Sketchbooks are wonderful. Fact.

When artists leave their sketchbooks open at an exhibition and invite you to dip inside their minds it is irresistible. You have to take a sneaky little look inside. Even though the book has been put there purposefully for you to look at – it still feels voyeuristic, as though you are reading someone’s private diary.

Jo Blaker sketchbook cover - granddad- from Access Art website
Jo Blaker sketchbook - from Access Art website

ABOVE:  An intriguing cover of a Jo Blaker sketchbook.

Some sketchbooks look flat and nondescript on the outside. But when you open them – Wow! Others are big fat books, bulging open, stuffed with texture and experiments, objects gathered and squashed on to pages, almost akin to what you would store in a memory box and not a book.

Jo Blaker illustration -from Access Art website

ABOVE: A page inside a Jo Blaker sketchbook.

(These images of Jo’s work can be found on the AccessArt website)

Sketchbooks transport you to detailed places where ideas hide away –  with biro scribbles, funny doodles and poignant words randomly placed amidst scraps of magazines, fabric cuttings, paint splodges and pencil marks – or are they? Some sketchbooks look like carefully orchestrated masterpieces in their own right. A lot of work lies inside a good sketchbook.


Developing Your Sketchbook is a great page on the AccessArt website. It is the result of  a project in schools called Sketchbooks in Schools, funded by Esmee-Fairbairne,. from the project AccessArt have then developed a series of useful tools around sketchbooking. It is a fab resource for artists and makers. It is primarily set out for teachers and those involved in education, but it is interesting for makers and artist to revisit how they use their own sketchbooks.

I particularly love the Artists Sketchbook by Jo Blaker. This also provides a link to Jo’s blog with gorgeous drawings and her website with more sketchbook loveliness and videos.

To gain access to some of the resources on the Access art website you must become a “Full  Access Art Member”  – you gain access to an evolving collection of teaching and learning resources. Membership is free for the first 30 days, then £3.50 per month afterwards. You may cancel at any time – there is no minimum membership. Access Art, based in Cambridge UK, have a Facebook page and they also organised a Sketchbook Conference in 2011. Visit their website and Facebook for any future conference plans.

 The Sketchbook ProjectIf you love sketchbooks you might also like to link with The Sketchbook Project Based in Brooklyn,USA. They tour sketchbook exhibitions, with artistic contributors from around the world. They are also on facebook 

If you need to buy a lovely sketchbook try Paperchase or The Paperie for books with gorgeous coves- two favourite places I like to shop, plus college and University art shops.

I used to love the big heavy grey sketchbooks from Webberleys bookshop, made from the off cuts in the printing department – not sure if they still make them.

You can find some great books with lovely unusual papers made from fibres, bamboo, banana, leaves, hemp and all sorts, try looking in in eco-friendly and fair-trade stores. You can even try making your own sketchbook from recycled paper – leftovers from previous sketchbooks, wallpaper, gift paper … and even go a step further and make your own paper!

Two lovely books from The Paperie.

Rob Ryan sketchbook  Think Green sketchbook, plain and squared paper


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