Tag Archives: illustrated journal

Facing Fears


This week I haven’t had an illustration assignment to do so I’ve been taking some time to just draw. I haven’t used an actual sketchbook regularly in a long time and I realised that I was missing it. Most of the work I’ve done lately has been on loose sheets of paper, which has made it easier to scan. I went through the stack of sketchbooks that I’ve not yet filled and each one was for a different but very specific purpose.

So today I started a new everyday sketchbook. It’s a type that I haven’t used before – a Seawhite of Brighton watercolour travel journal. My plan is simply to fill a page every day – or most days at least – with whatever I feel like drawing or painting.



We’ve had a hint that our next MATS Bootcamp assignment will have something to do with ‘faces’. For some reason I tend to avoid drawing faces because they feel so difficult but I think it was Tommy Kane who I once heard say that it’s not about being able to draw a particular type of thing, because it’s all drawing – observing something and translating that through your pen or pencil to the page.

So as uncomfortable as it might feel, I’ve started practising drawing faces this week. The first I did on loose paper and the second one is on the first page of my new sketchbook. My ultimate goal would be to loosen up and draw faces in a more minimal or stylised way, but for the moment I’m enjoying learning by creating portraits with a bit more detail to them.

For reference I’m using my own photos – either old family photos or pictures I’ve taken myself. Is there a subject you tend to avoid in your creative work because you’ve told yourself that it’s too difficult? What might happen if you started practising that type of work more regularly?

Urban Sketching in Highgate


Earlier this month I went out for the day with Urban Sketchers, London and we sketched in Highgate, in north London. Almost everyone seemed to spend most of the day in Highgate Cemetery, which is where I sketched Karl Marx’s grave, probably one of the most famous there.


I also managed to get in another quick sketch from a spot that’s not on the main ‘trail’ in the cemetery and it was very peaceful. This was in my Hahnemuhle grey sketchbook using an HB pencil and a 0.3 Unipin pen.

There’s not much shelter from the elements in Highgate cemetery but we were really lucky with the weather. There was a thunder storm but that held off until the end of the day, by which time most of us were under the shelter outside a cafe back in Waterlow Park.


After lunch and before the rain started I made a start an a third sketch. I ran out of time, and although part of me would like to finish it off at home using a photo for reference, I quite like leaving some of my urban sketches unfinished because they tell the story of the day.

Our next outing’s planned for Spitalfields Market on 14 October so come and join us!

Recent Urban Sketches in London

Charterhouse Sketch

Over the past week and a half I’ve been out sketching in a couple of different spots around London. The Saturday before last I went out with the London Urban Sketchers to Charterhouse and Clerkenwell. I hadn’t been well for about a week beforehand but I didn’t want to miss the whole day, so I arrived late but just in time for the lunchtime sketchbook ‘throwdown’.

St John Cloister Garden

It felt like a long time since I’d done any sketching on location so I felt a bit out of practise and wasn’t totally satisfied with my sketches. I think that’s just a sign that I need to do more urban sketching!

Order of St John Cloister Garden

I think I also needed to slow down a bit. Maybe it was because I’d arrived late, or maybe it was the hot weather but I felt like I was rushing my sketches and not really taking in what I was seeing properly.

Peter's Lane, Farringdon

At the end of the day a few of us stayed on to sketch a bit more and I felt like I was starting to get into the rhythm of sketching buildings again. What that day did encourage me to do was to re-visit some of the materials from the course I took with Liz Steel last year, and I’m also going to work through the rest of the course that I didn’t finish.

St Dunstan in the East

Then last Friday a few of us from the London Urban Sketchers group met up informally to sketch at St Dunstan in the East gardens, which I’d never visited before. It’s a really nice quiet spot and had lots of shade from the sun which was welcome too. I worked on one and a half sketches in my A4 Moleskine, which is currently my dedicated urban sketching sketchbook. I also did one sketch in my new Hahnemuhle grey book but I haven’t got around to scanning that one yet.

St Dunstan in the East

Sometimes when I don’t finish a sketch I think to myself that I’ll come back to the same spot another day and carry on with it but actually that never seems to happen. And the other thing is, that I quite like some of my sketches that are half ink, half pencil (or sometimes just pencil and no ink at all) and no paint.

This week my sketching plans are kind of different. I’ll share that work here quite soon!

Urban Sketching: Magdalen College, Oxford


Last Saturday I spent a very sunny afternoon with the Oxford Urban Sketchers. I don’t get to Oxford very often – this is only the second time I’ve met with the group there – but it’s good to sketch in places that are new to me from time to time.

We met, and spent a couple of hours sketching, near the deer park at Magdalen College, which was a nice peaceful spot, considering how busy the high street was that day. I’m looking forward to my next sketching trip outside London – hopefully in the not too distant future.

One Week 100 People 2017


This week, alongside my usual drawings I’ve been taking part in a daily drawing challenge, which was announced by Liz Steel. She got the idea from Marc Taro Holmes a few years ago but the aim was to sketch 100 different people over the course of 5 days.

Although I enjoy going out with the Urban Sketchers I usually exclude people from those drawings because they seem too complicated, or they move around too much. So this was a really good challenge for me because every one of my 100 people was drawn from real life in a public place.

I still feel a bit nervous because the people you’re drawing (and sometimes the ones you’re not drawing) might notice what you’re doing or at least notice that you keep looking at them, but the good thing is that I completed this challenge anyway and that feels like an achievement.


My sketches started off on Monday as scratchy little figure drawings done from a distance but by this morning I was sitting in the middle of a busy cafe making sketches of people’s faces.

In the past if there’s something I’ve wanted to get better at drawing then I’ve often pushed myself to do it every single day for a month (or longer in the case of my patterns last year). This was similar but much more intensive because instead of drawing one thing each day I drew 15-25.


The real challenge though, is to keep working on this skill now the week’s over.

Is there an aspect of your creative work that you’d like to improve but keep avoiding? Do you think an intensive daily challenge like this one could improve your ability and confidence?

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