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Make a simple sketchbook – Tutorial


Using only folding and cutting, this is possibly the simplest way to make a fantastic sketchbook that slips easily into your pocket. Depending on what you fill it with, it could be the most creative use of a piece of paper ever!




I’d really love to hear how your sketchbook turned out and, more importantly, what you filled it with! So why not share how you got on in the comments below? Many thanks, Erica.


DIY Simple Sketchbook

Watercolour demonstration at Hobbycraft

I have been demonstrating with watercolour today at my local Hobbycraft store in Cheltenham.

IMG_20131207_124633The photo above is of the demo table set up with a display of my work. I took a mixture of things along, hoping that there would be something to appeal to everyone. My intention was to inspire people to see the versatility that can be achieved with watercolour.


The two sunsets at the front of the photo are the paintings I was working on, along with the iris painting in the centre by the colour chart. Many thanks to all the friendly people who stopped by to say hello!   I’ll post the finished work as soon as it’s completed……..


French Sunshine & Pears

I have been lucky enough to be in Cannes in the south of France for the past week or so & it has been wonderful to escape the current freezing conditions in the UK. It was only when I began to physically relax in the relative warmth that I noticed how much my body had been tensed up, bracing itself against the extreme British chill. The French have all been complaining about the unseasonable weather, but for us Brits, it is so wonderful to go outside without a coat & one morning we even had breakfast out on the balcony!

CannesPhone 043My intention was to produce one small, quick drawing or watercolour sketch each morning before breakfast. I love the lines of this chair, the curves & reflection of light in the edge of the table.

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I really enjoy drawing using ball pen & it is a medium that is almost always readily available.

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I chose to draw the pears using one continuous line. This is a great technique & I love the effect that is achieved. It also enables you to spend more time looking at the subject & less looking at the drawing you are making.  This means that the brain has more information & a greater understanding of the composition before the hand transfers the marks to the paper.

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I then began to add colour, trying to depict the gold & russet of the pears. I loved they way the colours merged on the paper, creating new colours where the washes overlapped.

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Here is the finished sketch & over all, I was quite pleased with the effect – not a bad effort for before breakfast!

Isadora Duncan – completed

Here is the finished portrait of Isadora Duncan.


The dress is made of recycled tissue- I think it came from a shoe box. I’m not quite happy with this portrait, so I’ll probably take what I learned from this one & have another go at it. Something very strange happened with this picture, a couple of people commented that it looks like my mother when she was young. Now that this has been pointed out to me, I can see the resemblance, but wasn’t aware when I was making it………

You can read the first two posts about how I made this portrait by clicking here & here.

Other portraits in the series can be viewed by clicking here.

Edge of the Cotswolds

From the window of my studio, I can just see the first ridge of the Cotswold hills on the horizon. Here is a video of me trying to capture the beauty of the morning skyline:

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

After the watercolour I used Derwent Inktense blocks to draw back in & add some texture to the landscape.


P.S. This is the first time I’ve added a soundtrack onto a video. The music is ‘Punchbag’ by The Bees (apparently they make this music in a garden shed in Brighton!) The full version is here.

Also, if you’re interested to look at the Inktense blocks, you can see them here.

Isadora in progress

I have now begun a larger version of the provisional sketch I made last week. I’m enthusiastic about the qualities that using recycled paper can bring to a piece. As the portraits I make are based on early photographs that are now fairly ancient & weathered paper & card  themselves, this use of paper that has a previous life feels like a perfect match.

This is the first stage of this piece. I now need to leave it in a place in the studio where I will see it when I am not expecting it. I find that this process of allowing work in progress to catch me unawares helps me to see work objectively & decide what needs to happen next. I find that this is a really helpful technique, particularly if I feel I am losing my way with a particular piece.

Have you tried this technique? I’d also be very interested to hear of any others that work for you.

You can read about how I started this portrait by clicking here & view the finished painting here.

Buddha and red wine

I have recently returned from a week in the south of France. I was struck by the intensity of the light there, compared to February in the UK.

I was interested to depict the different aspects of this composition; the wine glass on the table, the light bulb and other reflections seen on the table’s surface and the wrought iron base seen through the glass table top. It reminded me of ‘Three Worlds’by Max Escher.
I was also drawn to the curves of the table and chair back, and they way the shapes echoed each other.

The painting above was made relatively quickly, as I was drawn to the idea of just creating something and not overthinking it. I am quite pleased with the composition, but wasn’t sure if it had enough variation & needed some stronger colour. However, I now think that the subtlety of the colours suits the subject, creating a feeling of calm.

Why no white?

I recently read the following review of a set of watercolours on Amazon UK:

‘I purchased this for my daughter who is taking GCSE art. There is a nice range of colours (but no white) and the white plastic box they come in is sturdy.’

 My inner watercolour geek could not resist adding a comment……….

Traditional watercolour techniques do not use white and this is why many sets do not include it. Watercolours are by nature transparent; this is their unique quality & adds to their beauty. It is this transparency that gives  the colours their vibrancy. It also enables them to be layered, creating many exciting effects. If white is added to the paint, it becomes dull, opaque & flat & is then, little different to gouache. 
The key to creating lighter tones is not to add white, but to add water to dilute the paint & allow more of the white of the paper to show through. There are, of course, many sets, such as the one above, which do include white, but I would strongly recommend that you work on developing the techniques (& self-restraint!)  to create lighter tones without it’s use. Your work will have a clarity & vibrancy that is impossible to achieve by other methods.
PS. If you look closely at the photo above, you will see that my brush has never touched the white paint in this box!

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