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Sketching on a Primed Page

I seem to have found a type of sketching and sketchbook that really works for me and which I enjoy. I thought I'd give you a peek.

I've discovered Seawhite of Brighton concertina sketchbooks a couple of ago and they've become my go-to sketchbook. I like the A5 size but there's also a smaller one which is really light and handy for slipping straight into your pocket. I have a little stock of both in a cupboard, I certainly seem to go through the smaller ones remarkably quickly!

I love the work of Shelley Rhodes and have both her books. I was inspired by her to prime the pages of my sketchbooks with a light ink wash, gesso, random papers and even stitch.

Here are some of my primed pages. The gesso is the slightly off-white areas you can see, in the sketches it really comes into it's own as the crayon and paint behave differently on gesso and wonderful areas of texture and contrast are created at random.

In my sketches I usually use watercolour paints and Caran D'ache water soluble pastels. Occasionally I add ink or pen. I always carry a water brush with me, this is a refillable tube of water with a brush on the top which is super convenient and saves me having to carry a pot of water. You can get different sized brushes and I find the bigger the better for me.

Here is a primed page and then the same page with its sketch:

You can see little hints of the ink in the final sketch and the stitching just happens to follow the line of the bank which adds a nice emphasis. The blue ink wash at the top made the sky without needing anything adding. I love the movement that the hints of ink create in the sketch. They seem livelier as a result of being primed with random marks and papers.

Here's a selection from my current sketchbook. These date back to the beginning of the summer holidays so include walks in the Swinley Forest, rivers, fields and beaches in Norfolk and scenes from Chobham Common.

While these sketches are a source of inspiration for my prints, they are also for their own sake. Sketching helps me look, makes me consider colour and helps me to figure out shapes and contours. I don't try to copy every detail or ensure that they are completely accurate - photographs would suffice for that - rather, I find I pick out the details I am interested in, the colours that I think are important and try to create the 'feel' of what I'm looking at.

Sketches are the first stage of 'editing' what I'm looking at to see what it is what's really interesting me. If I think I've hit upon a scene that might work as a print I back up my sketches with photographs, these give me the wider view of what I was seeing, whereas the sketches give me the details.

A lot of the time my sketches are completed on family walks so are time limited. When there are not young children clamouring to move on then there is a dog who doesn't do sketching very well, she usually starts digging a (very muddy) hole, so I have to weigh up whether the sketch is worth the time that will probably be needed later to give her a bath. As a result, most of my sketches are completed in much less time that I would like and have a certain unfinished look about them.

Sometimes a time constraint can be good - it makes you get straight to the point; it can also stop a sketch being over worked and losing the wonderful spontaneity often found in sketches. Sometimes it's annoying and I often mean to work into my sketches a little further when I get home, I very rarely do though. I have found taking unfinished sketches on a train or while I'm waiting for a children's activity to end can sometimes offer just a little window to do something completely different with them yielding wonderful results. Every time I do I resolve to do it more often... but there's just never quite enough time!

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Nov 11, 2022

Ah ha . Yes I use them all the time. I prime with a thin coat of white glue .. goes transparent. I am a printmaker, and print direct on the page from my screen. It’s my way of using a sketchbook; nice to know a local printmaker. Regards Jillian

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