Alison Mountain Sketchbook Day

What is your background? How did you first get interested in sketchbooks?

I first became particularly interested in sketchbooks whilst teaching on the general course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. Access to most departments in the college allowed me to see the differences and similarities in the way students from a range of disciplines used their books. I also discovered that in spite of being familiar with the concept of the sketchbook, a number of students had ideas about the role of the book which demonstrated that they were unaware of its true potential as a remarkable and invaluable creative tool. 

What are your starting points? Are there any particular themes or techniques you find yourself returning to?

The beauty of the sketchbook is its versatility and its ability to adapt to purpose. I discovered that whatever area of study or interest you choose to follow you can fashion the book around what you need to know and how you wish to develop this knowledge. As I extended my research into areas not traditionally known to use these books, I discovered how, when personalised by the user, they can provide an invaluable aid to creative thought and development in any field.

What do you use sketchbooks for?

I use the sketchbook in different ways depending on the task in hand. For example, if I’m looking for inspiration I may experiment with a range of techniques… always searching for new media or combinations of media to produce different effects. If I’m trying to develop ideas around a theme I will gather information, associations etc around that theme in the book.

The crucial element of a sketchbook that I think many people fail to fully realise is the reflective thought that is the common element to all approaches. Whatever approach you take to your book, it’s important that you evaluate what you have discovered; assess its usefulness to you and how you can move on from that point. 

Who or what are your biggest influences?

My co-authors on Think Inside the Sketchbook, Gillian Robinson and Dave Hulston, have taught me so much about the potential of the book both as an art-based tool and as a more general aid to creative thought across the board. The projects I have witnessed them engage in at all levels demonstrate clearly the value of these inexpensive and powerful aides to personal development.

What are your favourite media to work with?

I enjoy working with a wide range of papers and paints, but what I find most rewarding is using simple, inexpensive or recycled media and combining them differently to produce exciting or interesting imagery in unexpected ways.

What can participants expect on your Big Cat sketchbook class?

One of the most common complaints voiced by students in all the creative areas is that they are ‘stuck’; not sure of how to progress or develop their ideas. Many will learn a range of techniques offered but never be able to find their own creative ‘voice’.

My aim is for people to leave this class realising how using a sketchbook can help them access the huge potential for ideas and creative possibilities open to them, without the need for expensive materials, lessons or equipment.

Time is a crucial element in the development of a working sketchbook that really supports and pushes your practice forward. It therefore goes without saying that developing a sketchbook habit won’t happen overnight for all but the really fortunate!

If anyone is interested in following up the sketchbook day with further days, that can be arranged.

Alison Mountain is delivering Sketchbook Day on Saturday 18 May (1 day) £70

For more information or to book on the class, click on the link above.

Alison Mountain is co-owner of Big Cat Textiles and co-author of Think Inside the Sketchbook. If you’d like Alison to run a bespoke sketchbooking class for your art group, please contact her on 07703 023917.