The excitement for me in creating a mixed media sketchbook is in using different media in different ways to represent my experiences.


In the studio, when I create my finished pieces, I use an eclectic mix of papers that I find (maps and book pages) and that I make (textured and printed). I used to use a lot of book jackets and end papers that I would collect at flea markets and second hand bookshops but they became rarer and more expensive. Also, once I started to license my work for cards and prints I couldn't use any copyrighted designs so I stopped using found and bought patterns and decided to make my own. Making the stamps was a way of creating small scale patterns that I could pattern papers with to use in my collages. Once I had a stash of blocks that I had designed and made, I started to use them in my sketchbooks too.

I find the process immensely satisfying and love the mix of shape based drawing with pattern elements. Where the shapes show the composition, the stamps are a focus on the detail. I think this makes the picture more interesting, capturing many aspects of the place. 

These images show the sequence of developing a design for a stamping block.


I wanted to show you that not all drawings need to be wonderful! The drawings I did were purely functional, collecting shapes so that I could create pattern blocks. As a stand alone drawing they're not great but they do the job.

In this age of social media we can easily become disheartened with our own creative output as we compare it to everything we see on Pinterest or Instagram. I know that online, I only share my best work, that which I am happy to share, but the truth is there are many more images that aren't visually exciting that I don't share. They are still part of the process though and shouldn't be dismissed.

Here are some pages from my sketchbook embellished with carved stamps....

So now you can add some pattern into your sketchbook, amongst your drawings to add interest and colour. You can create borders for your pages too. If you have alphabet blocks, or an old typewriter you can add words or a story to the pages of your book, or use your loveliest handwriting, or print labels on your computer. As the layers start to build, with texture, drawing, collage and print, your book will start to come to life, interesting juxtapositions will occur and start to spark ideas about how you might use your sketchbook, or compose subsequent pages.

Is your sketchbook starting to feel more eclectic, more mixed-media? Does it feel like a new way of working is emerging? Do you like the accidental happenings? 

I like to see the contrasts of original primary source image (i.e. your drawings) and the designed mark of the stamps that has grown out of these. 

Have you enjoyed making the stamps? In my 'live' courses everyone gets excited with the outcomes as they begin to see the relevance of their original research and how that comes through in the motif making with the stamps.

Tell us how you're getting on and what you like and dislike about how your book is progressing...

Click grid images to see full size images.

Whilst away I loved collecting the patterns of the tiles, the shapes of brickwork and the ironwork. Turning these into small printing blocks allows me to introduce colour and pattern into my sketchbook.


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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