Sketchbook Envy?

by Mindy on October 29, 2012

in Drawing Tips, Field Sketching, How-To, Sketchbooks, Uncategorized, Workshops

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?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Harper October 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

I love this blog! Thanks so much Mindy!

Mindy October 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

Hi Harper! So glad that you are enjoying my blog. How are your studies coming along at NYBG. Have you finished the certificate yet???? Hope you are busy, healthy and happy.


Candy October 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

What a great way to think of sketching – an act of falling in love with you subject.
Thanks so much for passing on that gem of wisdom.

Mindy October 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Hi Candy- So glad that you feel the way I do about it! I wish I could say that I came up with the statement. It was made by a student and I told her I would remember it and use it in my teaching.

Anita October 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm

That quote is so true. The more you study your subject, you begin to feel it, time stands still, —–as she said, like falling in love.:-)

Jacqui Pemberton November 2, 2012 at 10:26 am

Mindy, thank you so much for sharing this lovely interpretation of nature sketching. Indeed it is a totally engrossing experience, falling in love with the subject whilst exploring it like a minuscule detective, investigating its every detail with pencil, pen or whatever… My field sketches are not even half way close to the quality of Patricia, but each page holds a mountain of not just information but memories of moments captured. Sure , we all love the comfort of our little neat studios, but to anyone who has not sat on the ground on a bed of undergrowth with their subject in situ, to work with it from life, I would say try it at least once and you will be hooked!

Sam Scālz Garcia November 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

This is a wonderful subject to teach in my art course! I have always known that wildlife artists in particular produce much more believable images when they have first-hand contact with their subject matter! I paint the fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects and birds that I am able to observe at the aquariums and zoological institutions that I am lucky to be involved with! When I am painting a mammal, I consult with my friends at the San Diego Zoo and sometimes I am able to get a closer look at specimens! Thank you for writing this article as it helps me to have content for my class!

Great work by the way!
Sam Scālz Garcia

Mindy November 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Hi Sam,
So glad that this post will help you with your students. They always seem to “grumble” when it comes to drawing from life. I am always trying new ways to get them to appreciate and work directly from life rather than just working from photos. Let me know how your class does. BTW… I am coming to San Diego for Thanksgiving… can you recommend any places to go to see nature, art, etc….. ?



Mindy November 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I know what you mean Jacqui… I can’t wait to get back into the field and do some sketching!!! Enjoy! Mindy

Mindy November 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm

So great to fall in love….. over and over again and not hurt anybody’s feelings!

Lynda November 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Love your art and blog! Thanks for the encouragement!

Mindy November 9, 2012 at 9:23 am

Dear Lynda,
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you are enjoying my work and my blog. If you have any questions or need advice help on a specific topic, please drop me a note. I like it when readers as questions. It helps me learn too, while sharing with others. I usually do a blog post featuring the question along with the answer. Happy Painting!


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