OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Autumn Selection Part 1

Open Sketchbooks is back! John Shelley curates an Autumn selection of member's working pages, idea roughs, sketches and observed drawings. 


For better or worse, it's been a summer few of us will forget. Nevertheless, whatever our circumstances, as the limitations of lockdown slowly began to relax, the pens, pencils and brushes of SCBWI illustrators have been getting busy.

There's no denying that for many of us it's been hard to concentrate on creativity with all the worries of the world at the moment, but all the more reason to look at our sketchbooks as both a release, and a haven, a comfortable place to put aside the anxieties of the day and draw for ourselves, experiment, relax with some observed drawing, or explore characters and ideas. 

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


Alex Edwards Agg

I had a sketchbook which I used through lockdown to record some of the goings-on in my garden. An amazing time to observe plants, baby birds and human inhabitants. Here are a few pages to show. (Out of 36 pumpkin plants and dozens of beautiful flowers, we have only managed one pumpkin!)



Anna McCutcheon

After lockdown was eased somewhat in England at the end of June, my family and I drove from London down to north Italy to spend the summer in the more secluded (and safe) setting of the Dolomites. I spent most days finding new hiking trails with my 6-year-old and making up many stories along the way. I decided to try and sketch most of the scenes over the summer rather than simply take pictures. Therefore, many of my sketches are what we saw or did on the day, and some are geared more to storytelling.


This was done over lunch from a mountain hut which we hiked up to.

This was done when, in a moment of daydreaming, I spied an image within the sole of an old pair of sandals. 


Camille Whitcher

Negative space sketches from the Good Ship Illustration's Friday Art Club which I only recently joined in on. I rarely allow myself to play with my brush pens – I've previously felt like any artwork I do has to be portfolio worthy or 'for something'. It's been fun sketching just for the fun of it.

The Good Ship Illustration Friday Art Club again, this time with complimentary colour theme. Pink and green Doraemon is my favourite here. @milly_of_bunston


Carol Jonas

I did these for a children's book idea that I was working on, they're for a woodland party. I was trying to improve on the characters, so it's not the first set of sketches. It was for a children's book dummy.


Chantal Bourgonje

Sketches and studies for a project I’m working on, around wild flowers and their etymology (narrative non-fiction for 8+).



Clare Andrews

I always work in one sketchbook at a time so these are a mixture of observational sketches, character ideas and project development. 


I love drawing people and my sketchbooks are filled with observational sketches. This is one I did on a sunny day during lockdown. I spotted these women having a socially distanced chat. I used neocolor Caran d'Ache crayons as I love the intense colour and texture they give.

This is a character I came up with inspired by a friend's dog called Roger. He is a real character and I hope to find him a story one day. My initial idea is he is one half of a crime fighting duo called Roger and Sherlock. @clarence48

Felicity Tattersall

A mixed media sketch exploring a possible early spread in my current picture book, which I’ve also written. It's exploring negative space, texture and layering to create atmosphere. It is a 'plant’s-eye view' of a house where the main protagonist lives. I’m exploring how to convey the plants as characters in my story in subtle ways, as they don't speak but are central to the plot. At the start of the story they are present but largely ignored/unseen.

A character study for my main character who has happy teeth and a wonky fringe. @FTillustrator

Giuliana Gregori

Observational drawings on a day out in cafés in Brussels, done shortly after the lockdown, during the summer, with the purpose of getting back into drawing from observation.



Hannah Bruton

Girl and Candle was done in pencil and gouache, with a tiny bit of coloured pencil. I had a picture of this in my mind for a couple of days and knew I had to put it to paper.

Notting Hill I drew from a street view image whilst looking for inspiration, using watercolours, oil pastel, chalk and coloured pencil. @hannahb_art


Jane Porter

I like to make a concertina book for trips sometimes – the benefit being you can keep on drawing and just stretch it out if the ink or paint is still wet, and make a continuous scene...

This one was from a trip to Herefordshire in July – we went to a secret valley known to locals as 'Paradise' – and it was! So green and peaceful. I used Inktense pencils and a bit of watercolour.



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 Autumn 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 the working processes in physical paper sketchbooks.

Send materials to

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 The Boy in the Jam Jar for Bloomsbury. He's a three times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. @studionib

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