Do you hate your sketchbook?

I just spent the last 5 days teaching a workshop with my good friend and “Sketckbook Queen”, Patricia Wynne. There were 11 of us that traveled to locations in my hometown of Gainesville, Florida to draw and sketch. We went to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, The Lubee Bat Conservancy, Carson Springs Wildlife Foundation, Payne’s Prairie, and The Butterfly Rainforest at the University of Florida’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera.

Most of the students, including myself, are used to having a plant or specimen in our hot little hands, inside our studios, in a nice comfy chair, with no pesky mosquitos buzzing around. It is totally different out in the field and most botanical and natural science artists are not accustomed to drawing in these conditions…… except of course Patricia Wynne.

A Sample Page of Patricia Wynne’s Sketchbook, P.Wynne ©2012

Patricia has been drawing in and outdoors for her entire career. She has the most beautiful sketchbook I have ever seen. It is a labor of love and a fantastic reference tool. Looking at her sketchbook can be overwhelming but I found it inspirational. As many of us struggled to get something down on paper, Patricia continued to encourage us to draw no matter what the scribble looked like.

Then a brilliant moment occurred by one of the workshop participants, Susan Abernathy. I love it when my students teach me! She said,

“Sketching is the time when you fall in love with your subject.”

Holy cow! She hit a home run!!!!! What a wonderful and insightful statement. This is something I will use in my teaching as I have seen so many people struggle with drawing. Drawing is all about seeing and capturing what you are seeing on paper. In my artists’ statement I have said, “The more I look, the more I see and the more I can convey in my paintings.” I have used preliminary drawings to figure out composition, understanding form, surface contour etc….. but what I really am doing is falling in love. I like this so much better than fussing and grumbling over a sketch that isn’t “perfect”. There is plenty of time afterwards to refine, research and correct the drawings afterwards.

So……. my advice to you is to………..


You will be a better artist for it. Photography can supplement your work, but don’t rely on it solely to be your eyes. Even if your drawings don’t come out the way you wanted them to, don’t give up. By intensely observing your subject you will learn so much more about it than just snapping a photo. Look at the task of drawing as falling in love, learning about your subject, visiting an old friend and learning something new.

What is your sketchbook experience like?