How to fill a sketchbook outdoors; planning.
How to fill a sketchbook outdoors; planning.

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What is a sketchbook for?

‘Sketchbook : a book ‘of’ or ‘for’ sketches’ These are seven words which cannot truly describe the sketchbook and what it is capable of being in the hands of someone who regularly fills in its pages with images, ideas, words and phrases. It can be a journal, a diary, a collection of experiments and techniques or in my case a visual reminder of my journey’s, walks and places I have visited. Above all else working in a sketchbook is fun; gone are the constraints,  there are no deadlines, nothing is wrong, rules are thrown out of the window, it is entirely in the hands of the individual artist what goes into it, it is anarchy on paper and viewed only by those lucky enough to be invited to open its pages.

How do you start a sketchbook?

How do you start a sketchbook? Where do you begin when you first open it and confronted with all that clean, white paper? So here’s a little advice and, for those new to this art form,  some starting points to help you produce sketchbooks which are entirely personal and which may lead to a visual journey over the years as each book is completed.

For those who have used sketchbooks before, these blogs may give you a new perspective regarding your own work and how you approach your future projects.

Until a few years ago my main reason for using a sketchbook was to collect information, develop ideas and produce images for future work in our studio. However,  more recently I have come to see them as works of art in themselves and have changed my approach accordingly. I began using a sketchbook when I attended art school, where they were introduced in such a way as to make them appear as a separate strand of study and not related to our core subjects. I still have that original book and it is entirely devoted to pen and pencil line work with no experimentation or colour work. The Technical Illustration course I was taking was almost entirely based around engineering and consequently was highly focused on very precise drawing where a more looser approach wouldn’t have been appropriate to the subjects we were focussed on.

Meeting my partner, Ruth, was a turning point for a number of reasons, not least due to her very different approach to her sketchbooks which really opened my eyes to the potential of these books in relation to the process of producing artwork. Inside these hardback A5 books were illustrations, recipes, colour studies, lines of songs, photographs, anything and everything!  For me they were a revelation.

These days, combined with a love of the outdoors and travel, my sketchbooks have begun to take on an identity of their own depending on where and when they are produced. Whichever direction you take, with these wonderfully creative books, they will bring an enormous amount of pleasure to you as an artist, which is immeasurable.

I mainly use four sizes of book from A6 to A2; the two smaller books are for outdoor work with the two larger books being reserved for home and the studio. The smallest book is about 4”x 6”and fits perfectly in the back pocket of my jeans; very handy. The paper in these books are good quality, off white, cartridge paper and is perfect for almost all mark making techniques and substantial enough for watercolour, gouache and acrylic paint. To add variety to the books I add individual sheets of coloured pastel papers (Canson Ingres) and these are perfect for chalk, pastel, soft pencil and charcoal. I also paint a watercolour wash, usually a mid tone of reddish brown, over some pages to give more visual interest to the book. It provides a perfect surface to either draw or paint on and not being white allows you to use pale pastels or paints to provide highlights to your images.

There are other ways of preparing a sketchbook but these are the methods I use and have found them to be successful so far.

So once you have a sketchbook ready we need to have a look at a small amount of equipment to draw and paint with and I have another blog to help you with that. So I’ll bid you ‘bye’ for now and catch up with you soon.

Happiness, not in another place but in this place, not in another hour but this hour

Walt Witman

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