The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

The Sketchbook in all its glory!

The other day the Fella brought in a box left by the postie. Immediately I knew it was the Sketchbook. Normally I dive right into things, but this was one parcel I wanted to savour. I sat down with a cup of tea, marvelling at the journey it had made. Then I carefully opened the box, and again, just took my time to enjoy looking. There was a card from Trish that I opened and read.

Then it was time to slowly take the sketchbook out of the bubble wrap and hold it in my hands. Oh it felt good! Deliciously fat, full of all the creativity that the Sisters had put in.


And more delights……Alys had attached some ladybird stickers, to be added next to each Sister’s address before sending on.

Jan had crocheted a pouch with Cambrian wool, “from the flocks of Wales”. The Sketchbook sat snuggly in there.


Now was the moment to take it out and hold this treasure, that has journeyed around the world, making connections across the lands.

To the pages……and the link to each Sister is her explanation of her contribution.

The front cover is a sketch of sprouting garlic bulb, and it always reminded me of a flying garlic ~ a symbol of the Sketchbook flying around the world.


Kate’s beautiful quilting and calligraphy is on the first page. The blues in the feather are so rich and strong.



Then Lyn has done freeform machine stitching and appliqué to create some very cute Sisters holding hands. (Can I be the one with the polka dot bow in her hair?!)


Sandi, the next contributor, is a very talented poet, and her contribution ‘The Explorer’ continues the sewing theme.

I chose my poem, well before the book began its journey. I watched, via a computer screen, as each creative page was added. I had chosen my poem for its light-heartedness, and reference to embroidery. Little did I know, I would join the small boy in his experience of discovery, when the travelling sketchbook arrived in the mail. The tingle of awe I felt was unexpected. I had reality, wrapped up, in my hands, and I couldn’t wait to touch it.


M.L. Kappa’s work is on the next spread. The colours of her picture just glow, and the writing is the story of the naming of Athens.


Then came Chas’s contribution, a map which needed to be unfolded. The first part was her sketch of a painting in the National Gallery of Victoria, honouring women as growers and nurturers.


Then I unfolded the map of bicycle journey from her home to the National Gallery of Victoria. Such detail, and many of the places I know (but not from riding a bike 😉).



We leave the bike paths of Melbourne and head to the Welsh hills. (One of the many things I love about this Sketchbook is that the Sisters felt free to add their contribution wherever they wanted to. They are not in the order of the journey.) Jan crocheted tactile, warm spirals out of Cambrian wool. You may not be able to read the message that circles around……

“Encircling the Earth: the skill of our hands, the love in our hearts. Brought together by our creativity and kindness, although we are separated by hundreds of miles….our shared passions bind us together. One sisterhood, representing one world, united in love.”


Alys’s contribution was another creative one. She used photos of all the contributions so far and made them into a miniature quilt, with one patch saying, “Sisterhood Quilt: Stitching together art and friendship around the globe”.

Sandra’s passion is cooking, so naturally her’s was a recipe, for ratatouille. On the page she has drawn big lush eggplants and a chilli, and it is all on thick paper with deckled edges.

Margaret has added to the quilting theme, again in a different way. She has embroidered nine little squares, each representing an aspect of her favourite walk ~ and the detail needs to be seen in real life. On the other page is an embroidered landscape of Catcalls on Derwentwater. (Lots of inspiration for me here!)

The Sketchbook arrived with Constanze during Winter, as she says “A real one, with snow crunching under my feet and temperatures below freezing.”! Her contribution captures that Winter, with the snow and bare branched trees. (Again, more inspiration for me!)

Turn some pages and there are Sue’s vibrant patchworks. Like all the others, there is so much detail to look at and admire ~ and so tactile! Photos don’t do these pages justice.

Rich is not how much you have, or even where you are going

Rich is who you have beside you

writes Trish. Thoughts that resonate with us all. She has added a rich red, woven shawl to go with her words.

The last contribution is from Ushasree. Her work is another patchwork of nine creative, colourful paintings, each one using a different technique. Read about them here, including why the portrait of her son has a special place.

The very last page shows just how peripatetic the Sketchbook has been. It’s a map of its travels, and the special places it has stopped at.

It is a truly wonderful thing, more amazing than I thought it would be. So creative, so tactile, it is warm and full of love. It has created a bond that has encircled the globe, and has become more than just pages in a sketchbook.

Where’s it off to next? And where will it settle down? We don’t know! Discussions are ongoing, but more urgent now that it has come the full circle. We are looking for an appropriate permanent, but special, home for it, so any ideas are welcome.

Meanwhile I am proudly showing this wonderful treasure to anyone who wants to see it!




The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook #4

Well, the Travelling Sketchbook has arrived safely at its first stop, with Kate in Northern Queensland.

The Travelling Sketchbook is on its way (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
The Travelling Sketchbook is on its way (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

As I was making it, I was thinking of the people who would add to it and then send it further on the journey.

Our final Sisterhood is

The Sketchbook will be going around the world ~ Australia, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Then back to me. [I told my Mum about it the other day. She thought it was a wonderful idea, so I will have to keep her up-to-date on the Sketchbook’s adventures!]

Making the Sketchbook

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

Let me show you what the Sketchbook looks like. Again, I included some paper that I had drawn and practised on at other times. The front cover is a little garlic, that always looks to me like it is flying, quite appropriate for our journeying journal! The back cover has a couple of lilies. There is another sketch of mine inside.

I included different types of paper and different colours, because our Sisterhood will do all sorts of contributions ~ drawing, writing, sewing, collaging, whatever takes their fancy. The paper needed to be as flexible as the Sisterhood.

I’ve also included a world map, to record its travels.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

I am hoping that each person will blog about what she is putting in, and I will link to the posts here. I can’t wait!


AnneLawsonArt In My Studio My art work

In My Studio

So much for making this a monthly post! It is well over a month since the first one…but that’s okay. It’s been a busy time.

If you would like to show us what has been happening in your creative space over the last little while, write a post about it and then link to it in the comments. (When I get really clever I will learn how to do a blog roll thingy at the side of the blog.) That way we will be able to see what other creative people have been up to. It doesn’t have to be a finished product, it may be a new paint brush you got from Santa or a poem that has inspired a short story or something that you have been working on.

Today I am going to show you a variety of things.

Firstly, this little box was a gift from my brother. Yep, it was a box of pastels, from Japan. (My brother loves Japan.) Like so many Japanese things, it was packaged beautifully.


Take off the lid….


take out the “Welcome to your new pastels” note (as I don’t speak Japanese I am choosing to translate it as that!)…..


take out the piece of paper that tells you the colours (I am more confident about that translation) to reach the pastels. Each one is about 2 cms.


Don’t you just love the treasures in little boxes ~ and thoughtful brothers?!

I also have a gift voucher from my Mum (xox).  It is from my favourite art supply shop, Melbourne Art Supplies. I love browsing in art shops almost as much as I love spending gift vouchers.


You won’t be surprised to know what my Christmas presents to the family were this year ~ sketchbooks! Remember when I went a bit crazy over making sketchbooks? Some of you accepted my offer to send you one. Well, I went into sketchbook making mode again. I decided to make three different sizes, all with different covers. I put them in a box and let people choose the one they wanted. It was okay if they didn’t want one, but I was pretty certain that most would. My family loves projects and recording things, especially in handmade notebooks.

The photo, which I put on one cover, is my grandpa setting sail for WW1. He looks so young, and fortunately he came home again.

You may be curious about the work behind the gift voucher. I had a lovely time playing with images of fungi, repeating, flipping, turning to make these patterns. Because I was giving myself time to play, my mind was free to think about other things I could do. So I added coloured pencil and worked on black paper. I hope to show you those some time. They are not an end product, although often my mind tries to make them one. At the moment they simply are patterns on my noticeboard.

Lastly, in my studio are things to hold my brushes and pens and pencils. I use things that I am fond of.

This delightful mug was decorated by Xavier a gorgeous boy I taught in Grade One. Look how he made the dragon go right around the mug!

The ceramic brush holder was a present from my friend Tess. It has a wonderful African abstract embellishment. The water mug is a tea cup I brought back from Russia. I got carried away over there, thinking I was going to drink tea out of glass mugs with interesting holders. The fancy didn’t last long, but I enjoy using it as I paint.

Who can resist the fancy cardboard cylinders that Chinese tea comes in? Or a shiny milk jug? Or the flat pencil case just the right size for my pencils?

What do you keep your bibs and bobs in?

Go on, tell us what has been happening in your creative space over the past while. I’d love to know.

My art work

Flinders Island, here I come!

Soon I will be off to Flinders Island, to stay at Mountain Seas Resort for an Artist in Residence stint. [In my mind it is more of an Artist Retreat.]

Doesn’t this sound idyllic?

Mountain Seas is contiguous to 40,000 acres of national park. We have private trails accessing tall trees, fresh water streams, waterfalls and sculptural granite boulders. The walk to the highest peak of Strzelecki Mountain begins one km from the property.
The beaches, two kilometers from Mountain Seas, are among the best in the world. The white sandy beaches of Fotheringate and Trousers Point are featured in magazines such as Australian Geographic.

I really don’t know a lot more about what to expect. Conversations with my Mum have gone something like….

Mum: Will there be other artists there too?

Me: Ummmm….

Mum: Will you have to give classes?

Me: Ohh, I think I will have a workshop, but it’s not really clear yet.

Mum: Do you have a studio?

Me: Ahhhhh, ummmm….

Mum: What will you be doing?

Me: painting……

Me: Ask me these questions when I get back and I will have all the answers!

Mum: I am so excited for you. Just enjoy every minute!

I have been thinking about what to take. We are flying on a small plane, so weight is an issue, 21 kg, including hand luggage.

Not much thought has gone into the clothes — warm, waterproof, comfortable — although the Fella has organised me into getting a pair of new boots. A little more thought has gone into books and technical things, like checking up on internet connections [pretty basic].

No surprises to know that more thought and preparation has gone into my art supplies. Part of my problem, as you can see from the conversation with Mum, is that I don’t know what I will be doing. Well, I sort of do, but only very broadly. So I am not sure what materials I will need. Paper has been the biggest thing to nut out. Paints, brushes, pencils etc are light weight — an extra brush will not make a difference.

This is what I have decided on for paper supplies. I think that mostly I will be collecting  visual information. For that I need sketchbooks I can take out walking. I also think I will be playing around with washes and effects. For that I need slightly larger paper, but only of moderate quality. So I have made a range of sketchbooks of different sizes and papers.

Three sketchbooks are made of Art Spectrum’s “Draw and Wash” paper. It is not watercolour paper, but is designed for dry and wet media. It is lovely to work with in a sketchbook. I have made a couple of small ones because I fancy creating small botanical stories.

The next sketchbook is made of the same paper, but I have bound four signatures together, 24 pages. It doesn’t have a front cover, only the back that you can see in the photo. The cover is made from an old painting on 600gsm paper. It is quite rigid and will give me a firm drawing surface when I am sketching outside.


The final sketchbook is made of better quality watercolour paper, Arches, 300 gsm. It has five signatures and I have alternated signatures made from smooth and medium/rough paper. It has a front and back cover, again the 600gsm watercolour paper. The painting is of tree bark. I quite like the way I have spaced the stitching on this one. In fact, this sketchbook looks and feels really good!

Lastly, a couple of other odds and ends. I found this interesting tracing paper in the art shop. I use tracing paper quite a bit, and am interested in overlaying this paper onto other work. Creating little maps? X-ray vision?

And a viewer to help me with composition. I am finding it difficult to get the proportions of things right at the moment. I think my view finder will help, especially with landscapes.


Also, I have been doing research into plants on the Island. I have found a list of the flora, and I have investigated some that may be found in the area where I will be. I may not find them, and they probably won’t be in flower, but I feel that I have some idea of what I will be looking at.

More things need to be organised, but I am on track. And who knows, I may be able to squeeze in an extra woolly jumper!

My art work

Another outing for my homemade sketchbook and a special surprise for you

My little handmade sketchbook went to the exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier‘s creations at the NGV, along with many, many other people. However, I managed to find a couple of odd corners to sketch in. (If you intend to see the exhibition, hurry, as it closes this Saturday.)

So many people at the exhibition! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
So many people at the exhibition! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

His creations are amazing, and I hope to post photos soon. In regards to sketching, I was interested in the folds and lines of his work. What I sketched was also limited by where I could stand without being buffeted by people. Also his later works were way too complicated for me to capture in a quick sketch.

I have been going on a bit lately about my sketchbook [thank you to all of you who have written positive comments about it] because I am delighted with the whole idea of making sketchbooks with odds and ends of paper. So happy about it that I have a cunning plan. As Black Adder says, “I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel”. But firstly let me show you a couple of other little books I have made.

Miss C and Miss B came for the day last week and were delighted to have their own little books. They chose the paper for the front cover, and then added their own flourishes.

In return Miss C made me a pair of earrings. 🙂


So to my cunning plan. I would like to make a little book for you to sketch in. Lots of people tell me that they would love to draw, but don’t know how, or feel that they can’t or haven’t the time or any of a trillion other reasons. Well, I would like to present you with your own little sketchbook, because drawing is not only great fun, but relaxing.

It is not a book to be precious about. While other journal-type books are wonderful to use, they can be intimidating. What if I make a mistake? What if the lines are wonky? What if I can’t draw as well as other people can? This little book won’t care what you put in it. It likes doodles or portraits or thumbnail sketches; it likes pencil or ink or coloured pencils or watercolour; it likes things being stuck on it such as tickets or wrapping paper; it loves going outside, but is perfectly happy to stay inside with you, helping you draw your toast or your comfy slippers.

Okay, not everybody is a sketcher or even a wanna-be sketcher. I get that, sort of. [Although is it just your inner critic telling you that you would be crap at it?] Maybe you are itching to have a little book for writing in. Ideas for your next story. Words that make your heart sing. Snatches of conversations on the tram. Stories that will fit onto a small page. My little books love any sort of creative passion.

Each one will be different, depending on what I feel like adding. The one I am using is 12 x 17 cm, so yours would be around the same size. Great for slipping into your bag or pocket.  I can also tell you that each little book will have 4 sheets of paper folded in half (16 pages to write or draw on) and some of those sheets will have half-finished odds and ends of my work. Do what you like with them. Leave them there and use another page. Incorporate it into your own drawing. Draw over the top of it. Whatever you want to do.

Have I convinced you that you would love to have one of my little books? Shoot me an email at with your address and I will make one for you and post it off. It’s that easy. There is no pressure to show me (or anyone else) what you create, but  of course if you want to show me I would be delighted to see. Hope to hear from you very soon.


Artists Melbourne My art work

An outing for my homemade sketchbook

Before I show you what I sketched, let me tell you about the exhibition where I sketched.

Outer Circle: The Boyds and the Murrumbeena artists shows the work of members  of the Boyd family, one of Australia’s artistic dynasties. The Boyd name pops up in many areas of art. On the wall of the exhibition is a large family tree and against each name is their artistic pursuit. This was the list:

  • writer
  • painter
  • potter (lots of these!)
  • photographer
  • sculptor
  • musician
  • architect

The odd ones out were a naval officer and a social worker! Robin Boyd was Australia’s premier modernist architect, Martin Boyd a novelist and Penleigh painted the most beautiful watercolours.  However, the strongest branch stemmed from Merric Boyd.

Merric was a potter and established a pottery at his property “Open Country” in Murrumbeena, then a village of Melbourne.  Colin Smith’s pamphlet The Boyd walk describes the area:

By the time Merric Boyd arrived in the area [1913], this village boasted two estate agents, a laundry, a fruit shop, bookmaker and newsagent. To its south lay the market gardens of East Bentleigh, and to the north, open paddocks and scrub. The east was open country, and beyond it, the township of Oakleigh.

I found this engaging snapshot from Colin Smith’s pamphlet:

Murrumbeena provided Merric with the resources he required to make pottery, including space to construct a studio and kiln, and good clay deposits. It also had a hansom cab service operated by Mr Grey from the front of Murrumbeena Station in Neerim Road. His horse was watered from a trough in front of Billy T Motors on the southern side of Neerim Road. During the 1920s and 30s, Merric and his wife Doris would be picked up from their Wahroongaa Crescent home by Mr Grey and dropped off at the station to catch a city train. Carrying cases packed with Merric’s valuable pottery, they would walk the city to stores like Georges, and Mair and Lyon, who sold his pottery to collectors, many of them wealthy, who appreciated the quality and originality of Merric’s work.

His son, Arthur, became one of Australia’s most famous artists, especially as a painter. However, he was also a very talented potter and some of his pottery is in the exhibition.

“Open Country” was one of those places where creativity was nurtured and therefore thrived. An amazing array of talented artists were attracted to it, artists who were at the forefront of modernist art in Australia — Albert Tucker, Danilla Vasillieff, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and John Perceval, who married Arthur’s sister Mary. These artists were also frequent visitors to Sunday and John Reid’s house at Heide, and there was a great deal of discussion and exploration of ideas across the two communities.

It’s an interesting exhibition, and worth visiting if you get the chance. I came away from it with feeling very fond of Merric Boyd. Apparently he drew prolifically and older residents in Murrumbeena remember him walking the streets with his sketchbook and pencils. He would set himself up on a fence or a nature strip and draw. Apparently he kept his pencils in his socks! He often gave away his drawings.

So, back to my little homemade sketchbook. I was attracted to the pottery, wanting to capture the lines and shapes. The size of the sketchbook was just right to stand beside the jugs and bowls and sketch. It rested in the palm of my hand but still gave me enough paper to catch what I wanted to. It fitted nicely into my bag, an important point when you are walking around all day.

You can tell that I was happy to draw over and around the older images on the paper. It helped me feel less precious about the paper. Later at home I added the water to blend the ink a little more. Next time I will take the water brush with me to add those details on the spot. Also, many of the lines are wonky and the proportions are skewed. But it doesn’t matter. My eye improved as I drew more, I had fun standing sketching and I smile to myself when I think that the lines of the jugs were not perfect either!

I am forming a plan at the moment that will involve sketchbooks and those of you who would like to begin their sketching journey. Stay tuned!

My art work

My new, handmade sketchbook, and some other sketchbooks too.

I love books. I love their smell, their promise of adventure into a new world, and how they feel, weighted in my hand. I especially love notebooks and especially, especially sketchbooks. They have thick white pages that beg to be marked.

I am currently sketching in a Strathmore Art Journal, 400 series. It has 48 pages of watercolour paper. I love holding it. I love the sound of the pens across its paper. It takes watercolour washes well, as it should. I am still coming to terms with the rectangular format. It makes me plan my pages. Otherwise they end up looking a little higgledy piggledy, and I don’t like that. And it fits nicely into my bag.

An earlier sketchbook was one of those visual art diaries. It travelled overseas with me. I doodled in it, practised Celtic braids and Art Nouveau patterns in it, stuck wrapping paper in it and doodled from there and recorded small events while we travelled in Alice the Caravan. Higgledy piggledy was fine and encouraged. But the paper was only cartridge, and went funny when I tried to use watercolour on it. I loved the freedom of that sketchbook. Somehow my current one, the Strathmore, doesn’t allow doodling.

For much of last year I worked in a Hand.Book (That’s the brand name.) I really enjoyed its square format. If I wanted to I could divide each page up further and do little drawings. Only occasionally did I work across both pages. It has heavier paper that took watercolour so well but ordinary pencil smudged easily. That was okay, as it made me use pen. Pen doesn’t allow rubbing out, so I had to be sure of the lines I put down. It developed my confidence in my hand/eye co-ordination.

I decided that this sketchbook needed a fancy cover, so I glued on a piece of freeform knitting a crocheting I had lying around. I also included a handkerchief ~ clean, of course! ~ that had a special meaning for me.

So that’s where I have been and where I am. I have other sketchbooks that I use in other ways, and I will tell you about them some other time. My next sketchbook will be different.

I have been quite envious of sketchers like Roz Stendhal who speak about making their own sketchbooks and journals. One of my Pinterest boards is a collection of bookbinding ideas and sites. Making my own sketchbook was up there on my list of projects. Then I had this brain wave. I could make a sketchbook using papers of drawings and paintings I had rejected  ~ and there were quite a few of them! The backs of them were usable, and the painting might only have been a little mushroom or a colour swatch. I was so carried away that I was up at 2 o’clock the other morning punching holes in the paper! This is the result ~ and I have plenty more paper to make more, maybe bigger ones!

Front cover of my first handmade sketchbook  (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
Front cover of my first handmade sketchbook
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

I like the idea of some pages already having something on them. I can sketch and doodle around them or even over them without having to fret about stuffing up a precious new page of “good” paper.

It didn’t take much ~ odds and ends of paper and a few sheets of new paper from a sketch book, thread that I have miles of, a thick sewing needle and the needle from the sewing machine. This was sharp enough to pierce the paper to make the original holes.

Now the fun begins in using it. I have a plan for its first outing. Wait and see.