Skool’s Out!


So it’s the last week of “Beginnings”, my first Sketchbook Skool kourse.  I’ve done my homework and posted it in the klassroom, I’ve given my feedback on the last week of skool and I’m feeling kind of sad that it’s over.  But I’m looking forward to having some time to build on everything I’ve learned (and that’s a HUGE amount) and practice, practice, practice and develop some of those skills over the the next months or so.  And I’m also excited about moving on to doing another kourse in the new year – because one thing I do know is that now I’ve started I have no plans on stopping. I hope to be in Sketchbook Skool until I’m 100 or dead, which ever comes first!


So what have I learned from my first six week SBS semester?

1. That it’s much easier to draw every day (well, nearly every day, haven’t quite managed very day) when you’re doing it in company.  As well as an online classroom SBS has a vibrant community on social media, which makes it easy to see what people in other klasses as well your own, are doing – and the Facebook page in particular is a good place to ask questions. It took me a few week to build up the confidence to join in discussions there where some students clearly knew each other very well but once I did I was made very welcome very quickly. Sharing the experience of drawing, rather than doing it all alone, makes it much easier to establish as a habit.

2. It’s great fun to push your boundaries and experiment outside your comfort zone. I’ve learned that I actually like doing things that previously terrified me and I would never have tried without that push.

Optimized-kitchen3. I don’t like drawing with a pencil – it turns me timid!  I’m much more confident when I start out with a pen. My drawings may be less accurate but I think they’re better.

4. I need to work (hard!) on improving my handwriting and lettering skills

5. Practice really does improve everything. So does confidence.

Optimized-living room

I’ve been pushed in every direction in these past six weeks but I’ve found, much to my surprise, that I’ve been able to respond to every challenge, even the time challenge, which was the challenge I was most worried about before I started it.  The more time I’ve needed to meet more demanding homework exercises, the more time I’ve somehow managed to find.  As for next semester, bring it on because I simply can’t wait!

If you’re interested in taking a Sketchbook Skool kourse you can find out more on their website at


Sketchbook Skool!

Once again it’s been a very long time  since I’ve posted on this blog but I hope that that is about to change for good.  There’s a reason for that and the reason is Sketchbook Skool, co-founded last year by my drawing hero Danny Gregory and Dutch artist Koosje Koene.  I’m guessing that some of you will have heard about Sketchbook Skool (SBS for short) already but for those who haven’t, its both what the name suggests – a series of (online) sketchbook klasses – but also so much more.  The klasses aren’t like traditional “how to” classes but more an insight into how different sketchbook artists work, although each klass does include “homework” (but without deadlines or grading – you just upload it if and when and you choose for critique from fellow students). But what is extra special about SBS is the online community of artists (students and teachers – some students are also teachers, many students are also practising artists but also many students are absolute beginners – it really doesn’t matter, everyone is an artist in SBS) who support and encourage each other, chat on social media and in the classroom and, when possible, even meet up in real life!

Day of the Dead beer mat

My life had become so busy these last 2 years that I had more or less stopped drawing and I was missing it but struggling to find the time  to draw.  And then when I had the time to pick up my sketchbook I almost didn’t know what to do with it.  I knew about SBS as soon as it was created because I follow Danny Gregory on social media, so I knew that lots of people were having fun in what looked like a great new online sketching playground, but I just didn’t think I had the time for it.  But early in the summer, for a whole variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, I realised that I was really missing drawing and I gave myself a serious talking to. I knew that I need something to give me a kick up the behind to get me drawing again and I thought that SBS might be just what I needed.  I just missed the start of the July semester so I began pestering the SBS office to know when the next semester would begin. It was a long summer but….

In October I started my first SBS klass, “Beginnings”.  Four weeks into the kourse (yes, all ‘c’s get replaced with ‘k’s, I don’t now why), I’ve never had so much fun drawing, sharing my drawings, learning, talking about sketching with others, etc.  I’ve also done more sketching in 4 weeks than in the past 2 years and I’ve not once had that “What do I draw today?” feeling.  I hadn’t really though of sharing any of this on this blog until I was chatting in the classroom a couple of days ago with another student (thank you Gloria Zucaro) and she asked if I had a blog she could look at.  I was embarrassed to refer her to my very neglected blog, but it’s not going to be neglected any more because I’m going to have so many Sketchbook Skool stories to tell and somewhere to put my very best sketches that aren’t just SBS homework.  For today, I’m posting some of the very quick Day of the Dead and Hallowe’en sketches I’ve been doing simply because Gloria asked to see some of them!

Pumpkin1If you’re interested in finding out more about Sketchbook Skool then you can visit their website at

Pumpkin2 Day of the Dead 1

An Inkling Christmas

My number one Christmas gift this year was a Wacom Inkling, an awesome digital pen that converts your sketches into digital files as you draw.  It’s so simple to use and works brilliantly, so I’ve been having fun playing with it.

My number one Christmas buy was a rabbit nightlight from a new shop in town, Danish store Tiger, for just £2.  It’s a colour changing nightlight and I absolutely love it.  So it should come as no surprise to learn that I’ve used my Inkling to sketch my rabbit light.  N.B. This is the digital version of my drawing, not a scan of my sketch.


And just so you can see the real thing, here’s a couple photos of the nightlight in action.  Not bad for £2!Nightlight2


Sunflowers and Shading

I’m no Vincent Van Gogh, but like Vincent I do love sunflowers!

I’m not very skilled at shading and I don’t shade anywhere near enough.  I’ve been inspired by the awesome drawings of Andrea Joseph to learn to cross-hatch properly.  As this sketch shows, I think I’ve still got a way to go…


My house is overflowing with homemade artwork – mine, my daughter Daisy’s, work by friends and small pieces picked up at artists open houses.  We have very little commercial art, not because I don’t like it but because I either can’t afford it or lack the space for it.  But every piece made by myself, by friends or by Daisy, reminds me of someone or some time – when it was made, the person who made it, the time (hour, day or year) it was made.  Each piece is personal and irreplaceable.  Some time in the near future (not this week because Tony is decorating and the house is in uproar) I’m going to take some photos and post them here on this blog, but for now you’ll have to make do with a sketch of one of them.

Daisy has made some wonderful 3D objects at school.  This is my favourite, made in wood technology classes.  She used my favourite motif, a hare in a moon to create a clockwork scene.  There is a handle on the right-hand side of the box, invisible in this sketch: when you turn it both the hare in the moon and the shooting star move up and down against the background of the starry night sky.  All the coloured pieces are made by covering wood with strips of fabric which we had hand-dyed at home for fun during a summer holiday.  I don’t often use colour in my drawings – because I’m not very skilful with it – but I thought this drawing would make so much more sense with some colour.

Draw What You Love #3: Books

I love books.  I have huge numbers of books – fiction and non-fiction – but the books I always find hardest to resist when browsing in a bookshop are the beautiful ones.  You know the ones I mean, those books that cry out to be picked up because their covers are so lovely, and then, when you look inside, you discover that their insides are exquisitely illustrated.  This is why I have a relatively large collection of children’s picture books – the combination of text with incredible pictures is often completely irresistable.

This love of illustrated books began when I was small. I can remember borrowing every fairy tale collection from my local library for the pictures as much as for the stories. Andrew Lang’s books were amongst my favourites, but so too were Disney books “of the film”.  But my absolute favourites were, and remain, any books I could find illustrated by Kay Nielsen.  Imagine my delight when I discovered recently that Amazon had a collectors edition of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” illustrated by Nielsen.  I’m pleased to say that I now have a copy!

I like drawing the books I love and so here are the first two, but I’m sure I will be adding many more.  As I write my fingers are itching to go off and draw something by Jane Ray, my favourite contemporary illustrator of children’s books,  or a cover of one of Dan’s Price’s wonderful Moonlight Chronicles.

Of course, I love fiction too.  I have an Amazon Kindle loaded with e-books, but there is still extraordinary pleasure to be had in holding a paperback and turning its pages (it’s also much easier to peek at the ending in advance in a paperback than in an e-book).  And, while you can only really draw a Kindle once, you can draw every sinlge paperback you read and every one will look different.

Draw What You Love #2: Hares

I love hares and I love to draw (and stitch) hares, as you can see.  I hope the pictures , and the tile of my blog, speak for themselves.



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