Creative Sketchbooks course

Creative sketchbooks course

An amazing weekend of creativity and fun.  New ideas and techniques, experimentation and observational drawing using new media and old.

Most students came along on this Creative Sketchbooks course with a brand new sketchbook full of pristine white pages not quite knowing what was in store for them over the 2 days.  However, one student had already been experimenting and had started creating gorgeous mixed media pages in their sketchbook but wanted to learn more about how to keep a themed artist’s sketchbook.  They knew there was more to it than ‘playing’ around with materials so enrolled on this course to find out what it was all about. 

Well – they were in the right place as this course helped them fill in the gaps and gave them a deeper understanding of how sketchbooks work and why they are so important in enabling you to learn and develop ideas as a creative artist.

What did the students think?

This course was the first of my weekend courses for 2015, that form part of the ‘Improve your drawing’ series of workshops’ and judging from the students’ comments every one found it a really enjoyable experience.  Here are some of their thoughts about this course.

“Fantastic, motivating, encouraging” – Sarah Q

“I am a beginner and I now have a sketchbook full of creative ideas and techniques after just one weekend” – Catherine W

“I have learnt such a lot and enjoyed every minute of the course.  I now know I can push my work further and improve.” – Jean M

“Do it! Nothing to be afraid of.  Excellent support and guidance to try out new techniques in a very friendly group situation.” – Michelle S

“This has taught me to be unafraid of experimentation, to embrace the possibility of failure and to realise that disaster is rare if not non-existent.” – Vicky W

The experience


My studio offers a relaxing, supportive and friendly atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable, relaxed and able to experiment with new ideas knowing they will always be encouraged and if they end up in creative difficulties I will always be on hand to work with them 1:1 to resolve any artistic issues they may be experiencing.

The first thing you need to know is that
exciting creative opportunities are not found on blank white pages!

The course started gently with a playful yet important task of getting rid of all those pristine white pages.  Perfect white pages are great for some kinds of drawing but not for a sketchbook that is designed to offer up creative and unexpected ideas and images.  We used a variety of mixed media techniques to prepare some pages ready for observational drawing later in the day.   I would suggest you always do this to your sketchbook as it is far more fun than drawing on plain white paper and it gives added dimension, intrigue and depth to your drawings.  Most importantly though, it gives unexpected results when you draw on top of these pages often resulting in new ideas and forcing you to draw in different ways than you might normally do.

The other facet of preparing your creative sketchbook and such a big part of transforming your sketchbook from production-line blandness into a unique expressive sketchbook infused with your personality and creativity was how to start transforming the pages.  We explored ways of adding in new pages, folding, bending, tearing and doing whatever we could to make give the sketchbooks a sense of being jam-packed full of creative opportunity.  A place that would feel inviting and drag you back for more drawing.  Anything to take it a million miles away from being in pristine shop-shelf condition.

Key learning


The key learning that I wanted students to leave with at the end of this 2-day course, along with learning a variety of new materials and mixed-media techniques, was the process that every artist needs to go through when working in their sketchbooks that enables them to move from observational drawings to new and unexpected images.  Working through this underlying process in their sketchbooks is what enables artists to develop new ideas for larger finished paintings, textiles, sculptures or whatever kind of art they like to make. 

Without it, it becomes too easy to stay with the same safe ways of working and eventually getting stuck in a rut.

Remember to visit my gallery page to see more photos from the course.

Materials and techniques


We used a wide range of materials this weekend that included a lot of mixed media techniques.  Materials that we played and experimented with were collage with newspapers and card, painting with acrylic and coloured drawing inks, printmaking with a variety of materials, drawing with pen and nib, chalk and oil pastels as well as traditional pencils.  All this was mixed up with a good dose of gesso, stirred and shaken to find out what new textures, colours, marks and ideas we could generate.  This was all very exciting and every student discovered new and interesting things from using the different materials and techniques.  I don’t think any 2 students ended up with the same results which is what I love about teaching this course. 

It’s a little journey of discovery for each student!


The weekend flew by and was full of discovery and enjoyment.  Everyone went home inspired to continue working in their sketchbooks with one student ready to head for their holidays with their new sketchbook ready and waiting.  To find out full details about this course click here to go to the course page on my website. 

There are 4 other weekend courses that are part of the Improve your drawing series which you can find out about by clicking here – Cityscapes + apertures, Painting with texture, Re-interpreting still life and Experimental drawing.

Remember to visit my gallery page to see more photos from the course.