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.


Helen and Jean August 2017


When I received the sketchbook from Helen I had good intentions about what I would add. There’s some much to respond to in the pages – the detail and pattern in the drawing, the pale and interesting collage and the natural forms.

IMG_6994IMG_6995IMG_6996As usual I am both satisfied and dissatisfied with my pages. The one I like least is the yellow, green and blue page with collage lines running down it. The facing page is the one I like best – made from leaf prints onto a Gelli plate onto a piece of map and then drawn onto. i’m a bit obsessed with colours and patterns of some maps I was recently given after a clear out at work. I haven’t quite settled on how to use them yet.

Helen had been using her linocuts in the pages of recent months and at the last minute I remembered to add a recent collagraph experiment. This coming academic year I want to reignite my interest in collagraph printmaking by learning new techniques and experimenting with different ways of marking the plate. In this one I printed with PVA and bubble wrap (white spots) and added carborundum to another PVA print (draw circles).

Helen and Jean April 2017

img_6569In April Helen returned the sketchbook with some interesting additions. She’s added some birds to my last page which fit effectively with the glimpses of landscape that can be seen through the gaps in the page.On the next page she made this great face themed collage.

img_6570On the next page there’s a vibrant red and yellow pattern page and a window with window box revealing a bird on the next page. I like the way we’re cutting through pages to reveal further images on other pages. The sketchbook circle craze for stamping is evident in the leaves and flowers in the window box.


The window works equally effectively looking from the other side. I love the next page with the bird transfer and the various fragments of collage and stamping in my favourite colours.




The final double pages continued the printed and stamped approach and one of them (the left hand one) had some folded pieces that opened.






My first additions for April were to work onto the right hand page with some stamping and drawing, trying to pick up on the circles from the page and develop them further.

My next page explored something I’ve been meaning to try out for a while – representing a collection on a page using a frame or box. I used paper for this but I’ve since thought I might try corrugated card to get nearer to the box in a museum case feel that I’s been aiming for.


I used collage materials from old books, magazines, leaflets and magazines as well as some stamping. They’re rather random in choice and I think either having a theme or choosing things that contrast would be better. The facing page has a collage based landscape with some drawing onto it.


My final page was some Gelli plate printing onto the page of a vintage book with the potential for Helen to work onto maybe.





Jean and Carys September

img_5757The sketchbook I had begun came back in September – despite moving house and the start back at school Carys was able to send it to me!

I love the way these small circles are both little abstracts in themselves but also little fragments of the landscape too.

It was quite hard to work out how the green page was made – it looked like it could have been painted or collaged from magazine pages. I’m interested in its aerial view qualities.


I tried to continue it using the blue of the page and some pens, further developing the map and aerial view feel of it. I think its lost something in moving from colour to line and pattern though.

we’re reaching the point in the sketchbook where we can see how many pages are left and how many months there are so we can pace ourselves. Although it would be easy to add pages to this sketchbook.


My own new contribution to this part of the sketchbook went completely off at a tangent using a picture and text from a damaged book I had been given and some stickers from IKEA. Its a bit of a mess and highlights how hard it is to choose and compose with found pictures and text. I often see artists do this and it looks so apt and perfect – this is very hard to achieve!

img_5754This sketchbook has another strand of pages on the other side of the concertina.

These intensively detailed and colourful pages are wonderful. Looking at them again now I’d like to go back to them and use them as a jumping off point.


I used collage and pen to make a response – using my favourite greens.

I also continued with the use of found and vintage paper on the subsequent pages. Some of these pages also have some layers and folds.


And finally I added a small Gelliplate monoprint that I made as part of a series during #Inktober and #PrintOctober – now I’m writing the blog post I realsie that this was supposed to be September!

Amanda and Jean – June 2016

This month things got in the way of our exchange and so I didn’t receive the sketchbook from Amanda. In some ways this was good in that the month was so busy at work that I might have neglected it, had it arrived. By the end of June things had eased up a bit so I decided to make a few June pages and send them to Amanda anyway. The beauty of the sketchbook Amanda made for us is that it’s such an unusual shape that even in its absence the size and shape of the pages can still inspire me! During the month of June I also acquired some new materials – Derwent Inktense pencils. Often a new tool or product can be a source of ideas, just in that one needs to go back to the experimentation phase.

On these pages I’ve used combinations of masking fluid, watercolour and Inktense pencils. I’ve had fun trying out different effects although I still regret not buying the Inktense colour sticks instead of the pencils when I had the chance. Some things these pages illustrate are my increasing use of colour, exploration of the overlap between drawing and painting and inclination to work from imagination. The sketchbook circle experience has been instrumental in supporting me to do this. Before the sketchbook circle I rarely, if ever, worked from anything but observation.

I’ve sent these pages off to Amanda so she can add them in where they will best fit ¬†– our sketchbook is also quite loose leaf in structure so in time we’ll never know that there was a summer time blip!

August 2015 receiving and responding

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In August I received the sketchbook originally started by Mary back again. It was lovely to see that Mary’s daughter, Hannah, born during last year’s sketchbook circle is now joining in with this year’s!

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2015-08-26 14.12.12Mary’s pages were interesting and abstract – and over time, maybe because I worked with Mary last time too, I have become braver at working onto her pages and adding to them.

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I like the way Mary often alters the surface of the page before working on it – painting it often. We seem to have left behind the pink splodges that escapes onto lots of earlier pages!

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2015-08-30 16.04.33This time I made a new page with holes in so different parts of one Mary’s pages were revealed and then I used the circles that I’d cut out on the facing page. I continued that theme of seeing through in different ways bu adding some translucent paper with drawing on it over another of the pages.

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Adding to the last of Mary’s pages I continued her landscape into one I made from a page from a Rupert annual. I’ve recently been given some damaged annuals to use. There are a lot of spoiled pages so I’ve been cutting bits out and then drawing beyond them to extend them. I’ve left the landscape and sea quite empty so maybe Mary will continue to develop this image.

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Just before I sent the sketchbook back I made a more random image using various collage bits and pieces – maps, Rupert figures and drawing. I’m not very satisfied with this but it may be that Mary sees something in it and can rescue it! After I’d sent the sketchbook I continued with the idea of extending the Rupert fragments.

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Contributing to the sketchbook circle experience

Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to curate the materials that would be sent out to sketchbook circle participants in July. This was both interesting and slightly worrying as I had enjoyed received all the different resources and ideas each month. For a while I wondered what I would do and eventually settled on different sorts of papers. I’ve been lucky enough to make contact with Bridget at Avenue Books, a local book seller, who now funnels damaged books and papers my way to use in collage and printmaking.

2015-09-23 14.51.16Since then I’ve been looking around for interesting papers to use all over the place. For the papers in the packs that were sent out I found the music manuscripts and old book pages from Avenue books; the Chinese pages from abandoned text books in the book exchange at work and the insides of envelopes from ongoing recycling since I began to see art teachers using these in last year’s sketchbooks.

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Cutting, sorting and collecting together about 190 bundles took over the front room for an evening and reminded me of the many times, as a primary teacher, that I would spend evenings making resources.

Its quite therapeutic to do this kind of task – the sort of time that allows for thinking and ideas to pop up. I’m hoping to see this paper appearing in sketchbook pages over the next few months!

Sharing the sketchbook circle experience with my colleagues 

Tomorrow we, the academic staff at in the Schol of Education at the University of Northampton, are all sharing a piece of research that we have been working on. I’ve been thinking how to represent my experience of the sketchbook circle so far in such in a way that my colleagues can get a sense of what it is and the impact it has had on my own practice as an artist and my teaching of students in higher education. My guiding vision from the beginning was that the idea that it should involve visual material and circles. 


I’ve planned my sharing around a circle with images from mine and Karen’s sketchbook 2014 on the smaller circles because I don’t have the original sketchbook anymore, and also the first six months of mine and Mary’s sketchbook 2015 as I’ve just posted this one back to her. I have mine and Mary’s sketchbook from 2014 and, in the envelope, mine and Linda’s sketchbook – unopened so far. I might open it tomorrow as part of the sharing. 
I’ve also got various QR codes to take the viewers to the videos of mine and Mary’s and mine and Karen’s sketchbooks from 2014 and this blog. In putting this together I have thought more about the impact of the sketchbook circle. I’ve found that from mine and Karen’s sketchbook I was led into a more abstract approach in my own art. This was something I’d wanted to pursue for a long time but never really managed. The framed art shows three examples: a collage (accepted for the Kettering Open14 and the Leicester Open in 2015 and two collagraph prints that have also been exhibited locally. I found that ideas from mine and Mary’s sketchbook had fed into my work with students as part of Northampton Inspire and as part of my teaching. You can see blog posts about these here:  Northampton Inspire and App flow

I’ve also been trying to devise a single image that represents how the sketchbook circle works. I’ve come up with this as a provisional stop gap for tomorrow.

The red is mine and Mary’s sketchbook with me and then away from me and the blue is mine and Linda’s sketchbook, with me and then away from me. This doesn’t really show how the participants sketchbooks interlock with each other – I’ll have to keep trying to devise something. I knew that Spirograph would come in useful!