There’s something almost magical about sketchbooks.
At exhibitions and in the studio, I’ve noticed people are often fascinated by them, sometimes more so than they are with the work on the walls! I’m often asked if my sketchbooks are for sale. They’re not… simply because I have absolutely no idea how to put a value on them.
At Chelsea College of Art, where I studied textile design, we had a sketchbook for each new project. They captured all our ideas, from initial thoughts, to colour notes, design, layout and display of the finished work. They were colourful, inspiring, creative books, bulging with scraps of paper, magazine clippings, fabric, drawings and technique try-outs. I always loved looking at other artists sketchbooks at the end of each project, so can understand the fascination with them.
These days my sketchbooks contain mostly line drawings and watercolour sketches done out and about around the village, at the beach or on trips around the South Peloponnese.
I tend to draw with a waterproof artists pen, or fountain pen, filled with waterproof ink. Sometimes, I’ll map out the composition lightly in pencil first, but mostly I like to draw directly on the page with black ink and then colour the drawings with watercolour. I carry a travel set of twelve colours with me everywhere, plus a water-brush.
If my internal critic is being a pain, I may well spend a whole session drawing with my non-dominant hand. It’s a useful technique to keep the critic quiet, and can produce some really lovely drawings. My other favourite critic-beater is to draw without looking at the paper, or drawing ‘blind’: covering the line of sight to the paper, which can create some really interesting drawings. It’s also a great way to get into the quiet, meditative, state perfect for observational drawing.
What started out as a way to keep a record of my summer holidays, and to practice drawing skills, has now become a really crucial part of my whole art practice. I’ve become very fond of re-purposing my favourite sketchbook drawings. They are variously re-drawn, re-sized, traced and copied onto found papers and layered into a collage. In addition, using an exciting image-transfer technique, some small sketches now gain a new lease of life in large mixed-media paintings.