Monday, January 10, 2011

Special Guest Sketchbook Profile: Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes is a textile mixed media artist living in Maidstone, Kent (UK) and is the author of  The Found Object in Textile Art.

After obtaining a Fine Arts degree in the early eighties, my understanding of paper and related media was further enhanced through two periods of long-term study in Japan in the mid to late eighties (supported by the Japan Foundation and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust).
In 1991, I was given a joint award with South East Arts and the British Council to research art based organisations and community groups in Canada. I focused on those, which used re-cycled and found materials in their projects. During this period of study I gave talks and workshops demonstrating my own techniques. This proved a most fulfilling exchange, which had long term influence on my future explorations.  read more...

(all photos courtesy of the artist)

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
Its part of my reflective process. A means to jot down ideas, make notes and to keep my eye in.

Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once?
I always have several on the go. Some for traveling and recording what I see, play ones where I glue, tear and stitch pages as a means to experiment freely, and hard covered a2 landscape ones which are more about developing ideas and recording thoughts. Ideas for this come from my play and observation books and from photographs, and a 'noteboards/sketch wall)

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet,spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?  
I have no prefered medium or format generally and will draw on the back of a sick bag if  sketchbook is not to hand. However, I generally find, I carry smaller ones around with me, usually spiral bound so they are more flexible. I like my reflective sketchbook to be a little more durable and have a hard cover and lots of pages. A good quality cartridge paper which will take watercolour but is also versatile enough for pencil and pen. When travelling I tend to use mostly pen and wash so I don't have to carry too much gear with me.  I use layers and images as well in collage format.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?
A sketchbook is only for you..not for anyone else. So it does not matter how you record something, as long as you use it to carry your ideas and thoughts like a journal. Don't wait just for that fantastic trip to make a 'special sketchbook', try making notes about what your see in your garden, other works you like..whatever you find interesting. Try to do something in it every day and do not worry if the pages are chronological.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Drawings are visual notes and studies which are used to plan work or can be a piece of work in itself. In addition to the subject matter they should show texture, shape, pattern and tone. A series of recorded notes and photographs can be often be as useful in addition to a finished drawing. A drawing can be of a given subject or abstract such as diagrammatic representations of textures or shapes. Drawings are used for different things, for design ideas, for quick reference, to communicate an idea where verbal clues would be difficult (a plan, diagram etc). Draw for yourself for personal use. This is my 20 point guide:
  1. Make drawings regularly. Once a day if possible, to keep your eye in.
  2. In absence of paint/colouring implements keep extra notes of the colours and feelings about what you were seeing.
  3. Sometimes draw the underlying structure that cannot be seen to enable it to be reconstructed later. Many artists draw bone structures to be aware of how the underlying structure reads in the human body.
  4. In 'Objective Drawing', draw only what can be seen, not what you think is there.
  5. Every mark you make must mean something. Choose a mark which best represents what you see.
  6. Vary marks in thickness and density.
  7. Look at everything as though for the first time. Trust your eyes. Have visual curiosity, see rather than look.
  8. Don't see anything without its background and the spaces between objects, buildings etc
  9. Every line should mean something and should continue into nothing. It should describe a shape or lead the eye elsewhere.
  10. Experiment with different methods of making marks.
  11. Everything has a relative tone value (darkness and lightness)
  12. Nothing makes sense until what is beside it is put down. White paper can appear as holes if not considered as part of the space on the paper..
  13. Draw in the direction of growth (follow the lines of branches, fur etc )
  14. Try various mediums, eg. charcoal, crayon, pencil, cont— crayon, chalk, ink.
  15. Use good quality paper where possible but also experiment. Brown paper can be a good surface
  16. Keep even scrappy notes for future us. It sometimes helps to draw on coloured paper.
  17. Refine and extract shapes later to make a design.
  18. Make a view finder. It helps to isolate interesting parts/view which worked on later for a project/design.
  19. Be prepared to 'play'. Try drawing with charcoal on the end of a stick to help improved control in the arm. Draw without looking at the paper. Make a drawing without taking your pen off the paper.
  20. Finally, stop worrying if the drawing is 'good enough' or what others may think. You are drawing for your own reference, it is only for you and a reflection of your though processes. I could just about bear to lose a piece of work...but a sketchbook is another thing!

Visit Cas Holmes website here to see more of her work

Learn more about the sketchbook challenge here


  1. Very interesting and good advice.
    I am having a bit of a problem starting on my "journal" because I can't draw very well. My medium is fabric. I am just starting out in this artistic endeavor - although I have been sewing and crafting for over 40 years.
    Any suggestions for fabric artists who can't draw?

  2. Love this interview with Cas Holmes!!! Wonderful info and terific insights!! I do love this project and all of the wonderful posts that you are creating!!
    this is my first stop on my morning computer check!!!! Thank you all!!

  3. What a treat this interview is! I've admired Cas Holmes' work for a number of years now. I always, always love peaks in other people's sketchbooks!

  4. Fantastic to be able to read what Cas has said. I have her book by my bedside and re-read bits of it every morning. And I've been fortunate enough to attend two of her workshops. Thankyou for this insight. (My 'highly prized' is progressing, slowly.)

  5. I love love love Cas's work and her book! Dear sewinggeek--I have your same issue. Drawing is hard so I often rely on photos for the framework and draw/paint over them. If you'd care to see how I took a photo this weekend and turned it into a painted fabric quilt easy-as-pie, I just posted it:

  6. I adore Cas Holmes and her work. LOVE her book. This is a wonderful interview and a great look into in sketchbook. And wow, that is a powerful 20 point list!

  7. I love this post and adore Cas and her 20n power point list. I hope you don't mind I copied and pasted that to a word page to add to my file. I have posted my entry for the challenge at Flickr and also at my blog. Where do we post link to our blog...if I'm reading right to the comment section...anyway here it is...
    So enjoying this challenge.. can't wait for Feb. now !!

  8. I have been away from the web for days, but have been doing something - even if it is a little thing - in my sketch book every day since we got started. I read back through the last many days of posts - all the way to the start, and feel like I am floating in inspiration and good ideas! My pages don't look anything like the ones here, but I am starting to get pleased with them slowly. I have three pages about Highly Prized in process, and am off now to Flickr to see all the other great things you all have been posting.

    Thank you for this challenge and the inspiration to bring creativity to my every day through the venue of the sketchbook! And thanks for the great postings and comments. You are all a breath of fresh air and delight for me. :)

  9. Thanks so much for this interview! I have her book and love to look at her artwork. It was so interesting to get a glimpse of her process.

  10. I was fortunate enough to meet Cas Holmes when she presented a program to the Fiber Artist Group in San Antonio: I think it was 8 years ago. She is so inspiring. There is an interview is the just-published Quilting Arts Magazine. I love her new book!
    Thanks for this interview. Loved the 20 tips!

  11. Beautiful and amazing work! Very inspiring!

  12. I consider myself very lucky to have seen some of Cas' sketchbooks at one of her workshops. This is really first class information about the process of keeping sketchbooks, particularly if like me you are timid of getting your ideas down on a fresh piece of white paper. Thank you for sharing.


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