Sketchbook Salvation

My sketchbook is a witness of what I am experiencing, scribbling things whenever they happen.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

Having a rather nomadic existence, adventuring between countries, means settling in the studio to work can be a challenge. So, my sketchbook becomes more important than ever. I love it; it comes with me wherever I go. It serves as a visual diary, notebook and collation of ideas and inspiration. Sketches, quick paintings, colour palette exploration and experimental play, make up my content. I don’t like to follow rules and conventions. On one occasion, I have held my sketchbook out of our Landcruiser’s window as we drive through a river of mud which was once a murram road, in Samburu. The pages became splattered with the rich red earth which was the ground for further work. Other examples are: pasting in paper-thin bark, rubbing sand into the paint and scratching into the page with a sharp-edged stone, which then I allow ink to pool in the crevices.

I love to see the wide variety of other artists’ sketchbooks – always as personal and creative. It gives an insight to the character and vision of each artist. One of my favourites is Frida Kahlo’s sketchbook. It is a visual treat – soaked in inks, scribbled with line and dotted with personal iconography and drawn images. It is a deeply personal visual journal of her emotional pain, her tumultuous passions and stories of episodes in her life. It is inspiring to me as an artist and in my role as director of x2 art holidays, teaching and inspiring others in their creative journey.

I keep all my sketchbooks as they are part of my creative journey. I spend a considerable amount of time choosing each sketchbook; selecting a leather bound or fabric-covered, homemade paper or Japanese rice paper, large for expansive expression or small to tuck into any bag. Pages will be smeared in charcoal or the earth from where I’m working, drenched in inks or high-pigmented water-colours, marked with quick, scratchy pencil sketches, collaged, all building my encyclopaedia of ideas.

From Sketchbook to Painting:

The journey from this to a painting is a convoluted process. Several versions of a concept will be explored in various media, blocked out in tonal contrast and drawn out in various compositions. However, as each painting develops it takes on a life of its own and I treasure the relationship between me, as the artist, and the painting as a living, growing work in its own right. It may sound strange but this dynamic is what keeps the energy and balance of each piece.

Poetry is any page from a sketchbook of outlines of a doorknob with thumbprints of dust, blood, dreams.”                                                                                                                                         – Carl Sandberg

Top Tip:

For those of you starting out on your creative journey, or, if you are an artist in need of a little kickstart which we all need periodically, I recommend The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron. She guides you through daily exercises to cultivate personal creativity and confidence.

See images from my sketchbook on my new website

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