A sketchbook

Towards the end of last year I was given a gift voucher for Cornelissen & Son by friends with the instructions ‘treat yourself’. It’s not a shop that I go to often, not for lack of want, but for fear of wanting too much. I can remember passing it in my teens on my way to the British Museum, and peering into the historic-looking glass shop frontage at the colourful collection of glass jars of pigments, ink pots and quills and luxurious sable brushes. A few weeks ago, under a cloud of January blues, I decided to splurge my voucher. Inside the shop I gathered handfuls of pencils and inks from the rows and rows of wooden shelves -packed much like a sweet shop. But at the counter, my eyes were distracted by the stack of beautiful hand-made leather sketchbooks and cases. Needless to say, they are not cheap items. But a few moments later I found myself leaving with a very ‘Jo’ pea-green sketchbook and cover under my arm. My best friend recently invested in a designer handbag with the justification that it was a classic design with great ‘cost-per-use’ value, and I decided that since I wasn’t one for splashing out on handbags myself, I could apply this philosophy to a beautiful hand-made book.

Why make such a fuss over a book? Its very superficial but the magpie in me likes nice things. Recently I’ve been upgrading my art student kit to that of a professionals. Good oil paints, the particular brand and type of pencil that always feels right, heavyweight hot-pressed paper that lets my hand flow when I draw. Quality definitely makes a difference, physically and mentally, in taking my subject and myself seriously. I love my new book cover. It’s already covered in scuffs and scrapes from keys in my bag, and stains from inks and tea, but the leather will age well and last me forever. And it makes me want to carry it with me everywhere, use it for everything, recording all I enjoy in a visual diary. Here’s some glimpses of the new year so far:

Sketch under Tower Bridge at night in the cold

Olympic gymnasts on the bar, qualifying at the O2 Arena

Sketch of Chichester Cathedral done from the upper floor of Costa Coffee with a gingerbread latte

Inside the Choir at Chichester Cathedral

Old medieval and Roman wall near Tower Hill

The lovely twelfth century black marble font in Winchester Cathedral, showing the a story from the life of St Nicholas

Housemates hibernating on the sofa