Thursday, 20 February 2014


Sketchbooks have never really been a big part of my work, largely because the paper in the ones I've tried before never seemed quite right, so up until now I've always used them for technical notes and rough thumbnail drawings etc. My colour work has instead always been on bits of watercolour paper offcuts, which I string together. But I have to say this Stillman & Birn sketchbook paper really is beautiful to work on and such a great size to transport around!

At the start of January lots of ideas entered my head for this project but in the end I decided to keep it open in terms of 'what to paint' and I need to be realistic about what is achievable for me. Basically I just want to enjoy it!
  I had some bulbs left over and felt inspired to paint them, they signify beginnings and seem like a fitting start to the project. Later on, when they bloom, I can paint the flowers in the other sketchbooks as the project progresses. I also like the idea of a full page of studies,with Ernst Haeckel inspired layouts, so decided to completely fill the first two pages with the bulbs.

I must admit to feeling slightly daunted when I saw the other sketchbooks ......all with such beautifully decorated covers and title pages! I didn't have time to decorate my cover and decided to 'freestyle' with a bit of compulsive pencil drawing on the inside. I wanted to include some of my favourite subjects....patterns in nature, decomposing leaves, lichens, twigs and my most loved flower Fritillaria was a general indulgence which I attempted to pull together in a slightly chaotic manner wit no particular plan.....seemed like a idea, I just wasn't sure if it was a good one.

Detail from the inside title cover
Two page spread showing the cut away revealing the bulb pages.
From the bulb page
For the inside cover I started at the top left corner and worked  across the page. I wanted it to be's definitely that! I decided it looked a bit dull and thought the inclusion of just one small ladybird in colour might add a nice spot of colour but instead decided to do a cut away to allow the first colour pages to show through. I always liked that idea in the Wizard of Oz, where the opening scene is black and white followed by vivid colour in the land of Oz.
The drawing kept growing and took longer than I had anticipated so the book moved around with me, I even took it to Prague but most of the time it sat by the bed and I added a little every night. As part of the composition I've included details from lots of my other works, so it was pretty much all from memory. It was great to have that freedom! no reference, no lighting, setting up or measuring and it was great to be working in pencil again....I couldn't put it down!.

Almost finished
My sketchbook has now started it's long journey, currently on it's way to Sigrid Frensen in the Netherlands, it's going to be a while before I see it again but I can't wait to see all of the sketchbooks along the way before mine returns home full of surprises! It will be nerve wracking to paint in a book that doesn't belong to me but at the same time I'm really looking forward to receiving the first book from Lorraine Adams - can't wait to see her beautiful work.

The Sketchbook Exchange is a great project which has already pushed me to do something new....  that's always a good thing! I'm feeling very fortunate to have been invited to take part.


  1. What a beautiful start to your book, I love the cutaway idea. What do you use to fix the pencil? I gave up using it in sketchbooks because it smudges so badly.

  2. Waiting patiently in Florence for its arrival !

  3. These pages are so jaw-droppingly amazing Dianne.