Tag Archives: Creativity

31 Painted Patterns

In January I joined in with Lisa Congdon‘s brand new CreativeBug class. A couple of years ago she taught a class on CreativeBug which was a daily drawing challenge. This new class was similar but instead of making a drawing each day we created a painted pattern. As you know, I love making patterns and I’m a big fan of Lisa’s work so this was right up my street . I also really enjoyed getting more familiar with gouache paint.

Here are the 31 patterns I made this month.

Making Progresss by Working Slower


My main piece of creative work over the past few weeks has been a single drawing. I originally estimated that it would take me 2 weeks to complete but it’s actually taken 3 weeks from start to finish and sometimes that’s felt a bit frustrating.

During this year’s 100 Day Project I often spent hours each day working on a single illustration. It wasn’t good for me but it became a habit and finding a balance again is trickier than I expected.

Because I’m trying to work at a slower, steadier pace again, I’ve been quite strict about how much time I’ve spent working on this drawing each day. This probably skewed my judgement about how long I’d take to get it finished but luckily there wasn’t a hard deadline.

Mouse Timer

To help keep myself in check, I’ve got back to following the example of my friend, Michael Nobbs, and setting my timer for 20 minutes at a time, with my goal being to spend 20 minutes each day working on the drawing.

Sometimes I’ve done 2 or 3 short work sessions in a day, but more often than not I’ve just spent 20 minutes each day on this piece of work. Not only has this meant that the paint can dry between layers but it’s also allowed me to come back to it each day with fresh eyes, which has probably helped me to avoid making mistakes. It also helps me to keep a gentle sense of momentum with my work so that I can see progress without falling into the unhealthy cycle of boom and bust with my energy that I have a tendency towards.

It can feel really satisfying to work on a piece of work from start to finish in one day. What I’m now realising, though, is that the work I made earlier this year would probably have turned out better if I hadn’t tried to produce quite so much of it, or if I’d at least done what I’ve done in the past and set some sort of boundary in terms of the pace or size of my work.

I’ve now reached a point with my current drawing where I’m feeling ready to start a new piece of work and I’m pleased with the way I’ve approached this one. I think it’s been good for me and also good for the person who will own this drawing.

Now the challenge is to maintain this pace and not slip back into unhelpful habits!


My Urban Sketching Kit


Someone asked me recently what’s in my urban sketching kit so I thought I’d share that with you today. I don’t carry all these things with me every day. I have a small sketchbook, pen, pencil and a tiny watercolour set that I sometimes keep in my bag in case I want to sketch while I’m out doing other things. This bigger kit is what I take when I go out for a full day’s sketching.

Zip Pouch

This is a black quilted zip pouch that I got from Paperchase and it’s actually an iPad case. When I bought this one I also bought one that’s about half this size, which I use to carry my smaller, day-to-day sketching kit. I’m able to fit almost everything in here – minus the stool and the big sketchbook – and it keeps everything together inside my bag so it’s easier for me to find what I need.

It also means that when I get home I can take the whole thing out of my bag easily and store it so it’s ready to go when I next need it. It’s kind of my portable studio.


I usually have one dedicated urban sketching sketchbook on the go and until recently that was the big A4 Moleskine watercolour sketchbook that’s at the bottom of this stack. I’ve just finished that one and I already have my next sketchbook lined up. It’s a spiral bound Daler Rowney sketchbook  which is 7 x 10 inches and has a sturdy hard cover.

I don’t usually go for spiral bound sketchbooks because they’re difficult to scan but for urban sketching I think this could be a good choice because it’s not too cumbersome and should sit nicely on my lap.

The smaller black sketchbook on top is a Hahnemuhle sketchbook with grey paper which fits easily inside the zip pouch and is quite lightweight so I sometimes take that with me for quicker pen/pencil sketches or to use in places where paints aren’t allowed.


This is a pocket chair which folds flat and has its own storage pouch so it fits neatly in my bag. I usually take this out with me but it’s surprisingly heavy for its size so if I’m going somewhere where I know there’ll be plenty of seating I don’t always bother packing it.


This is my small Schmincke watercolour palette which contains a mixture of Schmincke, Winsor and Newton, and Daniel Smith watercolours. They’re slightly different colours from what I use when I’m drawing at home and I’ll share more information about what specific colours I use some other time.

Pencil Case

This is a Neo Kritz pencil-case which is durable, holds a lot and stands vertically on a flat surface if you need it to.

Pens, Pencils and Brushes


The contents of my pencil-case vary a little bit but this is what I carry most of the time:

  • A black Uniball pen, which is waterproof and glides easily over coloured pencil
  • My Lamy Safari which is filled with waterproof carbon ink. If it runs out the Uniball is an excellent back-up
  • A fine Unipin pen which works well for basic ink sketches
  • A white Gelly Roll pen to use in my grey sketchbook
  • A while pencil to use in my grey sketchbook
  • A few watercolour pencils to use for my initial sketches. These blend in with the paints so there aren’t too many visible pencil lines.
  • A size 10 Escoda travel brush. It’s a decent size brush for washes but also has a fine point and the handle detaches and acts as a cap to protect the bristles


My current water container is a dipper for oil painting and it’s a bit on the small side but it clips onto my sketchbook which is handy. A spray bottle for reactivating my paints can be useful, clips are a necessity on windy days for holding sketchbook pages down and paper towels are always part of my sketching kit too.

So that’s my comprehensive urban sketching kit and it can be heavy so I don’t like to carry all of it around with me very often. My smaller, pared down kit is much simpler and obviously, the bare minimum I’d need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper.

Do you ever sketch on location? What do you take with you?

Drawings and Reflections from August


I still haven’t managed to get my energy levels back on an even keel since the end of the 100 Day Project (this is life with M.E sometimes!) so I was appreciated the slower pace for the 365 project over the summer. I created one new illustration each week rather than 3 and enjoyed being able to take my time with each one.

As you can see, I made 2 new repeat patterns (one of my favourite things to create nowadays), a simple fish illustration and a self portrait.

As well as these 4 pieces I made an illustrated map of the City of London, which you can see on They Draw and Travel.


Now September’s here and I’m back to creating 3 new illustrations each week. Since my energy’s in short supply I’m experimenting with ways to keep things as simple as possible to avoid overwhelming and exhausting myself.

Right now I’m planning on sticking to my paper sketchbook and avoiding doing too much digital work. Digitising my work is fun but it can be really time-consuming for lots of reasons so cutting out that stage feels like a good plan right now. I may even use a pocket-sized sketchbook for some of my illustrations, just to keep things really simple.

Do you find it helpful to keep your work process simple and straightforward or do you prefer to spend lots of time on a piece of work?

Review: Back Pocket Notebooks

Back Pocket Notebooks

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the Back Pocket Notebook. Although it’s not specifically a sketchbook, I’ve been using it for some lettering and drawings to see how it compares to sketch specific books.

To summarise, if you’re looking for a good quality, robust little notebook to carry around, I would definitely recommend the Back Pocket Notebooks.

Back Pocket Notebooks Back

I have a set of 3 Kraft Plain Notebooks, each of which contain 18 sheets or 36 pages of 120gsm paper and a stapled spine.

Back Pocket Notebooks Spine

At first glance they reminded me of the A6 Eco Starter Sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. The Back Pocket Notebooks are slightly smaller, measuring 9 x 14 cm. The paper isn’t quite as thick as the Seawhite cartridge paper but there are more pages than the Eco Starter and the paper has a nice smooth surface, which I really appreciated when using fine liners and markers.

Back Pocket Notebook Inside

Although it’s described as a ‘plain’ notebook, I think that refers to the cover because it’s pointed out on the band holding the 3 notebooks together that the paper inside is actually cross grid. It’s similar to dotted paper but each ‘dot’ is a tiny cross. I’d never used that kind of paper before but it was kind of handy for keeping my hand lettering straight!

Back Pocket Notebook Felt Tip

The paper in the Back Pocket Notebook is perfect for either pen or pencil. I used a few different fine liners and felt tip pens, and the only pen that bled through to the other side of the page was the Copic marker. But Copic markers seem to bleed through almost all paper in my experience so this wasn’t a surprise or a big deal. I covered some large areas with Koi brush pens and even with the darker colours the dots on the paper do show but that may or may not be a problem for you. It didn’t bother me because I wasn’t trying to create a finished piece of artwork.

Back Pocket Notebook Gouache

I was able to apply a light wash of watercolour in the Back Pocket Notebook without any problems and the paper took gouache quite well too. The paper does buckle with both watercolour and gouache but even some dedicated watercolour paper does that so, again, this wasn’t a surprise or a problem for me.

I’ve carried the Back Pocket Notebook around in my bag and it’s stood up well to that without getting damaged so far. I wonder if rounded corners might make it a bit more robust in that respect if you were carrying it around in your bag or pocket every day.

The Back Pocket Notebooks are excellent quality, and the size means that they’re really easy to carry around without adding lots of extra weight or bulk. I wouldn’t use them to replace a dedicated sketchbook but as somewhere to keep notes and ideas, make simple line drawings and practise hand lettering, the Back Pocket Notebook is an excellent option and, as the name implies, highly portable too!

Thank you to Justin at Back Pocket Notebooks who gave me this set of Kraft Notebooks to test in exchange for an honest review.