Artists are experts at drawing inspiration from details which might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s not always about achieving perfection or a masterpiece; sketching is as much about process as it is about results.
As part of our public engagement activities for the Scottish National Gallery project, we want to inspire everyone to connect with some of the greatest Scottish artworks in the national collection. The National Galleries of Scotland proudly cares for a wonderful selection of sketchbooks by Scottish artists in the collection, ranging from Allan Ramsay to Anne Nasmyth. Studying artists' sketchbooks allows us to see the artist in another way, as we can gain closer insight into their methods. For training purposes, artists often make sketches after other artworks as well, a practice which we encourage our visitors to do.
Across the next twelve months, we want to encourage you to pick up a pencil and fill your own sketchbooks. Some of you might not have drawn since you were a child, and continue to deny yourself the joy of sketching because it's not a skill you have finessed in adulthood. Drawing on our collection as a source of inspiration, we’ll provide you with monthly sketchbook prompts, and encourage you to share your creations on social media using the hashtag #ScotlandSketches.
You can participate in #ScotlandSketches from the comfort of your home, or bring your sketchbook into the Scottish National Gallery to find inspiration in-person. We love it when visitors share photographs of their own sketchbooks with us, such as these marvellous ones:
September’s #ScotlandSketches prompt is ‘autumnal changes’. We recommend popping into the Scottish National Gallery to study Autumn in Glencairn, Moniaive by James Paterson. In this painting, Paterson combines sharp detail in the foreground with softer blended forms in the distance to convey a wonderful sense of space. The beautiful autumn colours, both striking and subtle, are caught in a shimmering light, enhanced by the river's reflection of the cloudy sky. Enjoy a peaceful walk with your sketchbook and notice how the landscape is changing as we move into the colder months. Inspired by Paterson's own sketchbooks, find our top tips to get your #ScotlandSketches journey started below.
We have three of Paterson's sketchbooks in the collection, which remain as bound volumes, as well as two further groups of loose sketches. These pocket-sized sketchbooks cover a broad period between the early 1890s to around 1930, and include a variety of studies of people, architecture, as well as urban, coastal, and rural landscapes in Scotland, England, Belgium, mainland France and Corsica.
- Play around with materials to find your preferred way to sketch. Paterson mostly sketched in pencil, but sometimes used black chalk, and very occasionally ink or red chalk.
- Use areas of lighter and darker pencil shading to indicate gradations of tone, like Paterson has done in A backstreet in Blois. This was a technique used by some of the other Glasgow Boys, including E.A. Walton and James Guthrie.
- Find a viewpoint like Calton Hill, and try a sequence of quick sketches. Sometimes Paterson sketched the same view several times to try out slightly different angles.
Alongside your monthly #ScotlandSketches prompts, you can revisit our 'Art in the Open' YouTube tutorials to hone your drawing skills. When it first launched, ‘Art in the Open’ functioned as a pop-up workshop, hosted in green spaces across the city. It was aimed at passers-by, inviting them to spontaneously dip into their creativity and experiment with sketching the natural and built environments. During the pandemic the initiative temporarily moved online; through YouTube tutorials we encouraged viewers to take art materials outdoors and find inspiration from their local surroundings.