Jean and Meryl – January 2018

Starting a new circle always involves a big decision – choosing the sketchbook to exchange across the year. This year I found the inside of sketchbook made from Khadi paper in Paperchase and added my own cover. The paper is a nice texture and I hope there are enough pages to last throughout 2018 in my year long exchange with Meryl.

I made some pages using collage, watercolour and drawing just to get the exchange going. Starting an empty sketchbook might be the most challenging part of the circle because as we exchange there are always pages to look back on and take ideas and inspiration from.

I’m eagerly awaiting a sketchbook from my other sketchbook circle partner, Cherrie – I’ve a seen a glimpse of a page in the Facebook group.


Jean and Linda – March

The sketchbook I started in January came back to me this month, with new additions from Linda. This first return is always interesting as it’s the first time we get a sense of how the exchange is going to work. It seemed that Linda had left some opportunities for me to work onto her pages – above I continues markmaking from her piece of collage and added some bright circles to her pale squares.

On this page added the collage pencil at the top of the page and my initials below Linda’s. I also added some letters to the inside of the envelope. I can see that Linda likes maps as much as I do! 

I’ve been collecting all the paper generated by day to day life lately to use in making art. Train travel is a source of interesting paper and I used timetables and tickets on this page. The timetable joins me in Northampton and Linda in London. 

I wanted to do as Linda had done and leave some pages with space for a response. On the page above I used a strip of collage tissue paper that has strips of maps and then  extended them upwards using watercolour. 

The process of stamping has rippled through the sketchbook circle over the last few weeks. I missed the sketchbook circle this year but one of the workshops was led by Stephen Fowler. I really enjoyed seeing the results of his workshop so I bought the book and began collecting the materials needed. Above is an initial experiment using thin foam stuck to corrugated card with some additional drawing. 

The sketchbook came in a wonderful envelope which I added to before returning to Linda. 

Helen and Jean February 2017

In February I received  sketchbook from Helen. It was handmade sketchbook, with different sorts of paper for the pages and bound very sturdily, so I think it will survive our exchange!


The pages inside were so interesting and I found that Helen’s approach and way of using collage is so like areas of collage I am interested in having come across the work of artists like Jo Urban, Alison Sye and Jeannette McEwan recently on social media.


Looking at Helen’s pages I was interested in the storytelling nature of them and I wanted to respond in an around them as well as by adding my own pages to follow on. Doing this with a new partner is a big step because it is hard to know how they will feel about additions being made to their pages.

First I added an extra page that could be used to view pages through.


I was a little more adventurous I added little details to the pages through using Washington tape, paper collage and drawing, trying to stick with the theme of the pages Linda had made.


For my own pages I began with two story telling pages using a range of materials. I’ve been collecting paper materials for some time now and the challenge is to find, group and attach images and text together. It is hard to say what comes first – sometimes its text, other times its shapes, colours or images. In these two cases there isn’t much text but what there is is quite significant: “notes from our village green” (taken from a book) and “I draw a new world”made up by me. At the moment constructing imaginary landscapes is a recurring theme in much of the art I make.


I also made a page based on an idea from Randall Plowman’s book “The Collage Workbook How to get started and stay inspired” published in 2012. This was to take three images, cut them into strips and stick them down in a mixed up pattern (right hand page). I left it to dry and returned to it several times feeling it was quite unsatisfactory but not knowing what to do with it. This morning I decided to “Fragment” it. Fragment is an app I use on the iPad and decided to use the same approach by cutting out and changing shapes within the image. I also ended up turning some cut outs around so that their patterns appeared on the next page.


This led me to go further, cutting out shapes to leave as holes and adding wash tape letters. On the other side of the page (below) I used a white pen and add drawn detail which worked effectively because the page was black. The holes revealed some fragments of the previous brightly coloured previous page made using watercolours and Derwent Intense pens.


For the second month I am ready to send my sketchbook on at the end of the month, quite a miracle! I wonder what Helen will make of it…

Jean and Linda January 2017

The sketchbook circle begins again for 2017. After three years choosing a sketchbook should be easier but it isn’t! Having made a sketchbook that turned out to be rather fragile and hardly survived a year’s exchange and worked in another with an unorthodox physical structure I decided to buy a sketchbook – but there’s so much choice. Time was running out and I was in London for urban sketching so I visited the wonderful Cornelissens, near the British Museum. There was a great choice and I settled on a quite small landscape sketchbook which I hope my partner, Linda, does not find too small.

Over the last few years I’ve been using collage more and more and so I began our pages with using found paper materials.Some of this turned out to relate to beginning a new creative project like the new year of a sketchbook circle.

I was lucky to go to a vintage or jumble sale recently where I got hold of some old dress patterns and astronomy magazines and they have begun appearing in what I’m making here and in other art that I make.

Since I began using collage more I’ve been a compulsive collector of bits and pieces when I’m out and about – I have quite a collection of train tickets which I feel sure will come handy some time. In these pages I used them almost like little window frames.

Over the years that I’ve been taking part in the sketchbook circle I’ve been very interested in the different ways of how artists might collaborate when working in the same sketchbook. I’ve begun to keep a list! I decided to make a page that would leave some space for my collaborator if she chooses to add her own art. I found the strip of map and it had a grid so this sparked the idea of extending this by using squares of collage materials and drawing. I wonder if Linda will develop this. Its so hard to predict how a new partner will work at the start of the year.

I managed to post the sketchbook in January, not allowing myself to fall behind at this early stage! I know that this first month when we send our books on its great to quite quickly receive one back so the momentum is not lost.

I looked forward to receiving my new book from my other partner, Helen, for February.

Amanda and Jean October 2016

Amanda and I continue our slightly off time exchange – we’re making all the exchanges but they don’t quite correspond with the 1st of the month. Luckily we’ve both equally held on to the sketchbook too long but it seems to have worked out overall. 

As the sketchbooks gets fuller it’s somehow harder to respond as I’m reluctant to make it even bigger than it is already. It’s a real challenge to my ideas of working in the same sketchbook and I think I must get better at working onto the pages instead of adding more pages. When I think this, usually when I haven’t got the sketchbook,  it seems like a great idea. When I get the sketchbook back each indiviudal page is so interesting that it seems wrong to work onto it.

As part of my ongoing one drawing a day I was stuck for want to draw so I leafed through the pages allowing small sections to catch my eye. I was especially attracted by the textile and sewn pages which were abstract but had such great marks and patterns. 

I later used this approach to make some small fragments to add to the sketchbook.

I used watercolour, fine pen and letter stamps. I could often see landscape like forms in Amanda’s pages, as well as interesting colour combinations. 

I returned the sketchbook to Amanda very late in November and I think maybe one more go some time in December before the sketchbook ends up with its originator. It will be interesting to see how Amanda records it digitally. 

April 2015 receiving and responding

In April Mary returned her sketchbook to me with some new and vibrantly coloured pages.

These sea blue fishy pages continued the natural theme from earlier pages.

These sea blue fishy pages continued the natural theme from earlier pages.

The reds and pinks of the next few pages using layers of collage, drawing and text were a dramatic contrast.

The reds and pinks of the next few pages using layers of collage, drawing and text were a dramatic contrast.

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Mary often uses text in her pages and its something I would like to try in my own pages and other art.

I love these almost science fiction pages with other secret worlds hidden behind and almost ready to burst through.

I love these almost science fiction pages with other secret worlds hidden behind and almost ready to burst through.

I tried to join my next pages to the marbling of Mary's last page and incorporate the pink in blotches on the next few pages. I used a dip pen and ink and watercolour.

I tried to join my next pages to the marbling of Mary’s last page and incorporate the pink in blotches on the next few pages. I used a dip pen and ink and watercolour.

The map features became more evident across the pages and then I tried to transform back to a landscape. This didn't work out as I had hoped and I did consider cutting these pages out.

The map features became more evident across the pages and then I tried to transform back to a landscape. This didn’t work out as I had hoped and I did consider cutting these pages out.

At this point (almost at the point of posting) I was reminded by discussion in the Facebook group that we had been sent an envelope of collage. I went back and used some fo he collage to work on one of th earlier pages and these last two pages that I was dissatisfied with.

I enjoyed adding collage to the marbling page and luckily there was more marbling in the collage pack so I was able to extend the pages and continue working on them from the top and bottom of the concertina page.

I enjoyed adding collage to the marbling page and luckily there was more marbling in the collage pack so I was able to extend the pages and continue working on them from the top and bottom of the concertina page.

I tried to rescue the last two pages by adding collage but they are still my least favourite pages so far.

I tried to rescue the last two pages by adding collage but they are still my least favourite pages so far. I wonder if Mary will be able to do something with them to rescue them!

Getting my sketch book back for the last time (December)

In December I received the sketchbook I had started back from Mary with her last contributions. She had continued to work with text, collage and maps. She immediately followed by long image of a skyline made form newspaper collage with these pages of collage – the blue of the sea is made from the insides of envelopes that have lots of different blue line patterns.

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2015-01-05 11.40.48I like the combination and placing of the buildings, windows and bridge and I’m still making my mind up about whether this is two separate pictures or one continuous picture.

There’s also a page of Laurent Chehere’s Flying Houses series which is an interesting way to develop buildings in a more fantastical way – it would be great to explore these in three dimensions and write stories or poems to go with them! Maybe that is my primary school teacher side coming out…

2015-01-05 11.40.55Mary had also made this great layered collage page with all different sorts of paper including maps, magazine pictures, printing and drawing. There’s a lot to look at in this page and it provokes all sorts of questions about how it was constructed and how the pieces and layers fit together.

2015-01-05 11.41.40A further page used paper from maps even more.

Over this year I have become so much alert to the possibilities of using found and previously used papers to make art – At Christmas I was lucky enough to find a source of old maps that I hope to use in collage and in printmaking in 2015.

2015-01-05 11.41.14There was also this page of holes.I love the way that Mary has created this little windows into other worlds on this page using nothing more than paper and drawing tools. I’d really like to explore this further.

Mary and I have been exchanging this sketchbook over the year, working in it in response to each other’s art – and as well as this Mary has given birth to a daughter! I’ve so enjoyed the input of new ideas, ways of looking, artists whose work I did not know of, materials and how they are used that I have encountered in this exchange.

This is what our sketchbook looked like by the end! Mary has transformed the outside to reflect some of the themes we explored.

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October (receiving and sending)

2014-11-02 15.50.13I received the sketchbook from Mary during September and responded to it in late October. This time Mary has added some suggestions of artists to look at alongside her own response to these. One of these was Tom Phillips and his work of art ‘A Humument’ which you can see for yourself at this link – A Humument a wonderful combination of words and art that I so glad Mary introduced me to. Looking back in our sketchbook I can see that Mary had referred to this in an earlier month but I hadn’t picked up on it, so I was glad she 2014-11-02 15.49.49returned to it.

Here’s what I wrote in the sketchbook.

I tried to have a go myself at working onto a page of a book – its quite a challenge to choose some interesting words and phrases. I haven’t done a very exciting job here as I was too literal and descriptive but in doing this I learned something about how I might develop it in the future. I can see the possibilities for using the accidental positioning and relationships 2014-11-02 15.48.25between words on the page. There is much inspiration to be gained by exploring The Humument website where all the pages can be seen.

Recently I had also been exploring letters and text as a neighbour had very kindly given me some woodblock letters to experiment with. When I first started playing with these I printed letters, and later single words onto newspaper. Initially this was just to 2014-11-02 15.49.26have a go, but as I printed I began to find text, pictures pr a combination of these in the newspapers and print random or chosen words on to them.

The one to the right is one of my favourites – I didn’t really take in the three words at the top of the picture but I think these add to the overall image so much!There’s a few other examples in the sketchbook that I’m sending to Mary next week. One of the other things I did with the letters was to print them all over a sheet of newspaper to see what each one looked like and to get better at applying the printing ink and pressing the block down. After this sheet was dry I found the 2014-11-02 16.38.47accidental words that you can see in the image on the left.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been going further with this idea by also adding lines of poetry that seem to fit the image and word.

Building on the use of words and phrases from newspapers and some collage / drawing I was working on last week inspired by imaginary skylines I also constructed a collage and drawn skyline with pieces cut from a newspaper – again looking for interesting words and combinations of words.

2014-11-02 15.48.17Mary also sent me  suggestions of two other artists – Ed Fairburn and Nigel Peake with some drawing added to a map. I’m looking forward to exploring them in the future!

So next week this sketchbook will be in the post to Mary and I hope to receive one from Karen.

May (receiving and sending)

At the beginning of May I received my original sketchbook from Mary – with great restraint I waited til the weekend to open it so I would have to time to look at it properly. Processed with Moldiv

Mary had continued our exploration of fonts and typography – taking elements of letters and the gaps in and between them as well as overlapping and looking through semi-transparent surfaces.

Its amazing how far this has come from that first inspiration of the Mira Schendel exhibition! (see January’s post)

Processed with MoldivShe had also explored whole pages of text – I love this one where some words are highlighted from a piece of text to make a new text or even a poem? It reminded me of something Dave Gorman used to do on his radio show – found poetry. He would take words and phrases from newspapers or media and put them together to make a new text read aloud. Then a few weeks after seeing this page I came across a post about Hidden Poetry on Stephen Lockyer’s blog. You can find it here – Hidden Poetry Mary has found and reveled the hidden poetry in the text – in Stephen’s idea children write tiny poems on labels and stick them in hidden places for others to find. You could add the idea of matchboxes to this!

2014-05-26 15.41.27I also like this page – its made using the app Sketchbook Express. I’m always pleased when the name of the app is attached – it can be frustrating to see an image, know an app is involved but not know which! I downloaded the app but as is common with me, haven’t had time to look at it properly. One day…

My first response was this page of Ts cut from a newspaper and drawn onto. As Mary had, I also found myself intrigued by the negative space and the new shapes created.

Processed with MoldivI also found these card letters in a shop – they reminded of evenings in front of the TV cutting out lower case letters in interesting papers to use in my classroom when I was a primary school teacher. Times have changed – they can be bought for 40p each nowadays!

In the same newspaper I came across the weather forecast page – it was bank holiday weekend and absolutely pouring with rain. In an attempt to change the weather I cut up the forecast and rearranged it. It continued to rain all half term…

This flap collage follows on from something I first did n the sketchbook Karen and I are swapping.

Processed with MoldivAs well as taking part in the sketchbook circle I’ve also been part of the #moreTEA digitial swap and this has led me to using some apps to manipulate images. I returned to the idea of TEA and made the word from colours found in the newspaper and then used the app ‘Fragment’ on the image to change it. Writing this it occurs to me that there’s a lot of art to had from reusing a newspaper.

Before packaging the sketchbook up I flicked back through the pages and found an old page from March. Since March I’ve learned a lot about apps so I decided to go back to my page of Zs and make some changes.

As I did this I discovered that colour tints can be added in the app although I’m not sure how I did this – typical of my use of apps at present, and not very useful if I want to teach anyone.

Processed with MoldivOver the last week I’ve decided to start a record of apps I use and tips / examples of their use to help me remember for my own use and to help me when I’m working with students. An example (needs work) is on this blog under apps and some examples I’m going to use with students this term are here apps for learning and teaching

As always the inspiration and ideas from this sketchbook circle, both Mary and Karen, from chance encounters on twitter and on the #moreTEA and NSEAD Facebook pages and working with my colleagues on Northampton Inspire continue to inform the art I make and my teaching. So thanks to all!

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