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The value of keeping sketchbooks

Over the years I have built up a large collection of sketchbooks. Occasionally I look back through them, enjoying the flood of memories that come to me, as well as seeing how my sketching has developed. They are also a good source of fresh material for studio work, when my recent sketches don't inspire me.

Looking at some sketchbooks from 25 years ago, I found the sketch below, from the time that I spent on the Isle of Arran. I could still remember the colour scheme, so I decided to try a painting of it.

Pencil sketch made in Glen Catacol, Isle of Arran

'Glen Catacol, Arran' - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm

The crag on the left is called 'Creag na h'Iolaire', which means 'Crag of the Eagle', so I couldn't resist putting in an eagle soaring above the glen. It was useful for adding interest and balance anyhow.

After I finished the painting, I remembered that I had made a watercolour about the same time as the sketch. I managed to find an old pre-digital photo of it, which I photographed again to upload here, hence the poor quality. I was interested to see how my painting has developed in the 25 years between the two versions.

'Glen Catacol' - watercolour - 23 x 34 cm


  1. Interesting post Keith! I like both paintings but the newer one is more subtle and harmonious, as well as using more colour. I love the way you've lost the top of the mountain without being too overt about it. Beautiful!

    1. Thanks Rob, I think the latest painting does look more subtle and less heavy-handed.

  2. Good morning Keith!... Enjoyed your interesting back trekking this morning! Interesting to note that your colour memory continues to support the impressions of your original experiences.

    All are truly representative of your unique water colour mastery! Bravo... and thanks for sharing!

    Good fall Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, it always fascinates me how much I can remember by looking at a sketch. It shows just how valuable it is to work in front of the subject. Thanks for your visit.

      All the best,

  3. Keith, this is so interesting to see how the span of all those years has taken you to where you are now.
    I see the value of sketchbooks, . It's no wonder your work is so amazing...
    .Me? I just have 25 years worth of watercolors, LOL ! my first being in 1987. but I can say there is improvement.. so it was not all for naught.
    my best, Barbra Joan. and thanks for the visit ... I so appreciate it.

    1. Hi BJ, yes it's a long journey, but you're definitely getting somewhere. Sketchbooks are a great way of practising as well: when we know that something is just a sketch, we are far less inhibited.

  4. Hi Keith, enjoyed reading your post and how you look back on the past years to when you discovered your drawing of Arran. Drawings do hold many memories and can really take you back in time often much more than a finished painting. Your works are full of atmosphere and are beautifully crafted.

  5. Hi Caroline, yes I agree that sketches are much more personal than finished paintings.

  6. I agree that sketchbooks are invaluable, Keith; they are, after all, so spontaneous. It was interesting to see the difference in execution (with a twenty-five year gap). I am more drawn to the second painting; however, when you did the first painting, I am sure that it was expressing what you wanted to express just then...

    1. I think I was able to express my feelings in the first painting, Diane, but I was probably frustrated by my abilities with watercolour at the time.

  7. Both paintings have very different moods. The older one is reminiscent of more brooding weather. I like atmospheric watercolors and you certainly achieved that with both of these.

    1. Thank you Jean. Yes watercolour is ideal for atmospheric paintings isn't it.


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