Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Sketchbook Exchange Project, Work Resumes

Last week a box containing three sketchbooks arrived on my doorstep. These books belong to other artists involved in the Nature Sketchbook Exchange Project, which I've been involved in since 2014. The project stalled a bit last year, so it's great to get started again. Check out my last post on the project to find out more about it and also the project blog to see the wonderful work by the other artists. Here's are a few of my latest entries, I'm currently on my 12th book.

A selection of my sketchbook paintings
The Stillman & Birn Sketchooks, I currently have four books....two down and two to go!

It's always exciting to open the books to see what treasures are inside! Seems like a long time ago when we started this project but there's no rush or pressure with this project, which is what makes it so enjoyable. I can't wait to get my own book back at the end of the project.

An image of my sketchbook drawing
Looking forward to seeing what's inside my own sketchbook when it returns later this year, seems like a long time since this drawing in 2014
The last few books have been completed over the winter period and their contents reflect this time of year. My most recent entry is in the book belonging to one of my favourite artists, Aislinn Adams, from Oregon. I chose to paint tree seed pods during a trip to Barcelona last week and spent approximately one day on this entry. I seldom spend more time than this on any one entry, so this makes these exchange projects very achievable...they don't need to be masterpieces but a more relaxed approach in style and most of all they're fun to do.
Seed pod sketchbook painting
Collection of Tree seed pods from the park in Barcelona, a mix of graphite and watercolour

Maple seeds drawing and painting
Detail of watercolour and graphite studies of maple seeds
In November last year I started an entry in Ida Mitrani's book, I chose a collection of leaves from outside my flat, but I wasn't at all happy with this so kept the book until after Christmas and opted to complete a second entry, a 2 page spread of an Iris foetidissima seed pod, found in my local park.

leaf paintings in a sketchbook
Not terribly happy with this effort, so opted to complete another page in Ida's book.

Iris foetidissima seed pod watercolour
Iris foetidissima seed heads, my second attempt
I always paint directly on to the paper for my entries rather than gluing work in, some sketchbooks have pretty poor paper but the Stillman & Birn books that we have all used are great so there's no need to work on other paper, plus I've grown to like the idea of painting in another artists book.....there's an element of fear of messing it up but this also means that it's you can't make a mess. But if it does go a bit wrong, it doesn't really matter, it's part of the process. It's onto book number 12 next, which belongs to my good friend, Debbie Crawford....maybe I'll paint some flowers now that it's officially Springtime here in the UK.

If you've never been involved in such a project or don't keep a sketchbook, I really do recommend it!

Next week: I'll be writing a review of the two new watercolour papers from Saunders Waterford and discussing the changes to Fabriano papers.

watercolour exercises testing papers
Next week! Testing old and new papers, using a variety of watercolour techniques


  1. Thanks Dianne for sharing. I really appreciate seeing how you go about creating your art. I've started a sketchbook and can't wait for spring so I can gather some leaves and things for reference. Until then I'm checking out books with pictures and such to study.

    1. Thats great news Linda, be sure to let me know how it's going with the sketchbook :)

  2. Lovely blog post Dianne, I am very much looking forward to the next one. Out of interest, which is your preferred paper to begin with?

    1. I work mostly on Fabriano Artistico Jess, but I use other papers too. Schoellershammer and even the Langton Smooth for small studies is good. Always 100% cotton archival paper. I really dislike Fabriano 5 though and these pulpy ' blue' white papers, I cant understand why anybody would use them, they will yellow and the surface goes very quickly because of the pulp content. I have used the 'old' Saunders Waterford paper too, it's hard to work but once you get used to it it got a lovely soft finish, it's a true watercolourists paper in my opinion. I love the new paper they have produced though but would like to try in a heavier weight. You are one of the few who use SW?


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  4. Yaay, so great to see these on the move again! I'm looking forward to getting my next lot!! :)