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Starting to use a sketchbook.

Updated: Nov 12, 2022

July 2021

I've always found using a sketchbook tricky, you create a page you love and then the next one you could easily tear up and throw in the bin! Recently though, I've been trying to fight the perfectionism and just let the sketchbook 'be'. For the first time ever I'm probably using my sketchbook the way I should be; to collect, inform, build ideas, gather. I've also been sticking in colour swatches and photos, as well as drawing and painting directly onto the pages.

Below is one of the pages I've created just through playing, it's given me lots of ideas for larger work and I can't wait to get started!

The page in the middle below is another painted sketchbook page. What's great is the paper is thick enough to take layers of acrylic without rippling, I bought it online from Seawhite and it's been such good value. The painting is based on memories of a Lake in a place called Orrell, not far from where I grew up in Upholland, Lancashire. I'm hoping to go back there and sketch plein-air this Summer and maybe do a large canvas, with the biggest brushes I can find! The other photos are glimpses of how I've used the sketchbook to collage in and also draw without thinking with meditative tiny marks.

I'm learning that in my sketchbook I can make mistakes, be free and jump from one idea to the next as I please. The concept that one idea is formed and shaped through the sketchbook is wonderful, but in reality for me I know it doesn't work. For now I am happy to just go with whatever ideas come along and use the sketchbook almost like a journal- to record, explore and hopefully some magic will happen.

I've put together some prompts for anyone who would like to get started with a sketchbook and is need of some inspiration; here goes!

Collage- cut out colours from magazines and packaging that you really like and create a page of swatches. You could do the cuttings in random shapes but often the same sized shapes can look great. These can then inform colour palettes for future paintings.

Pattern- split a page of your sketchbook into four and create different patterns in each section, if it helps create a pattern by drawing around something simple like a coin or a even use a ruler.

Paint-mask the edges of your sketchbook with low tack tape. Use two colours only plus white and paint freely across the pages, try to get contrast- light and dark, use different brushes to create a variety of marks. When dry, carefully peel off the sides to reveal beautiful crisp white edges.

Draw- Hold your pencil at the end so it feels like you have less control. Draw a simple object like a vase or a single flower, keep the pencil marks light and quick. I often set an alarm for 3 minutes maximum.

I hope that may help some of you get started if you are interested! Please send me your photos if you have a go at all, I'd love to see how you get on. You can contact me below and at

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