OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Spring Selection Part 1

Don't you just love drawing? Open Sketchbooks is back. John Shelley presents a spring glimpse into the current working pages of SCBWI member illustrators.

The lockdown may have curtailed travel for most of us, but SCBWI member illustrators have been busy filling sketchbooks from locations across the globe as well as our back gardens. During these difficult pandemic times, sketches serve more than photos ever can to bring back travel memories, and help inspire fresh work from the studio. Also, being at home all the time is no barrier to our minds - the world of imagination has no boundaries! In the first instalment of sketchbooks for spring, we travel from the South Atlantic to English gardens, from wildlife, to wild characters!

(Click on the artist names for links to websites).

Claudia Myatt

I was lucky enough to spend two months sailing in the wildest parts of the planet recently, and kept a daily sketchbook log. This was a day on the way to Cape Horn.

Kidney Island - crouched in the tussac grass on a small island off the Falklands drawing rockhopper penguins in January this year

Elizabeth Marchetti

These studies are for two non-fiction picture books I am writing and illustrating, looking at the environment.

Looking at sea life from the different pelagic zones.

Studies of sea and land animals.@lizmarchetti3

Emily Joshua

A few pictures from my current book, called Big Dog, Little Dog or Someone in Between. It’s all about finding the right dog for a family and is written in rhyming verse.

'Someone in between' (a Cockerpoo) from the title & cover and 'someone who barks a lot' (the Jack Russell)
Not one... so small that they can’t walk very far.

Gaia Alessi

A page of various studies, pencils and marker in A5 sketchbook. My mind wanders a lot when I’m just sketching. I might stay with one topic but it often jumps around and pages aren’t so coherent. Some studies eventually make it to finals, like the ermine which has become a collage piece and then a card.

Pig studies for a story idea; pencil sketches and collage in A5 sketchbook. Sometimes it's easier to work out character designs if I start with collage: scissors help me simplify forms, focus on clear ideas and not get distracted by detail (which I am otherwise prone to do!). It also allows to quickly explore colour variations for the subject: pigs are multicoloured!  @hiyaitsgaia

Hannah Malkin

Lollipop trees. For a while now I have been in the habit of gluing left-over scraps of paper or fabric onto a future page in my sketchbook, to be discovered at a later date. As I work in several different sketchbooks simultaneously, it can be months before I discover these little creative surprises again. This week in our fifth week of coronavirus home-schooling (here in Italy we are ahead of the game), I was rather reluctantly sharing my watercolour paints with my son when I came to this page in my sketchbook filled with mono-printed stick shapes. As my son had made a real mess of the reds and oranges in my set, I painted circles of these colours around the sticks just to clean up my paint palette a little. I rather like the effect in the end.

We have recently moved to live in Trieste, on the Italian/Slovenian border. The landscape here is shaped by the limestone bedrock, and the area is riddled with very deep holes and extensive cave systems. We had just been on a walk along the border and learned that during the fighting in the first world war whole families were sometimes thrown down these potholes alive. This collage picture came out of that knowledge, but I think is too harrowing a topic to ever be in a picture book.  @HannahSanguinetti

John Storey

A quick pencil study from an online reference photo.
A simple pencil doodle.   @sixwest_studio

Rachel Quarry

My sketchbooks are mainly filled with scribbles for book ideas, but occasionally I allow myself time to sit and sketch a whole scene from observation with no particular purpose in mind. There’s been little time for this lately but these sketches were done on trips before lockdown started.

Sketching from the sun lounger in Tenerife.

Visiting Clare College gardens in Cambridge with my book club. @rachelquarry

Samantha Perring

Character studies for a fairytale re-telling spread of Little Red Riding Hood. They were also for practice with ink and a limited pallet.


Suzanne Dore

I’ve been studying line and pattern recently and trying to ignore colour. So here are some sketches I’ve done of butterflies.

Don’t worry, I’m not going out to butterfly houses during the lockdown. All studies drawn from a butterfly guidebook and a few google image searches.

Instagram: @suzannedore
Twitter: @su_dore

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

British Isles Member Illustrators, there's still time to submit your work to Part 2 of our Spring Open Sketchbooks!

Send up to three 72 dpi j-peg snapshots or scans of recent sketchbook pages, 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. Sketchbook pages only please, rather than finished portfolio/commissioned illustration or digitally manipulated images. This is all about working processes in physical paper sketchbooks.

Submit materials to this 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 a three times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. @studionib

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