OPEN SKETCHBOOKS Autumn Selection Part 1

Curator John Shelley presents the first of two Autumn selections from the pages of illustrator members' sketchbooks. 


We have some wonderful submissions for this Autumn, it's great to see illustrators using sketchbooks to turn over ideas, find inspiration in the world around, and explore texture and character. 

As we approach the end of a second pandemic year, our sketchbooks continue to provide a place of refuge, as well as a space to work out ideas, develop stories and characters. For me, I find the portability of sketchbooks are a bridge between the heads-down studio-bound serious work of illustration, and the looser, inspirational marks we make reflecting on the world around us. Sketchbooks allow us to loosen up, or explore rabbit-holes of creative indulgence.

Whichever way, these are opportunities to inspire SCBWI members! (Click on the artist names for links to websites).  



Aditi Beaufrand

I like to doodle objects I find around me. Drawing them in a decorative manner helps me better understand the shape language.

Instagram: @tiki_lava


Anna Violet

Ancient oak tree
Observational sketch of a magnificent oak tree I came across last month while exploring in Shropshire. What tales could it tell and who lives here?

A poppy jungle.
A childhood memories sketch, using an old b&w photo and a neighbour’s poppies as prompts last summer. Playing with wax candle resist. Possible starting point for a story?  @violet2519


Arry Cain

This was the first opportunity I'd had since lockdown to get out and do some urban sketching! I like to incorporate my characters into sketches like this, and at the time I was on holiday in North Wales, so it seemed appropriate that my two dragons, Griff and Denise were involved!. The setting is Bridge Street in Caernarfon, which has a gorgeous Victorian flat-iron building!

Pre Covid, I used to do live wedding and event illustration. Obviously lockdown stopped that and as a result I felt really out of practice when it came to sketching moving people. This was a sketch that started off whilst watching tv, and then I decided that the ultimate practice would be in sketching fast-moving people playing roller derby (one of my big non art-based loves!), so I turned to YouTube and watched some previous games whilst furiously sketching movement. @arrycain


Chantal Bourgonje

Sketches of ideas of pages and characters for a detective story that I’m trying to develop, with Enid Buff-Orpington and Finlay Fox as super sleuths. 

Finlay Fox and Enid Buff-Orpington hard at work in their detective office.

The witnesses learning about the raspberry festival (in my latest version of the story, there no longer is a raspberry festival, oh dear!). @chantal_bourgonje


David Mercer

These sketchbook pages document day-to-day life with both personal and artistic reactions/musings/inspiration cooked up together. Some days I'm fluid whilst others I am not.
There are themes and sketches of ideas for stories and characters as well as observed life. Autumn is a poignant and marvellous season. Just capturing a vague essence of the natural spectacle is music to my ears! 

Diana Gold

Just some characters I made on a Sunday afternoon… 


Ele Nash

I love my sketchbooks and use them all the time to draw from life or practise in preparation for a painting or just to have a play. I get so attached to my sketchbooks that I end up adding more and more pages to them so I don't have to start a new one! My favourite thing to sketch are cats.

My cat, Derek, in liquid acrylic.

The Colosseum in Indian ink and the rainy hills of home in indian ink and charcoal. @elenashart


Emma Graham

I have two new stories and unlike my normal themes these involve humans. Something I try to avoid, as I never feel I draw humans well. So I have been doing a fair bit of practising as and when I have time, and these are my three main character developments. Think I am getting there, I’m determined to master it!


Twitter: @emmagrahampics
Instagram: @emma_graham_illustrations

Jasmine Stephenson

My take on an enchanted forest for an October mood board challenge on Instagram.

For a book idea that I’ve been developing, about a clumsy witch who’s struggling to find her way in the magical world. @jasminestephenson_illustration


Leila Winslade

Little Red Riding Hood - Folktale week challenge

Character planning for my own story. @leilawinslade


Many thanks to the illustrators 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 five times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Instagram: @StudioNib Twitter: @StudioNib


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