OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Autumn 2019 Part 1

Open Sketchbooks is back, with a new autumn selection of working pages from our illustrator members. John Shelley presents the first of two installments.

The autumn weather is definitely making itself felt! But in somewhat dryer weather SCBWI member illustrators have been out and about, recording the world around in the pages of sketchbooks, as well as doing studio work exploring ideas for stories, characters and worlds.

Sketchbooks can show the whole creative circle of input, inspiration, and industry. On one page, our observations and the things we absorb from the environment, what we take on board, visual raw materials for our art. On another, our calculations and explorations, the worlds we conjure, the land of the imagination. Pages of our working notebooks and pads are the meeting ground of the real and the extraordinary. And it's all laid bare, the evidence there with each page turn! 

This month we have harbours, children, crowds, sea life, and fairytales. If you're an SCBWI member and have not submitted for the autumn selection yet, there's still time to send in your work for part 2 next month – see below!

(Click on artist names for links to websites).

Anna Violet

View to ferry, Lerwick

Hays Dock, Lerwick (view from Shetland Museum) @violet2519

Chantal Bougonje

I’m at the moment very much into observational drawing and was trying to capture the birds visiting my bird table and the rabbits in the field alongside our garden, in watercolour. But none of them would sit still for long, so painted my sleeping whippet instead!

Observational drawing again. Like the first one, paint the shape first, add lines later. My husband was trying to photography the lovely butterflies in the field alongside our garden. However the field is full of holes, stinging nettles, big thistles and other obstacles. It was rather fun to see him manoeuvre  his way around the field. 

Claire Llewellin

A selection of sketches of a spider character. I wanted to illustrate Incy Wincy Spider for my portfolio.

More full body designs.  @clairellewellinmace

Francis Martin

I have been mentored by the mighty Chris Mould on the Picture Hooks Scheme and really focusing on sketchbook scrawls.
The eternal quest for a good child picture. . I have been getting into the most blotchy inky pens .   This little character is baffled by time.

More visual explorations of time and more out of control ink!! @theephantomscribbler

John Meiring

 I drew this for an exhibition piece I was invited to. I finished a digital version of this but I like the sketch more actually.

Random sketches while I was in a meeting, really like that crab, might use that for a children’s picture book later on. @oddpumpkin_studio

Katy Dynes

From The Lost Words Prom (starring Jackie Morris and Rob McFarlane) – just sketching from my place in the audience –focussing on people's reactions, movement and expression whilst being immersed in lost words, sound and magic!

A challenge I'd set myself, sketching 'children in action'. I wanted to try and capture movement through 3 bright felt tip colours with highlights in chinagraph pencil. It was fun and I shall probably keep experimenting, to see how the ideas develop! @kittydinners

Megan Walker

These images are from the summer. I have been focussing on my observational drawing and my baby and cat have proved excellent models! I have been trying out a variety of media but ink has proved the most successful/fun.



Niki Leonidou

These are some pencil sketches and some acrylic drawing for a picture book I created a few months ago. It is the story of Little Red Riding Hood, now published in Greece.



Sandy Thornton

For this Lion character I am trying out a selection of watercolour and gouache, then applying General's charcoal pencil in 3 different grades: 6B 4B & 2B, smudging to create added texture. Applying Paynes grey to the background gives the Lion a sense of place. This process helps me decide which medium works best for this character.

The dog sketches are characterised from my poodle cross Winston!
I have mainly used Paynes grey watercolour with a touch of Burnt Umber along with a 2B General's charcoal pencil for softer line work.

Tip: If you are working with charcoal I find the Faber Castell perfection eraser pencil works well to create precise highlights and remove over smudging.  @sandyillustrates

Tonka Uzu

I like drawing people and enjoy observing and drawing queues. I had an idea for a story which is still in a drawer.

Ideas on the theme of possible cards. @tonkauzu

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Many thanks to the illustrators who sent in work. More images on the way next month!

There's still time to share your work in the next Open Sketchbooks! Send up to three 72-dpi jpeg snapshots or scans of recent sketchbook pages, (we'll select up to two), together with captions and your website / social media contact details. Subjects can be anything from working drawings for children's book projects to sketches from life, or just having fun on the page. However, please don't send finished portfolio/commissioned illustration, or digitally manipulated images, this is all about working processes in physical paper sketchbooks. Send materials before 3 November to the submissions email address.

Header photo © John Shelley 


John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and the illustrator of over 50 books for children, most recently A Purse Full of Tales, a book of Korean Folk stories, for Hesperus Press. He's twice been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, first in 2018, and again in 2019.



  1. Another excellent selection and collection of sketches. Always fascinating.

  2. I loved seeing these. All so different but equally brilliant.


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