OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Spring selection Part 1

Illustration Features Editor John Shelley curates the first of a two-part selection from the pages of member sketchbooks.


Well, there might still be a little chill in the air, but the sun is out! As gardens begin to come to life it's time to open the pages of member sketchbooks again, SCBWI illustrators have been very active!

As long weeks of lockdown continued over the winter, there's no doubt that inspiration was under pressure for many of us, it's hard for creativity to sparkle under the weight of the pandemic. But for a lot of illustrators, sketchbooks have been a salvation, a place to explore ideas, find creative solace and, despite the limitations of travel, draw and paint the world around us. 

So let's take a (socially distanced) stroll through these pages to see the breadth of talent within SCBWI, from local scenes to worlds of imagination!

(Click on the artist names for links to websites)


Angela Vives

I wanted to showcase my current tools for observational drawing. As it is my favourite source of inspiration. I have tried and tested many ways and resources online, like model sessions by video, Map crunch, drawing films etc.

This was done in a video session of random street views, with my colleagues from the MA in children's book illustration. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the location. We had a time limit  that helped with the process, as you are forced to capture significant volumes first, stopping you from going into the details too early. I love using Moleskine sketchbooks; this one is the thinner paper, the reason why it didn't support my gouache paint so well.

This was done while watching The Golden Compass. As watching with the family, I could not stop the film—the reasoning behind working on thumbnails. I set up intending to capture the frame composition; for some reason, there was a lot of focus on the lamps! :-) @illustration_angelavives


Catherine Lindow

My sketchbooks are working well for me right now for really rough work responding to situations when I can grab the kit and dash off a drawing. The ones I like best are pretty unglamorous but they always give me something to take back and work on in the studio, even if that's just a different way of handling colour or materials. 


My elder two daughters chatting. A constant background noise during lockdown. I love to eavesdrop and they don't seem to mind.

A seascape drawn in incredibly stormy weather - a definite 'two bulldog clip' job. @catherixx


David Mercer

Woods in winter on a dark and misty day. Out with my daughter for schooling in the woods! Sussex.

Story development sketches.

Hannah Bruton

A self-initiated illustration for a self care/self love project intended for a lifestyle magazine. This was one of three in a mini series called 'Follow your own compass'

This is pure experimentation with different materials that I don't often pick up, it's part of my front garden that I see from my desk. I used markers, watercolour, chalk and oil pastel for it.  @hannahb_art

Hannah Sanguinetti

I am currently working on my first big illustration project so my non-project sketchbooks have become an important place to play for me and to draw/make art without a required outcome. Since I also have less time I tend to work with materials I have in front of me (lots of collage paper, textiles and thread) and make quick sketches of my garden, which is a lovely place to draw. I particularly enjoy stitching across my sketchbook pages, as the back of the stitches appear on the next page giving me a beginning to turn into a picture. I find in my play sketchbooks I'm increasingly enjoying leaving white space, which is also influencing the picture book spreads in the project I'm working on; it's fun to see work from one project spilling over into another. 



Jennifer Isaac

These show how the character 'Bucky' evolved from sketches to a more complete example of why his name was changed from 'Lucky'. 




Jess Stockham

These images happened when I was just messing about on a day off!

The birds happened when I filled a page with blobs of inkwash and made each blob into whatever it suggested. It was great to do!

The page of children really surprised me. I haven't really wanted to draw children for a while but decided to give it a go, telling myself it didn't matter how they turned out. I used pen so I couldn't make corrections and just drew from my imagination. I found I got really involved and had filled a page before I knew it!  @jessstockham


Katy Dynes

Throughout this LD3, when I've not been 'tied' to my desk with illustration deadlines, I've been out and about sketching (and experimenting with new materials) some of the wonderful places near to where I live. These have been a blessing and I've tried to document some of the changing seasons in these drawings too... there's now a storybook idea in the offing! 



Layn Marlow

This year I'll be mostly drawing... dogs! I've been trawling through many of the videos posted online by enthusiastic pet-owners, looking for the right canine candidates - always with the story in mind as I search. These are some preliminary sketches which are currently evolving into characters for a graphic novel I'm illustrating. Sadly, I'm not allowed to share the character development sketches yet, but I do enjoy this close observation of real animals (or videos of them) and find it really helps as a starting point for that process. 



Leanne Coelho

Sketches for the about and contact pages on my website.

Working on characters for a tabletop role-playing game for preschool.  @leannecoelhouk

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Many thanks to the artists who sent in work. More sketchbooks to come next month!

If you're an illustrator member of SCBWI British Isles there's still time to submit your work to Part 2!

Send up to three 72 dpi j-peg snapshots or scans of recent sketchbook pages, together with a summary or 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 The Boy in the Jam Jar, written by Joyce Dunbar, for Bloomsbury. He's a four times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. @studionib


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