All the video footage for this course, was taken on location in Menorca and Gozo. Unfortunately the day we filmed Session 5 it was really windy and we didn't realise until we were home that the sound quality was poor. The wonders of editing (and the wonders of Dave!) have helped with some of the problems but some words just got blown away on the wind so we have added subtitles to help.... ( I wrote this before we added the subtitles across the course - I've left it in to give the context of what was going on!)

I love to work with mixed-media as the world becomes your paint box and you can add in anything that you find. I love adding collage as you can collect papers and paper ephemera and add authenticity to your sketchbook and a story of the place you visited. 

I try not to be too controlled when I collage backgrounds to draw on to. I am mindful that I will need to draw on top so might use only a few colours but I work intuitively and want there to be scope for the accidental to happen as the drawing overlays with the collage. 

On some pages I might create more of a structure to add 'collections' for example I might stick in a row of collage blocks and then use each one as a background. You will see more of this in Session 6.

When drawing over collage you need to use confident marks that stand out in contrast to the imagery or text on the found papers. That's why I like to use a black fine liner or a charcoal pencil.


When I build up the layers of a picture, with the background texture, then drawing and collage,the drawing comes to life as there is detail in the background and the found pieces and then the drawn line. The piece has different 'levels'. This sparks my imagination for how I can develop a piece beyond my sketchbook. 

Here is the piece that I developed in the video. Once I was back in the studio I painted out the background to make the buildings on the right hand page 'pop' forward. I especially like the bottom right of the image with the business card for the fish restaurant - the curly lines on the card suit the style of buildings where there was lots of 'curly' ironwork. When I am out and about I love all the text you get on signage above cafes and shops. I like this way of capturing that without being too literal and slavishly copying typography. If I want to do that I can develop those ideas back in the studio.  

Buy a local newspaper. Collect paper bags. Look for some interesting packaging, business cards, receipts, a shopping list that's been discarded. See if there's an antique shop or flea market. Buy postcards, old stamps... take a photo and show us what you found!

Start to stick these into your book. As a patchwork...or to represent what you've been looking at and drawing...buildings, patched with spaces in between to draw a block for you to drawn on top of. 


Visit the town, the market or the landscape of where you are, Use the collages you have made as a base for a drawing. Look for the largest shapes first and then work in with some details. 

A patchwork of old postcards would make a fabulous sketchbook page for you to draw onto....

Covid update - I am adding a kit of collage papers in my shop so you can get hold of papers for this task. Or you could find images online and print them. Or you might have some papers already stashed.

How does this way of drawing make you feel? There is plenty of scope for discovery when you draw intuitively. Introducing layers of collage and letting marks show through from the painted pages means there is scope for 'happy accidents'. There's also scope for 'unhappy mistakes'! But approaching your mixed media sketchbook with a playful attitude, allowing mistakes and successes to happen means that we can embrace the new. When I work in this way of being slightly out of control, I feel less pressurised to create something that is perfect. 

It is easy for us to berate our art as 'wrong'. When really a sketchbook is a journey, a way of exploring. We can't be fearful, we shouldn't whisper. We have to accept the person we are, the path we have already been on and be willing to embrace something new without feeling that we've failed. 

Are you creating with openess or fearfulness? Share your thoughts in the forum.

Click grid images to see full size images.


In my sketchbooks I create collaged backgrounds to draw on to. I also work on top of found papers. Using my stash of papers I collage on top of drawings to add darks (i.e. for windows) or to add shape or colour highlights. I also cut shapes that I have been drawing. For example the crosses came from a drawing where I had drawn a cross to represent the metalwork that holds the shutters open. You can also see a representation of the pan tiles on that one. Using scissors to cut shapes is another form of requires hand-eye co-ordination and an ability to simplify the marks and edit.


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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