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How I use my sketchbook

Louisa Saffioti

Posted on Fri 03 May 2019

I used to carry a sketchbook around with me almost everywhere, along with a small watercolour box and paints. However, now, as I have less time for painting I only take it on designated sketching or painting days. I have always been an outdoor artist. In years gone by I have spent hours sitting, creating small one session only watercolour paintings. I have always gone out to paint in all seasons and some of my most memorable sketching and painting events have been during the autumn and winter months. I have many memories of painting outside in the snow. Sometimes it has been so cold that the paint has frozen on the metal palette. My snow scenes sell very quickly.

What do I like to sketch and what do I prefer to paint when outside? I very rarely sketch landscapes outside. I usually only see them as finished paintings. So if I spotted an attractive view I would spend up to a couple of hours creating a small watercolour painting of the view. Nowadays, as I have a young daughter with me most of the time I usually do not have the luxury of having whole days or afternoons to paint outside so I have to use a couple of hours here and there when I can. Therefore I work quite small so the painting doesn't take too long to complete.

Subjects that I do sketch are birds, buildings, street scenes, people and other animals. These are subjects that would be tricky for me to create a finished painting of outside for various reasons, either they don't stay still enough to paint a finished picture or they are too detailed for me to do a painting of in two hours. I use these subjects in paintings. I do not do a painting outside over more than one session because I find that the motivation/feeling that I had during the first painting session has often changed by the second session. This may be due to the weather or just because time has elapsed and I have lost the original motivation for the painting.

I don't mind painting around people, although I tend to choose painting spots that are a bit away from the crowds. If sketching I don't mind sitting among lots of people but when doing a finished painting I like a quieter spot because for me painting outside takes more concentration than sketching. As I work small I don't need lots of equipment and I prefer to be quite inconspicuous when painting. For on the spot finished paintings I only select landscapes or seascapes. I don't like painting close-up buildings or street scenes because often they require a lot more detail than I have time to do in a painting.

I have kept a sketchbook since I started painting at eighteen years old and I have almost all of my old sketchbooks on my bookshelf. Only a very small percentage of my sketches get used in a final painting and I never use a sketch straight away. Often it is months, sometimes years before a sketch will be used in a painting.

The watercolour snow scene shown here was painted outside and sold on its first showing at a local art exhibition.

How I use my sketchbook


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