Apr 15, 2023Latest News

A Glimpse into my Sketchbook

I use a sketchbook to develop new ideas, experiment with different colour combinations and try new materials. Overall, my sketchbook is a place to have fun!

Most artists use a sketchbook to some degree, with many using the finished sketchbook as a work of art in itself. My sketchbook work is quite varied, from pencil sketches, colour studies and thumbnail drawings to help work out composition. I don’t worry too much about ‘getting it right’ which lends a certain freedom to the creative expression.

A glimpse from Vicki Davidson's sketchbookThe smaller studies from my sketch book help inform larger pieces and final works.

My current sketchbook is A4, but I have some much smaller sketchbooks too. I usually take a sketchbook and a small selection of materials with me whenever I travel so I can quickly capture scenes or  subjects that catch my eye. A field sketch can capture different elements to a photo and can prove to be a useful reference back in the studio.


The sketchbook gives me opportunity to try different styles and new materials. Here I have painted in a more illustrative style using gouache paints. I really enjoyed painting this little blackbird, especially using such vibrant colours. I found the gouache lay down well – it can be used thin like watercolour or more thickly like acrylic. The colours are so vibrant and it’s easy to apply new colours on top of existing layers.

Many artists use gouache in their sketchbooks, and they are also popular with illustrators, and I can see why. I am looking forward to learning more about this medium and continuing to explore their possibilities within my sketchbook pages.

Many of the sketches in my book are quick, loose, and expressive. They are not meant to be a ‘finished piece’. Some do go on to inform larger works, but overall, they are for practising, exploring and generally enjoying the process! Sometimes it’s good to sit and draw with no particular end point in mind; just sitting quietly and feeling creative.

Sometimes my workspace can get a little messy – but that’s sort of the fun! My sketchbook often ends up with unintentional ‘blobs’ and drips, but it doesn’t matter at all as these are not final pieces, they will not end up for sale and are for my own personal reference only.

Using a sketchbook has also helped me be more consistent with my art practice. Previously I would be put off drawing or painting if I didn’t have much time. It means getting everything set up and then packed away afterwards. With my sketchbook it is easy to spend just 5 or 10 minutes a day, especially by keeping to simple tools such as a graphite pencil, or a Bic ballpoint pen. The work doesn’t need to be large or complex.  Also, it is surprising how little and often can ensure rapid progress in terms of skill and competency with drawing. I think it’s important to work on skills as an artist as learning is lifelong and all artists have room for growth and development in their style.

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IMG 5560 scaled e1682266992350Thumbnail sketches are an excellent tool to help plan paintings and work on composition.

Here is a series of small landscape thumbnails in my sketchbook, using watercolour and gouache paint. Thumbnails are a great way to explore different ideas for a final painting, without using too many expensive art materials in the process. 

You can use thumbnail sketches for any subject, but particularly useful for landscapes. Detail is kept to a minimum and you can do monochrome or add colour if you prefer. 


Overall, I love my sketchbook and use it often. I find it has helped me develop my skills as an artist. If you haven’t got at least one sketchbook on the go already, or the one you do have is gathering dust, then I highly recommend you get sketching today!

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