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CONTENTS Introduction 6 Essential Tools 10





Chapter 1: Sitting Comfortably Heading out When the subject comes to you Dealing with onlookers The sketchbook as a springboard

26 30 32 33

Chapter 2: Drawing Speed Small and fast Working on a bigger scale Making the most of every moment

38 40 42

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Chapter 3: Observational Skills Stop and look Learning to look Exploring themes Drawing the fresh and new The overfamiliar: around the house

46 48 50 52 54

Chapter 4: Making a Drawing Making marks 58 Tone 60 Lines 62 Drawing what you see 64 Composition 66 Color 68 Take a creative risk 70

Chapter 5: Architecture Architectural splendors 78 Everyday architecture 80 How to make depth work 82 The architectural portrait 84 Rooftops 86 Building sites 88 Profile: Miguel Herranz 90 Profile: Matthew Cencich 92

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter 6: Parks The marks of nature 96 The colors of nature 98 Composition 100 Drawing green spaces 102 Profile: Katherine Tyrrell 104 Chapter 7: People Finding subjects People in cafĂŠs People and scale People and movement Sketching people on the go Profile: Marina Grechanik Profile: Steve Wilkin

108 112 114 116 118 120 122

Chapter 8: Travel Journals Living the moment Making it personal Profile: Amer Ismail

126 128 130

Chapter 9: Reportage Artists in residence Reflect and report Telling a story Profile: Gabriel Campanario Profile: George Butler

134 136 138 140 142

Chapter 10: Night-time Exploring tonal values Light in darkness Profile: Max Naylor

146 148 150

Chapter 11: Digital Tools Working on tablets Using digital tools Profile: Brendan Kelly

154 156 158

Chapter 12: Beyond the Sketchbook Websites and blogs Social media Protecting your work online Join a sketchcrawl

162 164 165 166

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Resources 168 Contributor Index 170 Index 172 Acknowledgments 176

Top: Virginia Hein. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, USA. Bottom: George Butler. Signs, Lashkar Gar, Afghanistan.

Introduction A sketchbook can change your view of the world. That is, admittedly, quite a big claim for a few bound sheets of paper and perhaps a pen or pencil, but that is how it seems for people who regularly draw in one. A sketchbook is an intimate, personal space in which to express yourself, to explore your surroundings, and record your experiences using the simplest materials. But it is about more than just the drawings: the act of looking and absorbing what is around you enables you to seize the moment so the sketchbook fills up with memories in a most vivid way. It is the chance to stop, look, and appreciate things that you never would have otherwise, to make time and allow your senses to take over.

Above: James Hobbs. Ciutadella, Menorca, Spain. Opposite: Poppy Skelley. City skyline, Cambridge, UK.


One of the great things about a sketchbook is that it is yours and yours alone. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about what you do, and there is no need to please anyone but yourself. You are not working to a brief, and there no one will pass judgment. Every sketchbook contains successes and failures, and often it is when we dare to fail that we make our best work. There are many ways to use a sketchbook, but this book focuses on taking it out of the house to draw or paint from observation. That can be sitting at a café table in your hometown, exploring new places around the world, or simply making use of the time spent on a train or in a waiting room. The works they contain tell a story of our lives and give an insight into our worlds. My own journey with sketchbooks began at art school when we went down to the beach. We lit a fire from driftwood, and drew it as it blazed and was eventually extinguished by the incoming tide. After college, I lived in a tiny Fiat van for six months with a bunch of pencils and a collection of homemade sketchbooks as I traveled around England, with time to draw from dawn to dusk. It was on that trip that my work really

changed—a total immersion in drawing is a surefire way to see your work develop. I have never been far from a sketchbook ever since. What I missed then, though, was a community of fellow sketchbookers. It was easy to assume that nobody else was doing the same: the nature of sketchbooks, after all, is that they close shut, and all too easily end up in a box under the bed, unshared. But drawings in sketchbooks are easy to scan and show online, and with the arrival of blogs and social media it was apparent that, far from being alone, there were many other people going out with their sketchbooks, posting online those works that they were prepared to show, and offering support to other sketchbookers. The international network of artists, Urban Sketchers (, links thousands of sketchbookers from around the globe. Events like sketchcrawls, in which people meet up to draw in groups, offer the kind of encouragement and assurance that newcomers particularly need.


How to make your own sketchbook

The joy of making your own sketchbook is that you can choose exactly what you want it to be, including its paper, size, format, number of pages, and cover design. They can be made from things as simple as cheap cartridge paper and cereal box covers backed with old brown envelopes as a cost-cutting measure, or specialist or homemade papers to take them to a different level of personal expression. A specialist bookbinding store can assist with a variety of bookcloths, acid-free self-adhesive tapes to strengthen the spine, adhesives that combine PVA and starch paste, and linen sewing thread, all of which will enhance the finished object.


You will need: One or two large sheets of paper PVA glue l Card for cover l Backing paper for cover l Linen strip l Thread and needle l Awl l l

Essential Tools



Fold a large sheet of paper into sixteen equal pieces. Create a section, or “signature,” of your sketchbook by folding four pieces together as shown. The rest of the paper is enough to create another three similar signatures. How you tear and fold the paper will dictate whether the book is portrait or landscape format: think carefully before you rip.





Starting with the first of these signatures, make four evenly spaced marks along its outside folded edge and pierce through each with a large needle or awl—this makes sewing the paper together easier. Using a good length of thread, start to bind the first section together by passing the thread through from the outside. Leave a few inches outside, and tie it fast with the thread when it passes back out the first time. Then alternate in and out of the holes to join the four sheets.

Line up the second signature with the first, and continue as you did for the first using the same line of thread, pulling the thread tight as you go. As you finish the second signature, weave the thread through the exposed loops on the outside of the spine of the first signature to hold them loosely together before starting on the third.


HEADING OUT Feel a bit wary about going out drawing with your sketchbook? Ease yourself into the world of drawing in the great outdoors with these ideas for safe places and subjects to draw. CAFÉS AND BARS

Cafés and bars are some of the most comfortable places to sketch in: there is space to relax and spread out, a changing cast of characters, and refreshments at hand—buy these in sufficient quantities so the patience of the staff is not unduly tested. A table creates a boundary that people are unlikely to pass to comment on the sketches you are making. If you are nervous about drawing the people around you, it is an opportunity to draw an interior, or the view from the window.


The Café do Monte, Lisbon, is such a regular haunt of Alexandre Esgaio that, he says: “I can almost draw it with my eyes closed.” In the drawing below he has focused on the pattern of the floor tiles to the extent that no people nor even tables and chairs are included. Draw what you want to include, leave out what you don’t: there are no rules.

Getting Started: Sitting Comfortably


The rural landscape provides space away from curious onlookers, as well as enough inspiration for a lifetime. These qualities may be found in a local park if getting out of the city is a problem. Adolfo Arranz’s painting of pine trees in Quintanilla de Arriba, Spain, shows nature untouched by humankind. FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Friends and members of your family are the easiest subjects to work with if you are preparing yourself to draw the public. Angela Charlton drew her young children relaxing after school. With time, drawings like these grow in personal value in a way that those of strangers never can. But portraiture is unforgiving to someone who has just started to draw: organic forms and scenes from nature can be a better route to follow at first.

Opposite: Alexandre Esgaio. CafĂŠ do Monte, Lisbon, Portugal. This page Top: Adolfo Arranz. Pine trees, Quintanilla de Arriba, Spain. Left: Angela Charlton. Family portrait.


Dealing with onlookers One of the main fears for many sketchbookers is the self-consciousness and vulnerability that drawing in public can create. Generally, however, people don’t often approach someone drawing and, when they do, they are usually supportive and perhaps even impressed. Some sketchbookers even enjoy the conversations that can ensue. But if you want to avoid this contact, there are a few things you can do to make it less likely.


If you are drawing someone and they see what you are doing, show them what you have done—people are usually surprised or flattered. Alex Raventós takes photographs of his subjects if they spot what he is doing, which he then pastes into his sketchbooks. Alternatively, you could offer to email them a lowresolution photograph of the drawing.



Draw with a friend or join a sketchcrawl (see page 166) as strength in numbers discourages contact with onlookers. Head for places where sketchbookers are more commonly seen, such as a museum, or draw on a tablet or smartphone, which can make you look less conspicuous. If people do comment on your work, remember that the drawing is for you, not to impress them, but learn to appreciate the criticism that could be useful to you.

Getting Started: Sitting Comfortably

The sketchbook as a springboard For many, drawing in a sketchbook on location is an end in itself, but for others it is also a springboard for fresh creative ideas, its pages the place to turn to for works made from observation that can be incorporated into those made in the studio. Here is how three artists use their sketchbook drawings as a step toward new ideas and compositions.



The artist Lachlan Goudie uses his sketches to create paintings in his London studio, but rather than working from one single image, he uses elements of several if they work together well graphically, even if these are scenes set hundreds of miles apart. The two color sketches shown here are of different places he visited during his travels through the Canadian Rockies, but which he referred to—along with other images—to paint the final watercolor work of a scene, titled Highland (bottom), that isn’t of one particular place. The finished watercolor painting, completed in the studio, echoes elements of the sketches, such as the forest foreground and the extended mountain range. “The high contrast palette of red, green, turquoise, and blue is not a representation of what was there, but the colors that felt right when I drew the sketch. They were colors that I probably would never have arrived at otherwise in my studio,” Lachlan says.

Opposite: Alex Raventós. Portraits and photograph. This page Top: Lachlan Goudie. Route 93, Rocky Mountains, Canada. Center: Lachlan Goudie. Route 93, Rocky Mountains, Canada. Bottom: Lachlan Goudie. Highland (finished watercolor).


Sketch Your World  

Packed with accessible tutorials and inside tips and advice from contemporary artists, Sketch Your World is the ultimate handbook for anyone...

Sketch Your World  

Packed with accessible tutorials and inside tips and advice from contemporary artists, Sketch Your World is the ultimate handbook for anyone...