Like many I have 'fear of the white page' and getting started in a sketchbook can be a challenge. Taking ownership of your sketchbook - making it yours before you even start drawing in it, and having a series of drawing exercises to work through, all help us switch off the demons in our head that tell us we can't or shouldn't draw.

A drawing can be any marks that you make on paper. It doesn't have to be a finished piece, worthy of a frame. A sketchbook is for drawing and working out what works and what doesn't. It is a safe space where you can make mistakes. We are all at different stages of our creative journey - we all have different technical and aesthetic sensibilities. 

It took a long time for me to accept my own style. We often look at others drawings and wish we could draw like them. But what about drawing like ourselves? What if we accept where we are at and just show up at the page with a curious spirit and see what happens?

Many sign up for my courses because they like the naive way I draw and the confident sense of line and colour.  Somehow though, once here they get a head full of 'should' and 'cant's'. Perhaps just for today we could take off the mantle of comparison - and stay open to play and possibility.

There is lots of content in this first week. If you have done a course with me before it will be a revisit to familiar territory and guide you through getting started in your sketchbook and also get you started drawing - and breaking through creative block.

If this is your first course with me - work through at your own pace. Try to get your sketchbook prepared and some of the drawing exercises done - you can always move on to the day-by-day challenges next week. There are 4 weeks of videos and tasks but you can spread them out and do them as and when you can. You can access these pages for 8 weeks from the start date. 

I want my sketchbooks to be full off ideas and colour, line, shape and pattern. I want to use them as spaces to collect ideas and drawings. Along the way, the research and experimentation starts to create its own story - I begin to find my own flow. Exciting juxtapositions of line and colour begin to happen - in ways that I could never have planned.

One of the main ways that I allow for the magic to happen is to tackle my fear of the blank page head on and paint it away! I always prepare my sketchbooks in this way - it not only gets rid of those flat, white stark pages, it also brings texture to the paper and colour. As soon as the pencil hits one of these backgrounds - there is so much more potential for something exciting to happen. 

If you haven't drawn for a while you're probably feeling apprehensive. Drawing is like walking - or it can be! You can choose to put one foot in front of the other, go through a series of steps. But most of us walk without thinking and draw whilst overthinking! We are full of 'should' and ideas of what a drawing 'should be'. 

For me a drawing is part of my research process. In my sketchbook it isn't a finished piece in its own right, it's an exploration. Drawing is about learning to co-ordinate your hand and your eye. Some where along the way hopefully some magic happens.

What we are not going to do today is freak out and give ourselves a negative commentary. We are going to draw - in multiple ways - multiple times and see where that gets us. Hopefully a couple of things will work for us that we can practice and build upon. Each of us is at a different stage on our creative journey - give yourself permission to begin again. And also permission to not be perfect. I often ask people why they come on my courses and they tell me they like the simple way I draw. But then when given permission to simplify they feel that their drawing isn't enough. You are enough!

I have devised a series of drawing exercises (Fearless Drawing 2-5) to get you started - try these on any paper (not your painted sketchbook just yet). These are just ways of getting you started.


Set up a bunch of flowers, from your garden, in a jug or vase. Work quickly and move on to the next challenge before the negative voices start up!

When you have done these drawing challenges, you can chuck them in the bin if you want to - or you might actually like one or two of them! Tell us what happened in the forum - and show us your favourite if you are feeling brave. Remember this is a starting point for drawing and these are not finished pieces. They are there to liberate you and start to get your hand-eye coordination working.

The garden has been a constant source of inspiration to artists throughout history. It offer an endless array of textures and colours, shapes and pattern and changes with each day and each season. You don't have to go far to see a painting of cut garden flowers, or a vegetable plot or country garden. Have a look on Pinterest if you'd like to explore more. 

Artists who have inspired my journey with representing my garden are:

Sara Midda - check out her book 'In and out of the garden'

Elaine Pamphilon - I love her naive still life paintings and her garden paintings.

Elizabeth Blackadder - her flower drawings are exquisite and there is something in the way that she composes a picture that stops it feeling stuffy or traditional.


Mary Fedden - uses colour wonderfully and isn't afraid of bold shapes.  

cover image fb Up the garden path.jpg

'Up the Garden Path' inspired by my garden.

Please check in at the forum and let us know a bit about your garden and how it inspires you. Show us your painted book and some of your fearless drawings. Also - if you have any favourite garden artists - share a link to their work.


When you have watched the videos and gathered your art supplies, click below to move on to the tasks for week 1.

Helen Hallows


Nurturing Creativity since....

© 2009-2020 Helen Hallows

Copyright of all art works remains with the artist Helen Hallows 

Online course content, blog posts and all design and written content remains the intellectual property of Helen Hallows. Please do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved.


Nottingham, UK

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