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Sketchbook Tour: How I Filled my Teeny Tiny Hahnemühle Sketchbook

Updated: May 9

How I filled my pocket landscape sketchbook

A pencil drawing with watercolour of Burbage Brook in a sketchbook. There is a watercolour palette about it and a water brush pen next to it. Nicola Ellen Illustration

Hello and welcome back to my blog. This week I am going to show you inside my tiny Hahnemühle sketchbook. It's a pocket sketchbook that I picked up in Fred Aldous in Sheffield because it's super small, fits in my pocket nicely and was reasonably priced. The pages are good quality and despite the book getting wet in some big downpours of rain, it's holding together just fine!

While out and about, I just sketched with a 2B pencil and that gripped to the page really nicely without smudging. I could make my marks efficiently and carry on with my walk. Some of the sketches didn't always make a lot of sense when I looked back at them so I added some watercolours to make them a little easier for me to read. I will use some of these sketches and turn them into canvas paintings. I found that the pages held the watercolours really well considering this is not watercolour paper!

So, lets get into it!

How I draw while I'm out and about

Carry something small and it's easier to hold while you make quick marks. It's easier to fill the page quickly with meaningful marks too.

I started this sketchbook in February 2024 and finished in April - this just goes to show how great this book is because I rarely finish a sketchbook in one go, this quick! All the sketches were drawn really quickly, often due to the weather being really cold or because I drew them while we were walking/ having lunch and didn't have long to draw before we started moving again.

How I Filled my Teeny Tiny Hahnemühle Sketchbook

This covers two lots of school holidays and we did a lot of exploring in the countryside and also had a trip to the coast for a few days. So there are a lot of woodland trees and muddy streams in this sketchbook, with some coastal views in the middle too. Both woodland and sea views are my favourite to draw and as they don't keep still obviously, they are really hard to draw! But fun nonetheless!

Two sketchbook drawings above each other. The top drawing is of  a muddy stream, painted brown in water colour. The bottom sketch is on the sea and beach with a watercolour palette sat above the sketchbook and water brush pen next to it. Nicola Ellen Illustration

Being efficient with your time and pencil!

If you don't have a sketchbook easy to get hold of when you want to draw, you won't draw it. You're likely to take a photo and say you'll draw it when you're back at home. But you'll forget and move on with other things - believe me, I've done it many times before! That's why I make it really easy to draw.

This sketchbook was perfect because it fit in my coat pocket, alongside my small pencil. I carry a lot of things in my pockets, so that they didn't take up a lot of room really helped! It meant that when I thought 'ooo I'd love to draw this view' I could just whip out my sketchbook and pencil and crack on, rather than having to dig around in my bag for a pencil and sketchbook. I don't thin I would have filled this book anywhere near as quick if I didn't make it easy for myself. Too many times, I've said, I'll draw it when it when I get home and I just take a picture. I never do, I just move on to my next project.

A small black landscape sketchbook with white text saying 'How I approach sketching and why I love to do it'. Above the sketchbook is a palette of watercolour paints. Nicola Ellen Illustration.

Drawing a view in that moment makes you remember exactly what it was like on the day, the weather, surroundings, how muddy your boots were. I can read this sketchbook like a book, filled with lots of memories. The time my daughter and I walked through a field that had just been ploughed in the rain and our boots were covered in thick mud, the time we walked along the beach and spotted thirty Oystercatchers picking up food on the coastline and how it was the first time my daughter had seen these birds so close, the time a cat was stalking around a pond at Heeley City Farm to catch a duck but then got stuck because it was penned in. It etches the day into my mind and I can remember things like this when I look back at sketchbooks from years ago. Time stamp your sketches and you can remind yourself when that annual pass from a particular attraction runs out, because you drew from there on your first visit. I get so much from sketching that I might not if I just take a photo.

Two sketchbook drawings above each other. The top drawing is of a river bank with tree trunks and bushes. The bottom sketch is of Shepherd Wheel in Sheffield. Nicola Ellen Illustration.

Visit places that you love

Visit the places that you love and it will be easy to draw while you're out. You savour the time there and it's fun to draw your favourite views. Sure I can draw buildings and people in the middle of town, but rivers, muddy streams, powerful waves and rainy piers, are the things I love to visit and draw the most!

If you'd like to see more of my sketchbook, I filmed a quick look through video this week that is now on my YouTube channel and a more in depth talk through of my sketchbook too.

That's all for this week. In the meantime you can join my newsletter for studio notes. As well as my YouTube channel , you can also find me over on Facebook, so head over to either of those to see what I’m up to between blog posts and newsletters! It’ll be good to see you there :)


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