 23

Since I’m a self-employed artist who also guides other creatives in making a living from their work, I like to lead by example. This means trying a lot of different things to see what resonates with my audience. It means putting out work for sale in the marketplace to see what works, and what doesn’t.

This compilation of Sketchbooks into a book length form is something that subscribers of Sketchbooks asked for. So this book is yet another experiment. Each chapter in this book represents one of the original issues sent by email.


Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam - Chapter 13

While I never went back and read previous issues before sending out another, there are narrative threads that flow through these pieces.

This mirrors how my sketchbooks are actually created. I don’t work in one book at a time, and don’t work on pages in order. Since the creative process is non-linear, I submit to this seeming lack of order. But by the time a volume is full, it’s always surprising to see a story within that unfolds in a sequence from beginning to end.

In Sketchbooks, you’ll get an inside look at how my creative practice provides a solid foundation and support for taking bigger and bigger leaps into the unknown. Sometimes this looks like getting through the day, more or less in one piece.

This is what allows me to thrive, (and sometimes simply survive) as an artist, while I heal wounds from the past, stay awake in this moment, and keep growing into the future. My hope is that you find ideas and inspiration that you can use to navigate your own journey.

“Thank you for offering Sketchbooks, they are soooooooo helpful!

It’s always good to get the next issue! I go to my bedroom, lie across the bed and read. I pause along the way to reflect on what you’re written or any issues it brings up for me. Your sketchbook is an indulgence I give to myself and I relish it.

I count you as one of my few artist role models. Your suggestions and ideas work for me and I feel a sense of kinship.”  

– Indigene Theresa Gaskin / Visual Artist and founder of Indigene Art

Anyone who wants to do something they’ve never done before, or find their unique creative voice, needs to develop skills for dealing with unfamiliar territory. The frontier of the unknown causes discomfort and disorientation. My Sketchbooks document my journey along this path.

How To Order

Purchase Now and start reading right away!

Digital Edition of Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice


Buy Sketchbooks Now



Digital Edition: .pdf document. 500 pages.

Your Digital Edition will be available for download immediately — from your purchase confirmation email!

Context: $20 bucks is what generous benefactors paid per month…just to get two issues. Some of them paid $10 for a single back issue.

Sketchbooks, Table of Contents:

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam. Table of Contents


Book Cover & Title Page:

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora Beam. Book cover, Title Page

43 Responses to Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice by Lisa Sonora

  1. Gena April 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    Bought, but never got. Can you help?

    • Lisa Sonora April 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

      Hi Gena – sorry you’re having trouble – I’ve written to Jen my assistant and she will help you out.

  2. Tess September 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    Hi Lisa! Just discovered your site and subscribed today! Yay! Love your content! A quick question…I see that “Sketchbooks” has a sale price of $10 listed next to it (but then it also says thru August). Is that sale price still available by chance? Thank you!

    • Lisa Sonora September 24, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      Tess – The discount expired on August 31.

  3. Jackie Hausman April 29, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Hi Lisa,

    I just purchased your Personal Sketchbook PDF file, and it has not downloaded. Looking forward to Portland in June for you workshops.

    Jackie Hausman

    • Lisa Sonora April 29, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

      Just sent you an email, Jackie – thanks for letting me know!

  4. rachel December 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Do you have any physical copies of this book for sale?

  5. kaz August 9, 2014 at 3:55 am #

    Could you let me know when a hard copy of your book will be available – many thanks.

  6. Polly August 1, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Hi Lisa…just ordered your book and downloaded it to my desktop…no problem.
    However, I’ve tried to open it on my Smart phone and a message comes up “CANNOT OPEN”
    It downloaded ok but can’t be opened or read. Any ideas????

    • Lisa Sonora August 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      Polly – which book?

      • Polly August 1, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

        Just figured it out Lisa!!! Had to access it through phone “files” rather than the phone “downloads”. I’m already on page 100 of “Sketchbooks”!!! Loving it 🙂

  7. Jo Berneche July 14, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Just found you…I would really be interested in a paperback book of your “sketchbooks” I enjoy your art and will be purchasing The creative Entrepreneur . Hope to hear from you Lisa, you area brave and lovely person.

  8. Terry Gates January 10, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    We promote writing to elementary schools. I like what I see here. We should talk and see how we might be able to help each other. Where do you live? I travel a lot so it might be coincidental that we might cross paths in the near future.

  9. cynthia cross January 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Can I get a printed copy of your book? If so, how? Please let me know! Many thanks! 🙂

    • Lisa Sonora Beam January 8, 2014 at 8:03 am #

      thanks for asking, Cynthia – right now there is no hard copy available – just the .pdf digital edition. This can be read on your computer, or other devices like phone or tablet with a Kindle app, for example.

      I certainly prefer reading paper books – and would love to create a bound edition.

      It is in my project list for this year. looking for the right editor to work with on this first, as the digital edition is largely my unedited journals – which honestly I don’t feel ready to put out into the world at large.

      Because this will mean reviews on Amazon, etc. and I can’t even look at reviews of The Creative Entrepreneur – which is not a personal book at all.

      Having this edition on my website is my first step, and it challenges me.

      • Cynthia Cross December 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

        Hey Lisa,
        I’m still interested in a hard copy. If it when it becomes available, then please let me know! 🙂 I will probably order your pdf first, but would love to have something bound! Wishing you the best in 2015!!

  10. Kim January 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    Is it at all possible to gain a printed addition?

    • Lisa Sonora Beam January 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      re: printed edition of the project – I am dreaming up ideas for that! Thanks for asking. If you stay subscribed to the project email list, you’ll be the first know when available. I’d really like to do this.

  11. Catherine Ekas September 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Do I understand correctly that you have shipped out the Sketchbooks???
    Really looking forward to receiving it.

    • Lisa Sonora September 2, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Yes! Yours was the very first to ship, Cathe! Should arrive Tuesday.

  12. Gloria August 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Am listening to the Dirty Footprints discussion about this book now. Checked it out, loved the title and table of contents and read some of the excerpts on your site. Loved Creative Entrepren. Ate it up. Was so inspired and moved by what I read in Sketchbooks, had to get it now. Would like to get the print version in time if its still available. For now, got the digital.

    • Lisa Sonora September 2, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Hi Gloria- so glad you are enjoying the interview and book. Connie is a delight!

      The print edition is available through September, then I’m back in mexico for awhile.

      • liliana January 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

        Lisa where in Mexico?

  13. Allison Quaid August 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m so proud of you! Can’t wait to see your creative spirit in material / book form. I’ll definitely be buying a copy. You are an inspiration!!!

  14. Laura July 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    I *love* the idea of the real one, but digital works best for me at this point. 🙂

  15. Lay Hoon July 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    I’m buying the digital version.
    Can’t wait to read about it 🙂

  16. Lyna Lou Nordstrom July 15, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    I love the “being there” voice you use in the Sketchbooks.
    I will be buying the email edition $20.)
    Thank you for sharing!


  1. Tranquility du Jour #373: The Creative Practice - June 28, 2016

    […] Lisa’s memoir, Sketchbooks […]

  2. The Blank Page & Vulnerability | Lisa Sonora - February 6, 2016

    […] These are the sorts of things I write about in my sketchbooks. […]

  3. Is Your Life Shrinking or Expanding? | Lisa Sonora - February 1, 2016

    […] work gave me the courage and audacity to publish my own journals in my memoir, Sketchbooks. If you want even more behind-the-scenes, here’s what was happening the day the memoir was […]

  4. life (and creativity) shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage | Lisa Sonora - January 23, 2016

    […] Always when I write, it is a total surprise to me what is going to come out on the page. This is the same way I paint, and work in my sketchbooks and journals. […]

  5. Give the Gift of Creativity: My 3 Top Picks, Including One You Can Afford to Give to Everyone | Lisa Sonora - December 14, 2015

    […] loved my memoir and reached out to me to develop a course to help her students feel more confident in their […]

  6. Art Date This Weekend? | Lisa Sonora - December 4, 2015

    […] is about writing in the visual journal, but the rest of the workshops are visual. Connie loved my memoir and wanted me to help her students feel more confident in their […]

  7. Why bother keeping a sketchbook? - Lisa SonoraLisa Sonora - January 23, 2015

    […] out my memoir, Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice, here: (get it via instant […]

  8. keep the channel open | Lisa Sonora - January 13, 2015

    […] If you want to read more about my story, I invite you to check out my memoir, Sketchbooks. […]

  9. The Blank Page & Vulnerability | Lisa Sonora - September 17, 2014

    […] are the sorts of things I write about in my sketchbooks. I invite you to make your own notes and observations. Draw, paint, photograph or collage what you […]

  10. Why have a Creative Practice? | Lisa Sonora Beam - April 1, 2014

    […] — parts of this essay excerpted from Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice […]

  11. I Moved to Mexico: On Following Dreams & Reinvention | Lisa Sonora Beam - February 27, 2014

    […] A new book: Sketchbooks, where I open up my own personal sketchbooks that document the process of art-making and life […]

  12. No Ordinary Moments & The Keeping of Sketchbooks | Lisa Sonora Beam - February 27, 2014

    […] A bunch of the content from my sketchbooks is now available in my new new book: Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice. Available for instant download […]

  13. rooted, present, audacious {December 2013 Review} | Lisa Sonora Beam - January 2, 2014

    […] I have done here is open up more of my sketchbooks and journals for you, something readers of my memoir have been asking […]

  14. grab a taco and celebrate my anniversary (and fav Mexican holiday) with me | Lisa Sonora Beam - December 12, 2013

    […] I wrote (over-shared?) about my experience moving to Mexico (and about life, home, money, love, sex —and lack thereof)  in my memoir: Sketchbooks: My Personal Practice. […]

  15. The Latest: Bike crash, book launch…what else? {August 2013 Review} | Lisa Sonora Beam - September 1, 2013

    […] you are salivating for the book, go get it, and then come back here if you have a few minutes to read […]

  16. where women *don’t* create | Lisa Sonora Beam - August 6, 2013

    […] is *finally* finished is the memoir book filled with excerpts of my journals, […]

Leave a Reply