The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook #6

It has come as a (little) shock to me to realise that I have not told you about the adventures of the Sketchbook since it left Kate’s place in North Queensland. It has had a number of adventures since then, but if you need to get up to speed with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook, check out the Sisterhood blog or my separate page, which also needs updating.

After Kate had finished her fabric feather, she sent the Sketchbook on its way to Sandra, aka Lady Red Specs. She was inspired by her grandfather and eggplants to create a wonderful still life of those vegetables, along with a recipe for ratatouille. You can see her page and read about why she was moved to draw them on the Sisterhood blog here.

Once Sandra had finished her lovely creation the Sketchbook was off to Megan, aka Chas. Chas was delighted to see it and her contribution was a map of her bike trip from her house to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Head to the Sisterhood blog to see the overall map and marvel at her little details.

Then it was off again, to Sandi, not so far this time, only a little way out of Melbourne. Sandi is a fine poet, a wordsmith. Her contribution was a poem, chosen “for its light-heartedness, and reference to embroidery.” It is a beautiful poem, ‘The Explorer’, just perfect for the Sketchbook.

It had finished its Australian leg and when Sandi sent it to Alys in California it was really international! Alys’ contribution was different again. She took all the pages so far and made them into a paper quilt, adding her own little square. It is so like her to unite people. She sent me some photos:

You must read Alys’ delightful post on why she has photos of the squirrels in the first place.

Now the Sketchbook is safely in Sue’s hands. I can’t wait to see what treasure she will add.

Are you like me and just blown away by not only the quality of the contributions, but also their variety? And it still has a long way to go!

I am also humbled by how much delight the Sketchbook creates, and not only with the Sisterhood itself. My Mum is one of its best fans! These are some of the reactions from some Sisters who have held the Sketchbook:

Sandi: The tingle of awe I felt was unexpected. I had reality, wrapped up, in my hands, and I couldn’t wait to touch it.

Chas: To hold Anne’s beautifully bound sketchbook which already has 3 superb pieces in it is a little intimidating. The works are truly far more special to see close up.

Little did I realise, when this sketchbook was only a small tingle of an idea, that it would be something to inspire and delight. I think Alys has summed it up well with her tag of ‘Stitching and friendship around the globe’.

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!


The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook #3

An update on the Sisterhood….

We are now 12 members, and have members in Europe and the United Kingdom. So our little sketchbook will be travelling around the world!! That’s exciting news. Adding to the members from last time  we have:

  • Sandi from Wandin East in Victoria
  • Viv from France (I think she is in the north) and
  • Lynn who is in the south of France
  • Constanze who lives in Munich
  • and Lucy Ann in Kent, UK

[Apologies to Sandi and Constanze if you have blogs that I can’t find to link to. Also Chas, can you send me your postal address?]

So, I am going to work on the sketchbook this week. I did ask about more than one sketchbook, but I think that we will keep it at one for the time being. We can always send around another if we are having too much fun for one! Then I hope to launch the Sketchbook next week, send it off to visit the first person.

If you have joined the Sisterhood ~ and there is still time ~ later this week I will send you an email with the list of addresses and emails, and more detailed info about the project. This might be about as much structure as the whole thing gets!

I have been thinking about the finished sketchbook. We obviously have ages to decide what we would like to do, but I am wondering if we raffle/auction it and donate the money to an organisation for women’s health…… I suppose I should get it made first!

On a completely different note… there is only a few more days for you to use the coupon code in my Etsy shop, AnneLawsonArt. It gives you 10% off your purchase and is valid to the end of April. Just use the code APRIL16.

Odds and Ends

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook #2

Did you think that I had abandoned the idea of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook? After I was so enthusiastic about it last week? Of course not. However, I have been doing a colour mixing workshop this week, and I haven’t been able to get back to the Sisterhood.

I am going to post about the workshop very soon, but as a tease I am showing you my rose painting in the header photo. While I am distracting myself, let me I remind you that I am offering blog readers a 10% discount on any of my art work in the Etsy shop. Simply use the coupon code APRIL16 for the discount before the end of April. To look in my shop click here AnneLawsonArt

To get up-to-date with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook, have a look at my last post, here.

So far the Sisterhood is up to 7 people, but you are quite welcome to join. We have

  • Kate, who began the idea, and lives in Mackay, Northern Queensland
  • Elladee, who lives in Taylors Arms, NSW
  • Sue, who lives in Mt Vernon, Washington
  • Sandra from Teneriffe, Queensland
  • Alys from San Jose, California
  • Chas who I think lives in Melbourne
  • and me, from Melbourne too.

If I have missed you, I am sorry. My emails are a mess at the moment, and I may have mistakenly overlooked one. Just let me know in the comments that you would like to be part of the fun.

As you can see from the list we have Australia and sections of North America well covered ~ but always room for more. It would be great if our little sketchbook could head to the UK  and/or Europe, South America, Africa…..Any one else like to play?

Do you think we need more than one sketchbook? I am happy to send one to each of you, which could be sent around. That means each person would be adding to seven sketchbooks and passing them on, at different times, of course. Would it be too complicated? It has the advantage of each person having their own sketchbook at the end of the project. Let’s have a chat about it in the comments.

Also, I did originally say that there were no rules……but there has to be one. Your contribution can’t include plant or animal material [no feathers 😦 ]. Australia has very strict quarantine laws, which ban the importation of such things.

So, any one else like to join the Sisterhood? Send me an email to    I promise I will sort out the mess before your email arrives! Chas, can you send me an email with your postal details? And Sue too, as I haven’t kept yours. I got your town from the wonderful mug mat you sent me!

Odds and Ends

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

Oh I do love a good idea, and this is one of the best! A travelling sketchbook!

Let me go back to the beginning….

A while ago I was inspired to make sketchbooks from odd bits and pieces of paper that I had drawn on, practised watercolour washes on, started paintings on and so on. I offered them to blogging friends and sent about half a dozen around the world. One was to Kate in Northern Queensland. (You can read more about the original idea here.)

Earlier this year Kate and I had a chance to meet up in Melbourne. When she got home she sent me back the sketchbook with delightful additions. This was one, and you can see all the pages in my post from earlier in the week.


Though the comments in that post Kate came up with the brilliant idea of having a travelling sketchbook. She even came up with the awesome name

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook 

So, would you like to be part of the Sisterhood? [And men are welcome too!]

What would you have to do?

  • Add to the sketchbook when it comes in the post to you. Draw, write, collage, sew, paste in a photograph ~ whatever you would like to contribute. There would be no rules, no themes, just a heartfelt contribution.
  • Post it onto the next person on the list and notify them that it is on the way. The sketchbook will probably be small enough to go as a letter.
  • Perhaps a blog post when it arrives or leaves you. That would be nice, but not a requirement.
  • Hmmm, I think that is it. If there is more, let me know in the comments.

Too easy! If you would like to be involved, don’t feel that what you put in has to be perfect. This is about the connections we make through the journey of the sketchbook. It will become a work of art because of that.

I am going to include a world map so that we can mark its journey. Wouldn’t it be good to see it travel right around the world!

So, let’s chat in the comments. If you are going to be part of the Sisterhood send me an email with your address to

[Also, don’t forget that I am offering a 10% discount on my paintings and drawings in my Etsy shop AnneLawsonArt. I am only offering it to blog readers and until the end of April. Follow the link to the shop and use the coupon code APRIL16 at the checkout.]

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!

Melbourne My art work

My sketchbook — Yarraville, North Melbourne and the Incinerator

Some pages from my sketchbook….

The first are of the Incinerator Gallery in Moonee Ponds. You can tell by the name that originally it was an incinerator. It is a special because it was designed by Walter Burley Griffin. Many will know that he designed Canberra, the capital city of Australia, so it is always a surprise to know that he designed humble buildings like incinerators. I recently found out that the one near me is not the only one of his in Australia.

It has strong lines and is a fabulous mix of flat planes and sharp angles, simple surfaces and intricate detail. It was some of those contrasts that I was attempting to capture in my sketches.

I first went down there with coloured pencils.

I liked what I did, but felt that it lacked spontaneity. I was approached by a woman as I sat sketching. She asked me if I was there for the talk. I said no, knowing nothing about it. She went on to tell me that there was a free talk in the gallery about women artists in the Impressionist movement. I finished the sketch and went inside. It was a fascinating talk, and I have signed up for the rest in the series. 🙂

I went back another day (no talk this time!), just with my Lamy pen and tried to capture some of the detail. You can see how that pattern is found in the odd angles of the roofline, as well as on the chimney. To sketch the building I have to break it up into sections; the whole is difficult to put successfully on the page.

The next two are more examples of how I am finding it difficult to fit the whole onto the page — although, I hasten to add that the statue in the first sketch was never intended to be part of the garden area at the back. I did her first, and them wandered onto find the view of the trees. The face of the nymph makes me understand how much work I have to do on faces too!

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015

As the notes on this North Melbourne page say, I thought I would have room for the whole of the terrace house. As I was drawing I realised that I was only going to fit in the top story and chimney. I think I need more guide lines in my initial setup. A little more time looking and comparing.

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015

I drew these plants while standing in the sunshine in my garden. Each one is a simple line carried through the drawing. Compositionally the ivy geranium helps to give a horizontal movement and leads your eye from one page to the other.

I was very happy with this last sketch, created while sitting having coffee outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville. As the notes say, I loved the contrast between the curved brickwork and the flat plane of the paper stencil of the lady shopping, the old and the new, the red of the bricks and the black/white of the stencil. I also really loved the homage to the shopping lady with her middle-aged spread!

Artistically I was trying to show the detail of the bricks without drawing every brick.

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
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.