The joy of sketch

I use sketchbooks as a starting point for nearly all my work. Drawing nourishes my ideas and practice. Looking at the sketchbooks of other artists can provide a way in to understanding their work, drawing is often transformative, allowing us to look and see afresh. This post combines images of my sketches, with those of others which inspire me and a couple of inspiring quotes about what drawing means.

I have sessions of drawing and consider it important to make studies to develop one’s awareness to inner perception, collecting shapes that become my shapes. I attempt to seek out sculptural, architectural and linear qualities…always to study the function of forms and formations, drawing with simplicity. I get at the real essence of things which can be as miraculous as anything devised by the imagination Wilhelmina Barns Graham

The above quote sums up beautifully how drawing is, and should be, an entirely personal means of expression. I like the idea of collecting ‘my shapes’ through drawing, here are some of Hokusai’s ‘shapes’:


Sketches of cranes by Hokusai

The following sketchbook image is by British landscape painter John Constable, it is an unusual image for Constable with its air of mystery and underlying narrative.

John Constable Sketchbook page
Sketchbook page, John Constable

If you haven’t spent time looking at Monet’s sketch books I would recommend it – many of his quick sketches describe complex space and form with energy and economy.


Sketchbook page, Claude Monet

This image, by British painter Mary Newcomb, is one I return to again and again. It is so simple and yet so deeply felt.

Mary Newcombe Lonely flight
Lonely Flight by Mary Newcombe

Scottish artist Barbara Rae uses colour and paint in her sketchbooks to recreate landscapes which verge on abstraction and provide a starting point for her large scale paintings and vibrant prints.Image

Barbara Rae, sketchbook page

This sketch of the sea by Mondrian has an amazing quality to it which pre-empts his later grid paintings.


Piet Mondrian, the sea, sketch

I have a facsimile of one of Samuel Palmer’s sketchbooks which contains this bizarre image of a donkey which I love!


Samuel Palmer, Donkey sketch

This is a quote by John Berger from his essay on drawing which can be read in full here.

FOR THE ARTIST DRAWING IS DISCOVERY. And that is not just a slick phrase, it is quite literally true. It is the actual art of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations. It is a platitude in the teaching of drawing that the heart of the matter lies in the specific process of looking. A line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you on to see. Following up its logic in order to check its accuracy, you find confirmation or denial in the object itself or in your memory of it. Each confirmation or denial brings you closer to the object, until finally you are, as it were, inside it: the contours you have drawn no longer marking the edge of what you have seen, but the edge of what you have become. Perhaps that sounds needlessly metaphysical. Another way of putting it would be to say that each mark you make on the paper is a stepping-stone from which you proceed to the next, until you have crossed your subject as though it were a river, have put it behind you. John Berger

And a few of my recent sketchbook pages to end:


Hen amongst tulips, 2014


Stacks at St Abbs, 2014


Wobbly dipper drawing, 2014


Cumbrian spring, 2014


View across Duddingston Loch sketch, 2014


About flyingcreature

I'm a Cumbrian born painter and printmaker based in Scotland. My work is inspired by British nature. I studied on the Foundation Course at Leith School of Art in 2003 before going on to take the MA Fine Art degree at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University graduating in 2008. I now make my work from my studio in Coburg House and teach drawing, painting and printmaking at Leith School of Art and around Scotland.
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One Response to The joy of sketch

  1. Liz Balfour says:

    I love drawings and prefer them to paintings – they are the original fresh inspiration of the artist.

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