My art work


When I worked full-time there was little time to be creative. Even when there were free hours I was often mentally exhausted and craved passive reading or TV watching. I kept up some creative efforts by going to weekly classes. I always vowed that I would practise during the week, but most of the time I didn’t. When retirement came along I knew that I would love it. I was made for retirement!

While I stil fritter away time, I have so much more of it. One of the things I love to do is creative play. Botanic art is my foundation. It is an art form that is controlled and detailed, usually working on small areas. Now I have had time to explore in other ways, to play with watercolour paint, mixing colours, making washes, learning that often wonderful art comes from the unexpected, uncontrolled.

I have blogged about both forms of my art, the Cullen palladium that I painted for the exhibition and the limpet shells and oyster shells.

Today I wanted to tell you about another challenge of my artistic life, my sketching. When I first started drawing as an adult I drew regularly. It was a practise that really helped my artistic hand-eye co-ordination. For some reason — time? TV? — I stopped. Now I have taken it up again, but I don’t sketch as regularly as I would like.

I have always loved sketchbooks, their fluid drawings, their exploration of ideas, their colour and vibrancy. Don’t you love to look at sketchbooks of artists, professional or other wise? Turner’s sketchbook on display at a recent exhibition of his work was a treasure. I have a Pinterest board devoted to other people’s sketchbooks, my version of eye-candy!

A sketch book from his very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.
A sketch book from Turner’s very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.

For about a year I have been a semi-regular sketchbooker. I have had help from online courses. One was Sketchbook Skool, an initiative of two wonderful, but very different, sketchers — Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. They have brought together a range of talented artists to tutor the courses. Some I had “met” online, some were new to me. All were inspiring and definitely worth the price of the course.

Liz Steel is another sketching artist who is a great inspiration. I am about half-way through  her course, Foundations and I am very impressed with her through preparation for each lesson. As the name implies her lessons are designed to give the basics, the foundations, for drawing confidently out of doors. So far we have explored edges and volume, contour drawings and blind drawing. She has encouraged us to understand my equipment better — I have even done a colour mixing chart in my book! For each lesson there are written materials, videos, PDFs and homework challenges. Liz generously gives more of her time to answer questions and offer advice.

One of my sketching challenges is to take my sketchbook out into the world. Actually, that should read “to take my sketchbook out while I am in the real world”! Sitting on the couch and drawing the things I see in front of me is easy. Sitting outside and drawing the things I see in front of me is much more difficult. My challenge is to get myself out of that comfort zone.

Liz’s homework has been a big help. Like all good homework the exercises are to help understand the concepts covered. One part of the homework is inside, but the other part is an outside task, such as drawing letterboxes or my front door. And you are going to help me meet that challenge too. I am going to post my outside sketches here, and I know that you will be positive and supportive, even of the wonky lines!

I will leave you with some outside sketches from the last few months. Remember there will be more to come!

11 replies on “Sketchbooks”

Fantastic outside sketching Anne, now I can’t wait until I can retire and do art more regularly (hopefully in four or five years).


I can highly recommend retirement! I really appreciate that I am able to choose how I spend my time. It is not dictated by meetings and timetables (much as I loved my teaching career!). Good luck with your plans. 🙂


I left a comment (eek wrote a long one) and was trying to let you see a page at the Tate but your settings don’t allow it so it scuttled my post (I don’t blame you — I do the same.) Email me and I will send it to you.


Sorry about that….although I suspect it is not knowing what I am doing rather than anything I have done deliberately with the settings! I would love to see the page 🙂


What a fascinating thing to say, Meeks! I had never thought about it like that. Sometimes you need someone who is a few steps away to tell you what is right there. I have been reading about the conversations that the artist has with the viewer, and I have been wondering is the conversation a botanical artist has with the viewer is very different to that of a landscape or portrait painter. I may have to explore it further.


Lol – pleased to be of service! But while you’re thinking about conversations, perhaps your botanical work draws a different kind of viewer? So each new direction appeals to different people? Don’t know how valid any of that is but, it’s interesting to think about.


Wonderful… I love seeing background and inspiration behind creativity. And you have generously, simply by sharing, given me an idea… to incubate for the time being… on how to nuture my own creativity. When I was at school my art sketchbook was my favourite thing. Since, I have dabbled from time to time, but you’ve reminded me that I will pick it up again 🙂


After seeing you draw at Somers, I went straight to Deans to purchase all equipment you used and began drawing again. Love your blogs. Judy sent me the link and I have read a couple of them. The sketchbook is definitely ba wonderful way of exploring ideas and various media. Thank you for inspiring me to star something I love to do again.


Helen, I am delighted that you have started sketching, and are loving it. You are right about it being a great way to explore ideas. (Maybe I could see them sometime?) so glad too that I was able to inspire you. Just goes to show that getting out the sketchbook can have all sorts of benefits. 🙂


Nothing like a good natter, so let's have a chat!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.