Art materials, Drawing, Gardens

Garden sketching kit – with a blackbird for company

blog Sandrine garden painting April 2020

Here in the UK, the weather just hit the point where I can sit outside for a while without freezing to death, just in time for the Easter week-end. With the current crisis making the world much quieter, it was perfect out there. Blue sky, clean air, flowers, the birds and me. And Penelope rabbit of course. She always enjoys a bit of sun on her furry backside. As I was drawing I thought I would share with you what I have in my basic garden sketching kit.


I have a sketchbook that is pretty clever and easy to carry around: it is A4, so highly portable but it lays completely flat so you can open it and get an A3 drawing surface. The paper is slightly thicker than my other sketchbooks, so it will gracefully take colour swatches too. Please click here to see the lay-flat hardcover sketchbook.

IGBlossom sketch 1 April 20


I like to use a mechanical pencil, because I can draw miles of lines without having to stop and sharpen. It is even truer in the garden or on holidays, as the sharpener is one less thing to carry around. I like a 0.7mm with a B lead. Sharp enough for detail without snapping and thick enough for a bit of shading. Please click here to see the Koh-i-Noor 0.7mm mechanical pencil.


I am still in love with my refillable Tombow Mono Zero eraser. It erases the tiniest of lines and can also be used to lift highlights and veins. It comes in several colours and you can see the neon orange one here.

And that’s all you need for a couple of hours sitting in the grass… I like gardening kneeling cushions to sit on, because they are waterproof, plump and they don’t squish easily so you sit quite high, which is better for the legs. Of course you also need a bird or two to distract you, like Mr Blackbird in my garden… As soon as we’re outside, he stops flying and gets everywhere on foot. He seems to think that if he stays on the ground he is less detectable. Even more so if he runs very fast with his head near the grass. It’s like a blackbird superpower. While I was sketching, he started scuttling in as big a circle as he could get in the garden without hitting his head on the walls. As I kept still and quiet, he gained confidence, his circles decreased in size, until he was just running around the border and behind my back, clockwise, disappearing on my right and reappearing on my left, looking stealthy. Half the time I could hear the scuttling behind me and the other half I could see him trying to be invisible. It was very distracting. Apart from the fact that I couldn’t take my eyes off him, try drawing a straight stem while you’re laughing at a blackbird.

Mrs blackbird looked on, comfortably installed amongst the blossom. I couldn’t read her enigmatic expression. She might have been thinking “Look at him, so brave, so handsome as he runs undetected, his glossy plumage every now and then catching a ray of sunlight that makes it shine beautifully, while the yellow around his eyes seems to glimmer in contrast… ” Equally, it could have been “Look at him, he’s at it again, thinking no one can see him, he’s in full sun for crying out loud, black against the grass’s bright green he stands out like a sore hallux… And the people here feed us apples, so it’s not like they’re suddenly going to attack us… I just wish he would stop doing this ridiculous rigmarole…” Could go either way…

It was a lovely week-end and I sketched lots of blossom for a tutorial in my next book – more on that soon 🙂 If you have a garden, get out there and enjoy it… these days more than ever gardens are a blessing…

Happy sketching!


2 thoughts on “Garden sketching kit – with a blackbird for company”

  1. You paint such a lovely mental picture of your blackbird! Isn’t it wonderful to take the time to sit and observe.


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