The return of the sketchbook


My new project for 2015 is to get my sketching mojo back and get drawing back on the Deano agenda. I don’t pick a pen up anywhere near enough and I decided to sort it out.

So I bought a brand new Moleskine — heavier weight, off white drawing paper of course and crucially a size just over A5, large enough to capture a decent canvas but small enough to tuck into a bag.  I bought some new pens to get me excited: Pentel fine line and heavy, fountain Pentel and Signpens, standard issue for designers. I thought I’d also try some brush Faber Castell pens too — all bets are off at this stage and using a new pen can often inspire as much as the subject. New tools always excite me and are essential at the outset of a project like this.

Subject matter was the next consideration. Sketching is like a muscle that needs exercising to grow it and then when fully pumped it needs plenty of reps to keep it up to scratch. So where am I constantly exposed to countless, interesting scenes? If you read this blog you know I frequent a lot of bars and restaurants and that seemed like the perfect subject. I’m there anyway, so why not sketch at the same time. In truth it’s not too obtrusive and is often a starting point for conversations. I was also inspired by the wonderful London Sketchbook’s section on bars and restaurants in London so off I went.

I’ve had a proper go over the past few weeks and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen I’m getting into a groove of sorts. Sketching is habit-forming too and taps into my obsessive compulsive nature with a compulsion to collect views and in turn sketches. It’s great also to sketch what I would have otherwise Instagrammed. My first few sketches were a bit clunky but I was determined to just draw and create without worrying about the outcome. I have to get into a groove with it and not get too anxious. What I have found though is that my eye is getting better and better and each sketch is a reasonably faithful representation of the atmosphere of the bar or restaurant: calm, chilled, hectic, noisy, quiet, relaxed, full on. Of course no-one sits still or poses, so it brings huge challenges for me as faces were never my strong point, but either way I just draw.

I’ve also decided to use these sketches as illustrations for reviews of the place we visit, which I think adds an interesting dimension to the narrative of the drawing. The sketch below is a beautiful little neighbourhood restaurant in Debeavoir Town in North London called Sweet Thursday, named after a little known Steinbeck book. This isn’t a full-blown review but the hipster, retro, eclectic charm of the restaurant comes out in the drawing I think. It was late afternoon on a cold Saturday in February and we almost had the place to ourselves. The pizza was divine: just what we needed, packed with flavour, piping hot and a perfect foil to the great value and gullible on-tap organic wine. I built on my bare bones sketch later that evening and was quite pleased with the way it emerged. Enjoyable experimentation with fat black nibs to stress shadows and contrast.

It’s a fine line between spontaneity and overworking but I think I got this one about right. But there are no right and wrongs and I’m keen to experiment with new styles and techniques. Keep coming back to the blog to see how the project develops. Hope you like them.



Busaba Eathai

The zing of coriander,

The burst of lemon grass,

The hum of chilli.

Fragrant and soothing,

Crisp and silky.

A hug and a slap at the same time.



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London Sketchbook


I’m a massive fan of books. The touch, and in particular the smell, of a book is still one of life’s great pleasures for me. The anticipation of unpacking a book that has been delivered, the unzipping of the outer and the unexpected gentle crack of the spine of book that no-one has ever opened is pure, unalloyed, joy. The first gentle leaf through the pages, allowing the ink and paper aroma to waft upwards is delicious.

Recently I’ve been captivated by the rather wonderful London Sketchbook, published by Laurence King. It’s a beautiful and inspiring tour of London told through the drawings, paintings, sketches and doodles of illustrator Jason Brooks. Better know for his fashion illustrations which you’ll find In Vogue and Elle, London Sketchbook is the second instalment of his series of illustrated travel books.

Brooks takes the reader on an effortlessly cool tour of London’s highlights from restaurants, essential places to see, cultural highlights and beyond. The book is beautifully put together with uncoated paper sitting alongside gloss finish coated stock, the ubiquitous tracing paper inserts (or simulator paper as it is properly known) and a lovely red white and blue book mark.

Crucially the production values of the book don’t get in the way of the content—they enhance it, which is how it should be. So I’m now inspired to take my drawing book out in London, which I haven’t done yet oddly and try and put some of London’s life onto paper for myself.