Studies of Male Profiles by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Study of Male Profiles, drawing 446E recto. Dea/ R. Bardazzi/ Getty Images

It is a privilege to get to see inside someone else's sketchbook for it is almost like getting a chance to see the world through their eyes for a moment. Sometimes it gives you a glimpse into how paintings or sculptures that we have come to call "great" first got their start as nascent ideas represented merely by scribbles or marks on a page. Or conversely, sometimes drawings in sketchbooks are exquisitely detailed or beautifully rendered works, little masterpieces in and of themselves. If, as is often said, the eyes are the window to the soul, then sketchbooks, as visual journals, are a window to the soul of the artist.  

The sketchbook is the place for an artist to record ideas, memories, and observations. Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbooks are the most well-known, with many books published on his extensive drawings, diagrams, and notes. But every artist keeps sketchbooks and it is fascinating to see that the drawings and paintings within the pages of their sketchbooks are easily recognizable as coming from the hand of the great artist whose finished works we have come to know.

Following are some links to websites and books where you can see examples of some well-known artists' sketches and sketchbooks. Some come from museums where the sketchbooks have been on display, some come from galleries, some come from the selections of other writers. They are a spellbinding look into the minds, hearts, and souls of the artists represented. 

Famous Artists' Sketches

Recommended Books