From the Archives: A big change in my Sketchbook No. 15 - 2009

January 24, 2020 | 7 Comments

I’m working my way slowly through all my old blogposts – updating posts, re-uploading images (and often re-scanning the originals), changing titles and adding tags etc. It’s a massive task but I just love doing it – it’s the blogging equivalent of putting a photo album together (do you remember what that is?)

Anyway, as I’m working through 2009 I noticed something rather dramatic happening to my sketching when I started my 15th sketchbook. Although I was aware of it at the time, it’s even more noticeable to me now. I switched from using the A5-ish size Moleskine landscape to an A5 portrait format Ebony book by Daler and Rowney (150gsm cartridge) and suddenly my sketching improved significantly.

Now this doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense as one would think that moving away from watercolour paper to cartridge paper would hinder my sketching, but the reverse happened. The smooth cartridge was much better for my linework and was able to take watercolour well enough. The change in format was another factor, enabling me to work larger and to play with the composition of my pages. In fact the sudden improvement in the composition of my pages is a big part of why Sketchbook No. 15 is so special

Note: The quality of the Ebony books went downhill a few years later and I then switched to Stillman and Birn Alpha (which is still my favourite everyday book).

Here are a few pages from this book. (I was using a lot of Inktense at the time)


And click here to see all the articles from Sketchbook No.15.

I was chatting to a local sketcher in December about whether she would ever get her work to a point where she was happy. I asked her how many sketchbooks she had filled – I think it was about 8-10. As I had just started updating my 2009 blogposts at the time, I replied “Well, I saw a massive improvement in Sketchbook No. 15 so maybe it’s around the corner for you?!!”  This is a lot more encouraging than saying it took me 250 sketchbooks to get where I am now, which is something I often say to people. 🙂

Just for the record, my statements are a little tongue in cheek (the tone of my voice doesn’t come through in typed format!)

However, the big takeaway from rediscovering Sketchbook 15, is that its not enough just to keep sketching. The breakthroughs often come when you make some kind of change. If you feel as if you are stuck in a rut, then switch your tools or your paper and try something different. And don’t forget to study and research as well – from books, videos, workshops and online courses. It’s really easy to cement bad habits if all you do repeatedly sketch the same way without some form of education. But that’s a topic for another article!

I hope you enjoy seeing some of my old sketches!



  • annie says:

    Love this post, Liz. I also love the Alpha. Thanks.

  • Phoebe Wilson says:

    Yes to deliberate practice! Contrary to the saying, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it does make permanent. Thanks for the reminder, Liz!

  • Marta Kemecsey says:

    This is so helpful, Liz! I’m a 46 year old novice sketcher and I often get discouraged and wonder whether I will ever be happy with what I draw/paint. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the process which is the most important thing but I’m rarely satisfied with the outcome. This post made me feel positive again that yes, one day, I too will produce sketchbooks I will be happy to look back on. Thank you for all you share with us. It means so much!

  • It really is interesting! I wonder if besides the change of size the switch to a “cheaper” sketchbook had a little bit to do with you drastically improving your sketching. I don´t know if the Ebony really was cheaper but for once I love HOT paper because of the smooth surface, that´s obviously very important in your work too , but also that we tend to be more playful and open for change when it´s not that expensive watercolor sketchbook. It´s about being less precious about our materials. I often notice in workshops that while high grade artist supplies give a better chance to pleasing results, many participants are kind of inhibited by what they paid for them or not wanting to ruin the paper. Do you think that relates to your experience in any way?

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