Monday, 25 November 2013


After my 100th post yesterday one of my followers asked if I could give any advice on how to start sketching. Although I went to art college when I left school, I was studying dress design and manufacture so I didn't do a lot of drawing except for some design sketches of which only a small sketchbook remains. We also had a life drawing class once a week which was not really taken seriously and I threw all the drawings away when I left home, much to my regret now! I soon settled down with a family and used my sewing skills to earn money and had no time to spare for drawing until the children grew up.  I did a bit of watercolour painting in the late 80s, encouraged by my mother who was a keen painter, but the earliest sketchbook I have is from 1997.  I started to draw the views from our boat when we were away on our trips to the west country and the above is the first in a spiral bound book. I only used pencil at the time and looking back all the sketches are smudged against the opposite page and I think this is one very good reason to draw in pen.
After reading a review in an art magazine in 2000, I purchased a book and set of videos by Claudia Nice called 'Watercolour techniques in pen and ink' which changed my life. I started by buying a black drawing pen and a sketchbook with smooth paper and this is the first sketch done in my lunch break after reading through the book. I practised all the textures Claudia demonstrated and used them all at some time throughout this and many subsequent sketchbooks.
Above are the basic patterns which I redrew in another sketchbook 10 years later to remind me of the basics.  The most important thing to remember is that you are doing this for fun and for yourself only, nobody else has to see it and I certainly wouldn't show any of my earlier books as they are such a mess!  When using a pen to draw it's important that you feel comfortable and not put off by any scratchiness in the nib.  My favourite drawing pen is the Pitt artist pen in sepia and sanguine which also comes in black but I find these colours softer and also less obtrusive when I add colour.  My favourite sketchbook is the moleskine, either the watercolour or the one designated for sketching which has lovely smooth creamy paper which takes pen and coloured pencils beautifully.  I started to use coloured pencils as it was easy to have a small selection in a case in my car when I travelled around as a sales rep.  I had the opportunity to draw in my lunch breaks and as part of my job was visiting historical buildings and other interesting places I had lots to inspire me.  Since 2000 my collection of sketchbooks has grown and become a wonderful record of my life and travels and I can honestly say that every page brings back memories of the time and place where it was done.  I try to draw something every day now and feel lost when I haven't picked up my pen or a crayon!
Since I acquired my first Ipod nearly 5 years ago and then got my own computer my life has changed even more.  I have discovered a world of sketchers who love to share their work and especially Cathy Johnson whose Artists Journal Workshop book and facebook page really got me going sharing my work. Kathryn Tyrrell, whose blog 'Making a Mark' was one of the first I found, has also been a huge source of inspiration and in particular her reviews of new art books, several of which I have bought.  Those which I like the best are:
 Botany for the Artist and The Drawing Book both by Sarah Simblet,
Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils by Ann  Swan,
Work Small, Learn Big, sketching with pen and watercolour, an International Artist publication.
I hope all this makes sense and helps anyone interested to get started on a great hobby.  Or maybe I should call it a way of life because that's what it is really!