The Travelling Sketchbook

My studio has picked up some momentum throughout August. I’ve been on a few travels, had a few paintings sell online and have made more confident steps with my drawings too.

Just before the summer break I had a go at life drawing with the Stroud Valleys Artspace group. I met a friendly bunch of professional artists that were using the class without a tutor to quietly practice their drawing techniques, experiment with paint and just enjoying being creative. For me, I hadn’t been to a proper life class since University, but I felt encouraged about how quickly I remembered the rules of measuring and focussing on the nature of my medium to express the light and tones of the model. During my degree I found that toned papers were very effective to be used as a mid-tone to begin a drawing. I work by picking out the darkest tone, and the lightest tone and use that as the measured tonal range to express. As you can see in the portrait study, I was interested in how lines were often not needed to depict space, particularly around her right shoulder where it disappears into the background and the light on her nose.

Hands are always the greatest challenge in drawing. I like to keep drawing them as often as I can, getting through lots of bad drawings to train my brain to express what I see and not what I think a hand should look like. My drawing process becomes a way of depicting light and shade on an object, which eventually reveals the form.

I photographed a shot here of my typical pencil case. Before heading out plein air painting, I read a few articles to make the most concise ‘shopping list’ of art materials to take with me. Here is my recommended list of things to take drawing when travelling: A6 Seawhite travel sketchbook, Daler-Rowney Artists sketching tin (as pictured), Art Graf water soluble graphite block, Aquash pen, Range of grade B pencils, Electric eraser, Bulldog clips, Sharpener, Mechanical pencil and Stadtler rubber. I’ve fine tuned my pencil case to this list now, and is convenient for me as it includes a quite concise yet a variety of mediums to get excited by. The Daler-Rowney Set also includes a graphite stick, water soluble graphite, conte pencils, charcoal and chalk.

This was a shot of my sketchbook out and about in the Lake District. Derwent pencils were made from the graphite in these mountains, so it seemed rather fitting to draw my subject with the subject itself! I also drew this with my water soluble block, it handles and responds quite like charcoal, but being water soluble does not smudge or get messy in my book. I recommend this sketchbook too as the paper is quite thick, is does not warp or bubble if I decide to swap to watercolour.

Since I’ve starting doing more drawing work with my collections of natural forms, things found on walks and objects of interest I have a new section of artwork for sale in my Artfinder shop! I now have quite a collection to view and buy online (57 artworks!), you can search by subject and whether the painting is ready to hang. It’s a great gallery to sign up for their newsletters too, and as a featured artist I sometimes get a mention – see their curated collection of luscious landscape paintings! Artfinder also have a daily blog where they share ‘Art of the day’ and so far I’ve had a few mentions, which has led to a few sales..hurrah!

I mostly update my shop every week to fortnight, but if there is something you’ve seen on my website or on Instagram that you like please get in touch! To view my full Artfinder shop visit here:

I like to choose toned papers, and this is a beautiful one that I bought from an interior shop near Ross on Wye, where they sell handmade sketchbooks and loose sheets of toned paper. This is particularly inspired by the new arrivals of autumnal things I’m gathering in the studio! The willow charcoal I used for this drawing feels so delicate and natural, and it’s a pleasure to create such a drawing as it is to study the subject. For my November solo exhibition (save the date! 27th November exhibition opening, on until Dec 3rd) I am playing with certain words and titles to embody a lot of my interests that painting takes me through. A lot of the subject matter will be from the garden, the shapes of the flowers I have studied, but also the way I notice the variety of the colours and shapes of the garden transitioning through the seasons is a focus of my project. So I am thinking the title will relate to words like ‘transitions,’ ‘shifting light’ or ‘in the garden.’ All will be revealed when I start to distribute posters and create an event for my show, so stay tuned!

This is only a work in progress, on a small panel, but I’d like to mention it as my work is developing and becoming more refined. I’ve loved spending lots of time drawing lately, as I find something rather sensitive about some of the lines I have used, or the tonal contrasts (my sketchbook is peppered with thoughts on recent paintings or drawings, around the odd poem or two) so I’m focusing on my paintings to emulate that in some way. So far I’m working on pre-prepared painted grounds, then working in the lights and shadows. (Quite like the portrait pictured at the top). I’ve recently absorbed a lot of Van Gogh paintings through some old books on my shelf, and they are so inspiring for their use of emotion and observation. There is so much joy in beginning a painting and letting the paint be free!

Thank you for reading my blog, and I leave you with some poetic lines drawn in my sketchbook on the way up to Helvellyn in the Lake District. I could perch on that mountain and endlessly think about painting!