It’s time to take a photo of all my completed books for the last 12 months and do a little review of my sketching.
This year I filled 13 sketchbooks:
- 8 x A4 Hardcover Alpha (by Stillman and Birn)
- 2 x 8″x10″ Softcover Alpha
- 3 x Square Softcover Alpha
Note: I have also filled a few additional teaching sketchbooks which contain all the demos I’ve done as part of the Live Versions for my SketchingNow courses.
This number of sketchbooks is less than in previous years because:
1. The A4 sketchbooks are significantly bigger and with more pages than the softcover Alphas
2. I only went away for 6 days this year. When I travel I do a lot of sketching (filling a sketchbook a week) and so the fact that I didn’t do any big trips has meant fewer sketchbooks.
It’s always interesting to compare quantity from year to year and it’s interesting to note that my comments above are practically the same as last year. And if you want to see a year where I did a lot of travel check out my massive 2019 collection!
The number of sketchbooks represents how consistently I sketched and when it comes to everyday sketching the fact that I put pen or brush to paper is often an achievement in itself. But the more important thing to consider is whether I enjoyed my sketching and/or feel satisfied with my results.
Overall I’m very happy with my sketching this year. I’ve managed to keep up with my everyday sketching, filling at least one double-page spread each Monday-Saturday (I don’t sketch on Sunday – the Lord’s Day – as it’s my day of rest and worship). A big part of the reason for this success (my goal is to use my sketchbook to document my life so I want to sketch daily) is my morning walk-coffee-sketch morning routine.
Another big feature of the year has been my ongoing experimentation. Constantly trying new things, allowing myself to take risks and potentially produce ugly work as a result has helped me stay inspired to sketch the same subjects over and over.
This year I used:
- Watercolour (of course – my main media!) – details of the palette is here.
- Ink – I’ve almost exclusively drawn with my 55-degree Sailor Fude de Mannen pen this year and it’s all black De Atramentis Document ink at the moment.
- Brushes – my go-to brush is the Series 772 Dagger by Rosemary Brushes (sizes 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch) and some water brush used recently.
- Coloured pencils – I use a combination of different brands – Faber Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Derwent Coloursoft and Bruynzeel Design.
- Watercolour pencils – all Faber Castell Albrecht Durer.
- Markers – mostly Faber Castell GoldFaber Aqua but also some Tombows and other cheap brands.
- Graphite – Faber Castell 9000 is my favourite pencil!
- Crayon – Caran d’Ache Neocolor I and II (mostly II- the water-soluble version).
- A little testing of Pastel pencils (by Faber Castell)
I’m also thinking about some sketching goals for 2024 but I’ll share those in a separate article.
Today I just want to do a brief recap of the main themes of my 2023 sketching…
As mentioned above I go out sketching most workdays and so my sketchbooks are filled with sketches of the Lindfield shopping area and in particular the Village Green (as it’s the most comfortable place to sit, sip my coffee and sketch).
This year my afternoon visits to Lane Cove have almost totally stopped. I can’t imagine how I managed to make time to visit it almost daily in 2021 and 2022.
On rainy days I often visit a cafe but I still prefer to sit outside so sometimes I shelter in a bus stop/ taxi stand and hope that the wind doesn’t drive the rain onto my page.
In the place of my Lane Cove National Park visits I have been going for later afternoon walks locally and when I do that I often pause for a few minutes to do some really quick sketches with ink (fude pen) and coloured pencils (I have a small selection of 12 colours). I really enjoyed doing these rapid sketches.
City Sketching Outings
The biggest change to my sketching this year has been my weekly sketching outings to Sydney City. Combining a little sketching before attending the mid-week services at my church has meant that I’ve done a lot more sketching of complex scenes.
I spent a few months sketching a LOT of teacups in preparation for my Teacups course which we went through for the first time in June 2023.
Rather than just doing my usual direct watercolour sketches of highly decorated teacups, I had a lot of fun creating no-pressure risk-taking teacup combo pages – sketching every cup of tea I drank each day and constantly changing the cups that I drank from.
Smaller book and dry media
My sister and family from Scotland visited in July and I spent a lot of time with them. Trying to sketch while hanging out with them was challenging so I moved to a smaller lightweight book (Alpha Square softcover) and put my watercolour away.
As much as I love the large A4 book, using a smaller and lighter book was liberating! I spent over 2 months without watercolour – using a combination of watercolour pencils and markers. I also started sketching standing up (I should do more of this!)
Faber Castell sent me a box of materials to use for their annual #colour4life event and I had a lot of fun using colours that I wouldn’t normally use.
The collection of Albrecht Durers that they sent me didn’t have any browns, greys or subtle blues so I had to use oranges and purples instead. This was a particularly good challenge as it made me realise how dependent I am on my types of colours!
I also started sketching in graphite and fell in love with a humble pencil. This was a real surprise to me!
In the middle of my dry media period I had a wonderful 6-day road trip to historic towns around Bathurst. I had a lot of fun drawing these tricky street scenes with watercolour pencil and marker. I also found myself doing some simple line drawings with graphite as well.
During the last few months I’ve been focusing on sketching architecture (as part of the Live Version of my Buildings course) and it felt great to be tackling some complicated buildings once again.
Despite all the fun mixed media work I’ve done in my own sketching this year, my love for watercolour continues to grow.
And so I’m finishing 2023 with a focus on creating more watercolour magic on my sketchbook pages and gearing up for the Live Version of my Watercolour course starting on 10 January 2024.
So to recap…
It’s been a good year of everyday sketching and it’s been a year of experiments!
The constant exploration of different materials and different colour combinations has been the way that I have maintained my motivation throughout the year as I mainly sketch the same scenes over and over.
What about your 2023 sketching?
Have you taken some time and looked through your work for 2023? Was it a good year? What did you learn? Did you see some development in your work? Did you sketch as regularly as you wanted to?
I would love to hear about your 2023 sketching so please let me know in the comment section below.
(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)
Thanks for sharing this review of my sketching in the past 12 months and for being part of the whole 2023 journey through all my regular blog articles. And a special thank you to all of you who have taken the time to leave a comment during the year. It means so much to me!
Stay tuned for my 2024 sketching goals in the next article!