Monday, 17 October 2016

The Magic of Using a Sketch Book

(Sketch book magic unfolding)

I must confess, I am not a person who uses a sketch book on a daily basis.  I am not one of those artists who creates amazing visual keepsakes within the hard bound pages although I very much wish I was.  I am a random sketch book user and yet I am going to try and remedy that to become a more frequent user, because I have discovered that something akin to magic can happen when I use one.

Earlier this year, I spent a few happy weeks creating daily sketches in a lovely A4 Stillman and Birn sketch book, these beautiful books allow the user to dabble with all manner of mixed media, the pages are wonderfully thick and absorbant so you can pretty much throw anything at them and it does not seep through to the other side (Ive used ink, gouache, watercolour etc).  From those pages came an idea, which happened when a few flower doodles inspired a painting.  And it changed the direction of my art completely.

(Magical Garden ~ the change in direction for my painting)

I had been rather stuck for a time, feeling that I was stagnating and becoming increasingly bored with what I was doing.  Some friends and I agreed to do a drawing a day in order to inspire ourselves and one another.  We shared our doings on Instagram, and yet for one reason or another, this daily drawing phase waned, tapered off and finally stopped.

One reason for me was that I was insanely busy creating these amazing new illustrative pieces, the ideas flowed thick and fast which was fabulous after feeling so stuck and lost.  Lately I have been working on some commission pieces, the most recent one I completed was Padstow South Quay, a complete change of scene from those wandering, enchanting floral gardens I'd been creating.  Padstow rather took it out of me, as I wrote about in my last post, and so it was I found myself pottering about in the studio the other day, digging out the sketch book and sitting down with my supplies.

I found a grey fine liner and drew randomly, a jar appeared....some seed heads....feeling inspired now I added some colour, dug out my fabric stash, added some colour swatches and I knew that I was going to turn this sketch into a piece of textile art.  Which I did - Autumn Seed Heads emerged over the next couple of days, and it was a tonic to do something very tactile and free flowing after concentrating so hard on buildings and lots of windows.

(Autumn Seed Heads - Textile Art)

It was after I finished the hand embroidery that I began to realise how important a sketchbook is to me.  As a person who likes to generate art from the energy of an idea and get it onto canvas, this is no small revelation - although I realise that to some of you who already regularly use one, it's obvious.  So here I am.  A sketch book convert of the most excited sort.  I have seen the light, and I am most certainly going to be making a point of working in mine more often.  I am also still going to jump straight into canvases and panels with nothing more than the bright spark of an idea, and the exctied rush of enthusiasm of knowing I'm onto a winning streak - those paintings and artworks are like gold dust and I think it shows in the finished piece.

I think it will be nice to have a visual diary of my ideas, of colours I liked and worked with.  Of something to look over when the well of inspiration has dried up.  I want to have sketch books that are keepsakes, not just rough pencil drawings hurriedly executed, pages torn out and then left to gather dust.  I want to create sketch books that are beautiful to look at, that tell stories of my journey as an artist, to look back over and to see how far I have travelled.

I'm not certain if I will become one of those women who stop and draw in the middle of a town centre - at the moment I am very much a studio based sketcher, but I think I could be portable if needs must...and I think, perhpas I would enjoy it.  I have memories of sketching in a cafe in Prague on a college trip many moons ago, and at the Opera - those drawings evoke more memories than a photograph ever could.

I am also thinking about starting some kind of sketch book club, perhaps online in the new is the mere seed of an idea at the moment, but I was thinking along the lines of a private Facebook group where we can chat and share our sketch book work as we go.  I have much more thinking to do about this but perhaps it might be something you would be interested in joining in with?  Let me know your thoughts!


  1. I used to use a sketchbook everyday but now I only use one every now and then. I love the energy of the freeglow of ideas that comes from using a sketchbook daily. I think a club sounds like a good idea. I'm not on facebook though so wont be able to join there. Any possibility of a flickr group?

    1. Hi Mokki, thanks for your message - I'm considering a Facebook group and also by sharing on Instagram - would that work for you? Hope it helps, and hope you get a chance to take part in the new year when I hope to launch the group.
      Julia xxx

  2. what a wonderful idea - I'm interested. I have been thinking about starting a sketch book for some time, your art work is beautiful and clearly sketchbooking works for you so maybe it can help me to be more creative too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi and thanks for your message - pleased to hear that you are also interested, will keep you posted via blog and newsletter about what I hope will be a sketch book group starting in the new year (2017).
      Love, Julia xxx

  3. I think your idea is brilliant and I would love to take part. I know when I draw/use my sketchbook daily I'm much more connected with my creative self. So reading your newsletter today and now this blog is very inspiring. So, yes, I'm very keen to do something via a facebook group, or blogging? would be great.(I'm not on instagram) The sooner the better :) Love your new work.

    1. Hi Jill, thanks so much for your message. I am looking at starting up a group in the new year, still at planning stage but thought a private Facebook group might be a good way to keep in touch with people as its easier to chat on there isn't it? I'm pleased you like the idea, and will share more via my blog and newsletter.
      Love, Julia xx

  4. Hello! Sitting here in NZ very much enjoying your beautiful posts, and wishing (for the gazillion th time) I could do something like this.... Then you mention a group.... Yay! I've subscribed so I can keep an eye out for more info.... Can't wait!!!! Thank you xx


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