How to use your sketchbook

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How to use your sketchbook or how I use mine

I know that there are hundreds and thousands of artists out there, many of whom could be considered far more talented than me and without doubt many are far better known than me. There are even more who are unknown, just getting started, taking up art for the first time etc. who may, hopefully, find my thoughts useful. I don’t present myself as the font of all knowledge here; I am just talking about how I use my sketchbook.

First of all, why am I sharing this with you? Well, it came about because I was talking to someone about the work I produce as distinct from my daily the posts on Instagram and Facebook. She had never realised that the work I produce in my sketchbook, fed into the work you can see on my website. Stupidly, I assumed that people would just know but, taking a step back, I see that it is not that clear.

The reason for this, I suspect, is that like most artists, I fill in pages and pages of sketchbooks experimenting with different marks, colours, shapes, blends etc. and I also fill numerous books just playing until I find something I am really happy with before I make a start on something bigger.

My sketchbooks are where I experiment, play, make mistakes and where ideas blossom. I regularly flick through these books looking for inspiration, looking to see what worked (and what didn’t) and picking apart bits to try scaling up to larger works. I have also started recording what I do and this can be seen via my Instagram account –

Once happy, and this can take months, I will then start on medium sized paper or canvas to see if the work in my sketchbook sizes up to medium and or large sized works. Quite often it doesn’t work but I keep going and then once I am happy with that I will move onto using bigger canvases, paper or boards.

So for instance these are a couple of images from a sketchbook I started ages ago.


The work on the left is predominately exploring colours whereas the one on the right is more about how the elements make you feel.

For those of you who don’t know me or my art well, I love colour, I love the emotion I attach to colour, and I love how colours sit with each other. I have also always used circles in my sketchbooks, but it was only when the Covid-19 pandemic hit that the significance of these circles became evident to me. They represent the hugs we were not physically able to give to friends and family whilst we were in isolation. Prior to really employing these circles I still used to love playing with colour but the circles were small, the colour was moved about using an air gun and I really enjoyed using resin. The circles were there though as can be seen in one of my underwater pieces shown below.


This piece became the springboard for the series of coral/underwater seascape pieces I produced throughout the latter part of 2018.

You can also see small circles introduced into these resin underwater pieces with the fun of the blues and oranges playing together.

Whilst I am very happy with the outcome I decided not to make more like this but to pare back the work to produce a very simple version.

I am currently working through ideas about blocks of colour layered over each other with some peeping out and some areas being covered over and over again as you can see from this piece made back in 2019


At that time, I was not sure how these pages would translate into bigger works but when the pandemic hit I felt that these little circles needed to be big, really big.


Like many artists I know, producing artwork during the pandemic became really difficult to begin with. My children moved back home, which wasn’t ideal as one of them was in his final year of university and the pandemic, the move and the lack of fellow student support was particularly hard on him. I had naively thought that the time we were going to have together would be fabulous. I really enjoyed their company, but as for so many other people things didn’t work out like that, so I didn’t paint much. However, I did keep my sketchbooks going and if you take a look at my website you can see a short video of me painting in my sketchbook, which gives an idea of the direction my work was taking.

When I was able to get my head out of the fug, my sketchbooks became invaluable. I use many different sizes and styles but my favourite is a concertina sketchbook. This is because I can work on a few pages at a time but fold back sections to compare colour, shape, line, form etc. to see what might work together.

Having settled on a way I wanted to work going forward with the large circles, it then became about the feeling I had when making the work. The canvases I decided to use are 100 x 100 cm, so quite large. This meant that I was going from working in a small sketchbook which required movement from my fingers and wrists to making marks with paint etc. which required movement from my fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders. And I use the plural here because I use both hands when making work, particularly large works.


The large series of paintings I started in 2022 used my favourite colours: turquoise, fuchsia pink and blues, with orange and yellow as highlights.

I can’t get away from turquoise so my latest work in my sketchbook, which you can see if you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram,  adds navy blue and yellow ochre which is a muddied yellow. In my head, it screams out to have gold thrown in for good measure.  Actually, I like gold thrown in with most colours as you can see from the photos illustrating this blog.








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