I'm not really interested in drawing people....but you might be! They don't appear in my landscapes either. I am interested in the stories of a place and capturing what's there with patterns and shape and colour.

Once you've worked out what switches you on about a place you can focus on that. Doors and windows always feature strongly in my sketchbooks, so you could fill a page with a collection of doors, or windows...or cats, washing lines, fruit trees...what ever floats your boat...boats! Fill a page with them! :)

When you are sketching in the urban environment, you can't go long before you come across nature and have to work out how to draw her. These topiary trees in a square in Gozo really appealed to my sense of shape. I created stylised versions of them and filled them with leaf shapes.

In the image below, I used repeated shapes for the bushes and trees and a series of dashes and gestural marks to represent them.

There's more in session 6 about drawing nature.

Breaking patterns down into their constituent parts will help you draw them. Think of them in the same way as with capturing trees and bushes. Look and see where the main lines are, where the repeated shapes are. Again I use a simple repertoire of marks and build up the drawing with outlines.

The world is full of details. In my local town, when I look up there are all sorts of window shapes, tiles above doors, when I look down there are Victorian drain covers. There is detail in the text of shop signs, on signposts. These details describe the place and add context in your sketchbook. In Session 8 we will be using the patterns we have collected to add pattern and colour to our books.

Treat your sketchbook as a place to collect. Take the time to look at the details of where you are. Look at the shapes of windows and doors. Draw the door handles and door furniture. Are there numbers and signs that you can draw? Street signs and water hydrants? Maybe there are patterns on the drain covers that you can sketch. 

If you are somewhere more rural the patterns may be in the flowers, and finding ways to represent the trees and grass.

Fill a few pages of your sketchbook with these collections. 

Fill a page of your sketchbook with experiments in symbolising trees and bushes etc. 

Remember this process is about letting yourself play, try, make mistakes and find new ways of working.

I love living in the moment when I travel...following my nose and exploring...I like to engage with what inspires me that day. I like to be absorbed and inspired by the culture, the food and the sense of difference. Much of my experience is about seeing, looking and absorbing.

When you took yourself out exploring today what did you see? Do you find that sketching slows you down and makes you really look? Are you taking the time to look before you draw?

What did you discover? Show and tell us in the forum.


Click grid images to see full size images.


In both Gozo and Menorca I loved drawing the architectural details; shutters, ironwork, balconies, stone work, text, tiles and numbers. I treat my sketchbook as a place to collect these details.


Helen Hallows


Nurturing Creativity since....

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Copyright of all art works remains with the artist Helen Hallows 

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Nottingham, UK

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