sketch bookin’

Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 in Charlesbridge Publishing, Maine College of Art, Sketchbook Project | 3 comments

Ever since doing the Sketchbook Project in 2011, I have a new respect for the sketchbook practice. Before doing that, my sketchbook was a spiral bound scrapbook of sorts, including drawings, clippings, tickets, any bit of ephemera crossing my desk at the time. Thanks to Charlesbridge, I am now working on a non-fiction picture book about John Muir, an avid sketcher of his travels in the wild. He’s considered the father of the National Parks system, visionary author, and founder of the Sierra Club.


Muir discovered Yosemite in his youth, and built a sawmill along a stream that kept him busy, as well as a pine cabin in which to live. I decided to use the “clubhouse” behind our house, built by my husband and daughter, as reference for some of my illustrations.


I cast my neighbor, Peter Moxhay, as my model. Doesn’t he look like John Muir without the beard?


After Peter left, I realized a certain kinship with Muir and his sketching motives. You can see a collection of Muir’s sketches here.


It got me going with my roughest of thumbnails. I wanted to include a sketchbook right in the scene.


This is my full-size pencil sketch, not yet approved!


Here’s the title page rough.


Besides looking at lots of reference online, I found photos from 1988 when Marty and I visited Yosemite. It was late October, when the falls were dry.


Still, vivid memories influenced my sketch here.


In the middle of this, I visited Judy Labrasca‘s Continuing Studies sketchbook class at Maine College of Art. I was thrilled to see the sketchbooks of visiting artist, Jessyca Broekman. She loves having the finite boundary of a book in which to work, and often gives herself the challenge to draw one object 100 times, or does a drawing a day to fill a handmade sketchbook. Bella bella!


I also showed a few of my sketchbooks, including this one made for a trip to Maine Audubon with my illustration class. They’ve got a bountiful collection of taxidermy that kept us busy one field trip awhile back. I keep forgetting I shouldn’t draw across the gutter, it makes both pages smudge.


When I arrived home, Marty showed me HIS sketchbook of drawings done in Portland. Love this one of Oceangate, particularly when he added the digital block of color.


While I wait for my sketches for John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall to be approved, I did this sketch of groovy guitar maker Mark Mattos for his birthday.


Gotta keep my pencils sharp! I’m starting The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures to keep me in the mood. Oh, and watching the bearded Red Sox take the lead in the ALCS. Hooray!


  1. Bravo Jamie * Thanks for taking all of us along on your journey ~ Fascinating project ! Thanks for your inspiration *

  2. Dear Jamie, just found this wonderful entry to your blog. It’s a wonderful reminder that drawing is the way to learn about everything in the natural world and other artists as well. For a few years a friend and I would go to the Museum of Fine Arts (on free day) on our day off from work and copy paintings. I very quickly learned that I knew nothing about a piece of art until I had tried to draw it. Thanks for reminding me. Sarah Fuhro

  3. Sarah, that’s so true: drawing requires the most patient kind of looking. Thanks for reading!

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