OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Autumn Selection Part 2

 Features editor John Shelley takes a second Autumn look within the pages of member's sketchbooks. 

Sketchbooks are such lovely things don't you think? I adore seeing what artists and illustrators get up to with their working drawings and observed sketches, often the art has so much more freedom and loose energy compared to polished portfolio work and published illustration. No-one is telling the artist what to draw, sketchbooks are work-out gyms for experimentation, playgrounds for the imagination, and in stressful times, sanctuaries for the soul. 


This year we've been in extra need for sanctuary in the face of Covid 19. In this second and final look for this season within SCBWI member sketchbooks, we're offered landscapes, character designs and story developments. I hope everyone is heart-warmed by these pages, finds solace in our own work and is inspired to fill our own sketchbooks over the next few months! 

(Click on artist names for links to websites).  


Bridget Marzo

Looking back I seem to have recorded the best of my escapes during difficult times in my sketchbooks this year - forming a kind of positive visual diary (writing time of the day as well as the date) on each sketch. All are observational studies done with a small Winsor and Newton watercolour box, and at times, Derwent Inktense pencils to add the odd accent or texture.

Children in  Spa Fields, London 2.38 pm - about 10 minutes watching an older girl entertaining a young boy from my discrete location in the shade by another tree.  (On Instagram there's a more detailed sketch done that day from that same location).  Though I usually work fast, I was glad the boy kept doing turns around the tree and then returning to  watch the girl.  It gave me the chance to pinpoint their gestures. 

A view down onto Wembury beach in Devon 1:15 - 2:15    I love capturing people and these ones were so far away that one tiny turn of the brush sufficed to suggest something of their movement. This is from my horizontal A6 sketchbook. @bridgimage_art


Clare Tovey

I have been experimenting with materials, thanks to the Good Ship Illustration drawing course! (Excellent fun!)

Cat, in pink biro and blackwing pencil. I am doing lots of drawings of TobySox as studies with a view to a cat character for a book.

Kings Cross skyline in blue biro while waiting for Nick - just for fun, because I love the view of those roofs. @clarabelledraws

Laura Cross

At the start of the year, I became a mum with my first baby and she’s been keeping me very busy. Now she’s older and sleeping more, things have started to settle down and I’ve found some time to draw again. Here are some recent character designs I did as a warm up in my sketchbook, based on true events!

I usually use a red pencil for rough sketches, then go over it more carefully in blue pencil. 



Leanne Coelho

Sketches of the pens on my desk. I find this a great warm-up before diving into the blank page.

Character sketches and a little woodland scene.


Lionel Meyringer

Elephants and giraffes: studies for a safari picture.

Yeti and Yak: doodles and ideas for a story about two friends. @lionel.meyringer


Paul Morton

A couple of sketches investigating our flora and fauna.




Pippa Laurent

Most of the studies in my sketchbooks are related to nature and I like to use them to try out different techniques and get ideas down fast. 

On a rainy day I sketched the garden and found a couple of phrases that seemed fitting, especially during these difficult times.

I rarely use vibrant colours and I tend to leave white open spaces around a sketch, but the seasons of 2020 gave me the inspiration to have a go and pack the pages full of colour! Pencil lines and crayons.  @pippalaurent

Ruth Grearson

Pandemic days have hit my drawing hard, so these scruffy sketches in my tiny A6 notebooks all represent little triumphs for me.

The first time back out for lunch, doing one of my favourite things - drawing people that catch my eye. Like visual eavesdropping!

This was my first drawing in lockdown - the rooftops I spent a lot of time looking at, like a housecat, over the long evenings indoors. @ruthgrearson

Sarah Lovell

'Wendy the Whippet' inspired by a picture book character I have dreamt up.
Illustrated in acrylics and coloured pencils.

'Rats' inspired by reading A Darkness of Dragons with my son at the moment, the opening chapters feature lots of rats! Drawn with ink and a dip pen. @sarahlovellart


Soni Speight

Experiments with using cut paper stencils to create negative space combined with layered gouache and neo colour, searching for textures.



Tonka Uzu

All images are early character sketches for a picture book project I have been working on. It's about the friendship of two boys who live next door to each other.



Trish Phillips

Initial ideas for a brief of a character in her home

The outcome which began with an observational drawing which then became the new setting for the character.  @trish.phillips.scribbles

Many thanks to all the illustrators who sent in work! Open Sketchbooks will be back with fresh selection next Spring, in the meantime, keep sketching!

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 four times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. @studionib


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