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Sketchbook Practice

by Robyn Canning

I discovered the enjoyment of sketchbook practice after seeing an advertisement for a free online event called Sketchbook Revival in one of Angela Fehr’s newsletters, back in April 2019. Artist Karen Abend created the event, and artists from all over the world (including Australia) presented their individual workshops over two weeks. It was quite an intense experience, as there were two daily workshops. Some I wasn’t as interested in as others, but I found several artists who inspired me to think differently about what art I enjoyed and to try experimenting with various mediums.

Sketchbook Revival 2019

The main thing I learned was that I could enjoy sketching and painting just as much in a sketchbook as I could on individual pieces of paper. It was a convenient way to keep artwork, and I could ‘play’ with smaller sketches that could be a practice for a larger piece of work. I was also more inclined to practice. I didn’t need to set up with paints, water and brushes. I could pick up a sketchbook and use a pencil, charcoal or fine liner pen to practice my sketching. Later on, I could add colour. Location wasn’t a problem. I often sketch in the armchair at night, waiting in the car, relaxing in a park or anywhere at all!

The workshops in Sketchbook Revival 2020 introduced me to an American artist Charlie O’Shields. His pen and wash sketches were just delightful, and I realised I wanted to learn how to produce that type of work. The first thing I learned with Charlie was how to draw a cupcake - it sounds so simple, but he had the ‘tips’ I needed to actually make it look almost real. I was hooked! I looked up Charlie's website and discovered another entire world of art that I loved. There was an opportunity here each month to sketch a daily prompt, and I was eager for some structure and a challenge in my sketching, so I started on the Doodlewash Monthly Challenge. My goal was to complete a prompt every day - some months I succeeded, others I didn’t, but I had a purpose which was great!

Sketchbook Revival 2020

A friend encouraged me in 2020 to open an Instagram account. I was quite nervous about joining social media as I had no experience with how to manage it and was concerned about getting into something that might be an unpleasant experience. The advice I received from others was to just open an account for my art. That’s what I did, and I had a wonderful experience! I have made contact with so many artists worldwide, learning things about art I would never have found by myself. It has been a great boost to my sketchbook practice and confidence as I join many challenges others post, and I have a go at sketching anything I find interesting. I have filled many sketchbooks with a wide variety of subjects.

Sketchbook Practice inspired by Instagram Challenges, photographers on Instagram.

Instagram also opened my eyes to the work of photographers. There were so many scenes by photographers that I wanted to paint. I contacted those whose work I loved to ask if they would be okay with me using their shots as inspiration. So far, they have all been very generous and happy for me to do that. I always tag them so they can see the result. Sometimes I try to replicate the image. I’m not always successful, but it is good for improving my observation skills. Other times I use a feature in the photo to highlight and design a background, for example, a flower or bird as the feature and loose watercolour behind with colours to suit.

Sketchbook Practice inspired by Robyn's photos.

This year I have looked at my own photos from our trips overseas, and I have discovered many of these are ideal subjects. I have now added my travel photos to my art project list. In between lockdowns in 2020/21, we travelled to a few places in Victoria, and my travel bag now includes a sketchbook and materials. I have discovered a love of Plein Air sketching and hope to do this when I can.

Thanks for having a read, and I wish you a wonderful week!


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