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Getting in the Groove: daily sketching and writing

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (which I’m slowly comprehending) and Twitter, you might have seen some of the (mostly) daily drawings I’ve been posting recently. I’ve avoided multi-posting to the blog or on Facebook on a daily basis, I think the continuous nature of Twitter and Instagram is better suited to daily sketch exercises, but in case you missed them, here’s a catch-up of a few recent scribblings.

Sketchbooks are an intrinsic part of my work, both for practical ideas for commissioned projects and for time-off drawing, but, unusually for me, the first part of this year I actually found it very hard to think about sketching. I was at a low ebb after the death of my father last year (he was almost the last of his generation in my family), so I wasn’t feeling particularly whimsical. Most of my creative energy was focused on commissioned briefs, and when I could devote spare time to creativity it was spent more on reviving my long-dormant picture book stories than sketching. Of course, for picture books I need to do both – writing and sketching, together! Admittedly I wasn’t travelling much either, and it’s often on trains that I tend to get into the groove of doodling, so, commissioned work aside, sketching was sluggish. 

I needed a break, thankfully the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat earlier this summer played an enormous part in helping me re-charge my batteries. I had a couple of very heartening meetings with presenters, and the workshop activities were a delight.

Since then I’ve been working on ideas and filling the pages of my sketchbooks, just getting back into the rhythm. Eventually I’ll write picture book stories based on or developed from my own free doodly sketches, so they’re not separate things, but united themes, expressed in words and pictures, visuals and story together…. but I’m not quite there … yet. My sketchbooks tend to be about drawings only, I don’t find it easy to pull out and develop stories from my sketches, the drawings say it all! Likewise when I think of story ideas I tend to focus on the words and the narrative, rather than illustrations. It’s a curious separation in my mind, which I’m trying to bridge. There are stories in the sketches though, can you see them?


Some of these were drawn on train journeys, as I’ve been out and about a little more lately, but also sometimes late at night sketches before bed, or doodles while watching TV (like this friendly monster)….. just getting back into the habit of daily drawing. I’m not laying any rules on my doodles, I draw when I can, mostly daily, and post the ones I like, but this isn’t a race or an exercise, it’s all at my pace, for my benefit and enjoyment. It’s for this reason I don’t tend to go for some of the more structured art challenges on social media. 

Any kind of creative activity takes you on a journey, sometimes though when you pause for a breather you might dally too long and forget the way. But the path carries on, and if you walk it, it gets clearer, you’ll find it takes you to all kinds of places.


You can find me on both Instagram and Twitter @StudioNIB

#sketches #sketching #sketchbook #grief #pilotHITECC #doodle

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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com