Saturday, 1 February 2014

First steps.....

These can often be really hard. I started going to an adult learning Botanical Illustration class as a means to help me through the repercussions of a breakdown and severe depression. I didn't know what to expect but wasn't prepared for the amount of pleasure and involvement that the subject would bring to me. After 20 minutes of looking into a flower to draw the detail I was hooked...I still go to the classes seven years later and love the people who have given me a security I hadn't felt for years.

Through doing the SBA distance learning diploma course I came to find some of the members of this sketchbook project group through Facebook and so appreciated their encouragement and generosity of  sharing the beautiful work they were creating. So, to be invited to take part in this exciting venture with them...well, I couldn't say no.

Using this lovely Stillman & Birn sketchbook is a delight. I coloured the end papers using coloured pencil, my preferred medium for the past 18 months but swapped to paint for the title pages and loved the way the paint glided over the smoothness. For the first double page spread I went for the paint again, and a spot of graphite to test the paper. Suddenly the double page that at first felt daunting (knowing that other, more gifted artists are to follow) seemed too small and I wanted to just keep on going! After all, this is a sketchbook, if my page is messy it's about who I am. If it turns out OK it's a bonus. I tend not to work to make 'finished artworks' anyway so my sketchbooks reflect the objects and subjects that have caught my fancy on that particular day or week. All of the subjects depicted on my pages were picked up in my local park after the hellish rains and gales of the past few weeks, even the crunchy acer and Persian ironwood leaves which were tucked in a little hollow by the wall and drew me in with their jewel-like colour.

The double page spread

I'm very fortunate to live behind what used to be quite a grand house, with grounds that were planted up with trees from around the world. There are several magnificent Cedar of Lebanons, acers , sweet gums, as well as hornbeam, whitebeam, various oaks, chestnuts sweet and Horse. It's been a treasure trove over the years. The park is not big but I'm there every day with Dyson, my dog, and it's my patch - I have come to know it very well and watched as the seasons change it's face.

I have reservations about drawing in other people's sketchbooks (I don't want to make a mess), but then I guess they feel exactly the same way too! The first handover seems like it will be the scariest as we make tentative marks on that next pristine double page spread. But this is an adventure. If it's not risky there seems little purpose in having a go, we might as well all keep our own sketchbooks and not end up with a treasury of other artists work and time and energy, and love for what they do. That would be such a shame.


  1. I love your story!! How inspiring, and how true... I think we will all be terrified of messing up in other people's sketchbooks, but the joyful prospect of getting our own sketchbooks back after 15 months loving filled with the sketches of the other artists overcomes that fear (I hope!). Beautiful sketches, Terri!! Well done!

  2. Cheers Shevaun. I feel so honoured that you asked me to be a part of it!

  3. Lovely first step ! I like so much how the twig passes through the pages !