New Ideas for Sketchbooks at West Dean College

Wow, I have just finished a full week of fabulous food, wonderful surroundings and excellent teaching at West Dean College.  The super talented Maxine Relton had the task of taking seven students on a voyage of sketchbook discovery through a mix of theory and themed exercises.  I have got to admit that I was a little daunted on arrival as Maxine had generously set out about ten of her own beautiful sketchbooks for us to peruse at our leisure.  Each one was worthy of sale, featuring brightly coloured watercolours depicting her foreign travels (mostly India), along with thought provoking text.  However, once we got started, there was so much to inspire and explore that I soon forgot my apprehension, and spent an amazing week with some great people, and have brought back the beginnings of several bodies of work.  If only there were more hours in the day………

One of my favourite exercises of the week was taking two contrasting words, in my case geometric and organic, and creating three separate sketches from our immediate surroundings, onto acetate.  These were overlaid to create a new abstract design which was then used to experiment first with tone, and then a colour scheme.

"abstract line drawing"

pen on paper


"tonal abstract picture in black, mid grey and white"

pen and ink on paper


"abstract in an analogous colour scheme"

gouache on paper

This proved to be a great way of creating an abstract design for me, and I am looking forward to experimenting further…..









2 thoughts on “New Ideas for Sketchbooks at West Dean College

  1. I’m glad you had a good week Nicky. I’m intrigued by the journey into abstraction, what a clever idea and the results are really interesting and very effective. I’ve got some acetate sheets left over from when I was teaching so I might have a try at this idea. (…justification for never throwing anything away…!). The tutors at West Dean are really quite spectacular aren’t they? I’m still buzzing with ideas from my weekend with Rachel Sim. As you say, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

  2. I really recommend you give the acetates a go Viv, but be warned, it’s addictive! I’ve always struggled to come up with abstract designs in the past so this was a bit of a revelation for me. Maxine is doing a colour course in September which sounds really useful (she is so knowledgeable) which I have my eye on. Loved your prints btw 🙂

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