Turning the Pages: A Look at the Sketchbooks of Artists

St. John's Square West in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. By Ronnie Cruwys.

Spend some time in your Reader poring over tags such as illustrated journaling, sketching, and Moleskine . . . if you dare. You risk surfacing hours later, awed by contour, renewed by hues, and sated by art.

Here’s just a small sample of artists we love who share their work on WordPress. Lose yourself in their blogs. The visuals — and the stories behind them — are well worth the risk.


Drawn In

Jean’s kept a journal since 1988 and teaches workshops on illustrated journaling and drawing the elements of nature. Indulge in some of her favorite journal pages.

A self-taught watercolorist, Jean Mackay immortalizes the ephemera of everyday life at Drawn In, where she shares pages from her illustrated journals. “I always aim to make my journal pages reflect something meaningful or interesting from my experiences,” she says. “As you can see from my sketches and paintings, most of my work is about nature, and I’ve long used art as a way to take a closer look at what’s around me. In recent years, I’ve also been drawn in by the way art can capture small moments of everyday life.”

A workshop demonstration page in one of Jean Mackay's beautifully illustrated journals.
A workshop demonstration page in one of Jean Mackay’s beautifully illustrated journals.

The Great Affair

Candace Rose Rardon is a writer, sketch artist, and illustrator with a passion for telling stories about the world. Check out her full portfolio.

Sketching is a great way to document your life and at The Great Affair, Candace Rose Rardon combines wanderlust and watercolor to immortalize her memories. On her blog, Candace recounts the history of her destinations and the revelations they offer: “It had been a process, a slow journey of discovery, but even as I sat there on the edge of the Mediterranean, I knew my understanding of this region had finally moved beyond the shallows. Anna was right: ‘The deeper you go, the more you find.’”

From Candace Rose Rardon's Illustrated History of Girona.
From Candace Rose Rardon’s Illustrated History of Girona.

Seeing.Thinking.Drawing

A member of Urban Sketchers Seattle, you can meet Francis in person at his upcoming drawing workshop in Seattle, Washington.

Francis D.K. Ching is a retired teacher and prolific artist. Not only does he document the world around him in evocative line drawings at Seeing.Thinking.Drawing, he reflects on how what he sees and hears informs his work. “In a recent issue of The New Yorker, John McPhee wrote an article entitled Omission: Choosing what to leave out.

In the essay McPhee references Ernest Hemingway’s Theory of Omission, which encourages writers to let the reader do the creating by leaving white spaces between chapters or segments of chapters, the unwritten thoughts to be articulated by the reader. McPhee advocates letting the reader have the experience and leaving judgment in the eye of the beholder. This idea of omission can also be applied to drawing as well.

Just as writing is a matter of selecting and stringing words together to create a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter, sketching is a matter of drawing a line, then another, and another, until one creates shapes and compositions that recall to the seeing eye the scene set before us. And what we omit from a drawing is just as important as what we include.”

Despite being retired, Francis gives drawing workshops around the world and luckily for us, he documents those travels with pen and ink.

McMenamin’s–Anderson School by Francis D. K. Ching
The interior of McMenamin’s bar at Anderson School by Francis D. K. Ching.

Drawing the Street

Check out Ronnie’s pencil sketch of the Arnold Machin — the drawing that started it all — and learn about her artistic journey.

Ronnie Cruwys is a conservation architect-in-training based in Staffordshire, England. She captures the streets around her at Drawing the Street and examines the components of each beautiful watercolor composition at Drawing the Detail.

Ronnie’s foray into art began in 2012 with an assignment to sketch a building on a postcard and, in her own words, “Little did I know then where this was going to lead. When buildings are simplified as a drawing, their proportions, shape, and character are more visible. By seeing the street as a whole, it encourages us to look up, take stock of what we still have and perhaps cherish our buildings a little more.”

High Street, Eccleshall by Ronnie Cruwys.
High Street, Eccleshall, Staffordshire, England. By Ronnie Cruwys.


Can’t get enough art? Follow the artists featured here today on a handy Reader list. Read recent features on Fennabee, Mark Armstrong, Rob Turpin, and Danny Gregory, and peruse the Art and Architecture and Illustration categories here on Discover.

March 28, 2016Art, Illustration, , , , ,