Art Studio



I don’t know about you, but I find carrying a heavy camera around with me everywhere I go a right pain in the bum!  Enter the camera-phone. Lightweight, discreet and pretty good pictures. Sometimes. But the trouble with snapshots is that they’re just that: a quick click of a button and you move on.  What do you really look at, really see?  A better way of looking is to carry a sketchbook and pencil in your bag.  Add a small palette of colour (watercolour, coloured pencils, etc) and you can come home with a much truer picture of the things that catch your eye.

I’ve had my head down for so long though that I haven’t been looking around me with any real focus. But recently, when I’ve been out walking locally, I’ve felt the need to drink in the landscape and have rummaged around in my well-worn rucksack to find my tiny, not-quite-A6  Moleskine sketchbook (it’s 3.5″ x 5.5″) and 7b pencil.  There they are at the bottom of the sack in a clear, scrunched up plastic bag with a rubber (eraser) and a (useless) pencil sharpener. Probably lighter than an iPhone.  Definitely more creative (for me anyway).

© Stephanie Boon, 2015 A6 pencil and wash: Misty hillside Coosebean

Misty Hillside, Coosebean. Pencil and wash.

© Stephanie Boon, 2015 A6 pencil sketch: Truro Cathedral

View over the Cathedral. Pencil.

© Stephanie Boon, 2015 A6 pencil and wash: Coast Path, Porthtowan

Thrift. Coast Path, Porthtowan.  Pencil and wash.

© Stephanie Boon, 2015 A6 pencil and wash: Coast Path, Porthtowan (detail)


Some sketches get finished, some, like the Oak Tree (below), don’t.  Sometimes you have to move on too soon; it doesn’t matter.  With more regular practice you can train your eye to see/draw more quickly.  This particular sketchbook has some pretty rudimentary stuff in it.  Embarrassing really, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do any regular sketching. I’ll get back into it. In the mean time, I’m not worrying.  It’s a sketchbook, so who’s going to see it except me?  Oh, and you of course – but I’m only showing you some of the ‘best’ bits!

© Stephanie Boon, 2015 A6 pencil: Oak Tree, St Clement

Oak Tree, St Clement. Pencil.


‘Best’ is a matter of opinion. It doesn’t even matter if you think you can’t draw: take a sketchbook and a few coloured pencils or watercolours (watercolour pencils are great too), look at something closely but don’t try to draw it representationally.  Just draw some squares and fill them in trying to capture the colours you see.  For example, you could look at a rose in a hedgerow – what colours are there?  The petals won’t be just one shade of pink so try and fill your squares with the variety of pinks you see.  There might be yellow stamen, but what sort of yellow are they? Gradually you’ll begin to build up a picture of the rose by colour.  You could photograph it too, to stick in later. Write notes. It’s a great way to design a colour scheme for a patchwork quilt.


Snatching a few minutes here and there for drawing has been fulfilling this last week or so.  Kim’s health is slowly improving and my concentration has improved along with it.  Looking through this sketchbook reminds me of that; but I wonder if maybe it’s the walking itself that’s helped with concentration.  I find it quite a meditative process, especially over longer distances.  A couple of times this week I’ve walked between 10 and 13 miles and that’s when I really start to lose myself. I’ve been thinking about hiking a lot lately. Getting itchy feet. I’ve got a strong desire to head off into some hills for a while, or out on the coast path at least.  But it’s raining, pouring in fact, and I don’t have any shelter.  So, for now, I’ll have to take day hikes. And remember to pack a sketchbook.

What do you do to help you concentrate?

Back soon with something stitchy, until next time, have a great weekend.


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Art Studio

Hello dear friends. I’m sorry it’s been a very empty week here on the blog and social media;  I’ve missed you and missed visiting you around the internet too, but Kim is still unwell and taking care of him has been my priority. In quieter moments though I’ve managed some patchwork and hand quilting and look forward to sharing it with you – I’ve just not had the time to put it into pictures and words, but I have finally made a start so hopefully will be able to show you something in the next day or two.

Kim has obviously been preoccupying me, so for this week’s Art Studio post I thought I’d show you a couple of drawings I made of him when he was much younger.  Mostly I only get to draw him when he’s asleep! He really doesn’t want to sit still for me for more than 5 minutes, so most of the portraits I do of him end up in the bin or really aren’t very good at all.  I still quite like these sketches though:

Portrait of Kim, Graphite, 1999. © Stephanie Boon, 1999 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

1 Year Old, 1999

Portrait of Kim, Pen and Ink, 2004. © Stephanie Boon, 2004 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

6 years old, 2004

Portrait of Kim, Graphite, 2011. © Stephanie Boon, 2011 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

13 years old, 2011

They’re all quite different really, but each one captures something of him, for me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them.  Hopefully I’ll be back on Sunday for some slow stitching, fingers crossed.

Happy Easter and happy stitching.

Much love

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Art Studio

My temples and jaw ache from clenching my teeth. All week it seems.  Stress. Difficult things to address, deadlines to meet. Even quilting hasn’t helped. There’s just been no time. Instead I’ve been sewing a dress for a friend, designing the pattern from scratch. It was a pretty time consuming task alongside the all encompassing health appointments for both my son and me.  I took solace in a book. A wonderful, poetic book of non-fiction. It’s the type of book I’m particularly drawn to these days: H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald.

The wind was battering my bedroom window this morning and I decided to hibernate, stay under the covers the day long.  It was the first day with no commitments for what felt like an eternity.  Between bouts of deep, headache-inducing sleep I read.  I read about a bereavement and the ensuing depths of depression of a woman who retreated from the world of humans and lived for and alongside, even inside, her goshawk. I recognise her fall into blackness only too well and I wonder how far I am heading into the gloom now.

I think about today’s Art Studio post, this post, and what I could possibly show you. I’m not in the mood for joyous colours today and the book has woken a memory of my own obsession with a bird of prey in 2007. I found a dead tawny owl. I found scores of dead birds and drew them, identified with them. I was enduring another interminably long episode of chronic depression and the obsession seemed to be the only meaning I could find in anything.

Here are a few of the owl drawings I made. If you don’t like to be confronted with death, maybe you’d prefer not to look, but for me there was a strange beauty in it that I couldn’t stop searching for.


In the Wake of it All (dead owl). Pen and ink on paper. © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Pen and ink

Killed by Car (owl),  Conte and charcoal on paper. © Stephanie Boon 2007, www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Conte and charcoal on paper

I am Nothing, Conte and charcoal on paper, © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Conte and charcoal on paper

Change of Events (owl and songbirds),  Conte and charcoal on paper . © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Conte and charcoal on paper

This wasn’t the first time I’d drawn dead birds. I think the first time I was at art school, it was about 1984. I found a robin and painted it in watercolour. I remember the fascination and the overwhelming pathos of holding the tiny bird in my hand. Since then there have been goldfinches, black-caps, blue-tits, wrens, more robins…  But I’m sure you haven’t come to a patchwork and quilting blog to find a load of dead birds! So I shall leave it at that and if you’re on the look out for a good book highly recommend H is for Hawk to you: part nature writing, part biography of TH White (The Sword in the Stone), part memoir, an utterly absorbing read.



And tomorrow?  I shall stitch.  And reply to all the wonderful, much read and appreciated comments you’ve generously left during the past week. What will you be doing?

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Art Studio

I pack up my beloved Unison Pastels and gather together things I think I might need or want once I get a mile and a half or so down the road to where I plan to sit in a cold field and draw.  I never find it easy.  I never know what I’m going to see so don’t really know what medium will suit my needs.  I can pretty much guarantee I won’t have what I want went I get started though. Going on past experience. Get on with it. Make do. It’s what being creative is about.

Art Supplies for an outdoor drawing session. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStuido.com

Got everything? Umm, no…

And it’s never just about what you might need to draw with, or on.  Hats, scarves, gloves (all plural), coffee (as much a hand warmer as a drink), waterproofs, wind proofs, something insulating to sit on, a filthy, pastel-covered old coat to cover the good one when I get there (so that I don’t look entirely like a tramp on my journey down the road), plastic bags, bin liners – stuff to cover my legs so the pastel doesn’t become ingrained in my waterproofs, a head torch because it’ll be dusky on the unlit roads when I trudge back home, wet wipes to clean my hands (I forget them today. Irritating.)…and a day sack to pack it all in.

And all of that for one small sketch I’m not sure about and a bigger half started/half finished one.  The light fell fast and I could barely see; maybe I’ll go back tomorrow and finish it, but maybe I won’t. I managed to splash water over the one below. Don’t ask, but it’s dried now and there’s no trace left. I wonder how I’ll feel about it in the morning. Right now, I feel pretty flat.

Haze. Chacewater

Pasel on A3 paper.

Haze. Chacewater. Pastel on A3 paper. © Stephanie Boon, 2015. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Haze, Chacewater.

I hope it’s been a good start to the weekend for you and look forward to some slow stitching on Sunday – what have you been up to?

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Art Studio

When was the last time you wrote a letter?  The feel of pen on paper is something I think we’re in danger of forgetting. When I look back through this 2007 series of mail art it reminds me of what it feels like to write, literally trying to form words on the page in the same way I’d try and form an image.

The series is called Unspoken and I thought I’d show you a couple more pieces today (I showed a piece from it last week that I made about my son).  I won’t say too much, just a bit of background maybe, because I hope they speak for themselves.

We Will Disappear

Mixed media: body print, paper, beeswax, stitching and text.  Approximately 16cm x 23cm.

We Will Disappear. Mixed media. © Stephanie Boon, 2007. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

We Will Disappear

We Will Disappear. Mixed media. © Stephanie Boon, 2007. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

We Will Disappear – the letter

We Will Disappear. Mixed media. © Stephanie Boon, 2007. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

We Will Disappear (stitch detail)

This image was inspired by the Laetoli footprints and the novel Human Traces, amongst other things.  The text on the back reads:


I’ve picked up this pen to write to you, but all I can think is empty. I want to say something worthy, or something that you’ll always remember me for, but I realise there’s nothing. I stitch and sew to keep things together, to keep you bound tight to me, but the nature of thread is that it’s fragile. I must stitch tighter, more creatively. I wonder always if you want me bound to you in the same way. Do you use an invisible thread, because I just can’t see it? xx

My Fragile Fragments

Mixed media: paper (folded), hand stitched bag made with fabric from a party dress I had when I was 10 years old, thread, eggshells, ribbon. On the back of the bag is the word ‘hold’ stitched in black thread.

My Fragile Fragments (mail art) © Stephanie Boon, 2008 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

My Fragile Fragments (outside) 2009

my fragile fragmens 2009 inside

My Fragile Fragments (opened out) 2009

Text reads:

So beautiful. I could never have imagined that I would receive something today that would touch me so deeply; a love letter, weaving your words of love into the fabric of my soul. The deep umber shadow that is with me through day and darkness, my constant companion, lifted long enough for me to feel the depths of your words. I want to sear the edges so that there are no loose threads to be pulled or unpicked, so that the cloth you made will bind your words behind my eyes and I will never forget. My body, so ravaged by the years, crumpled easily under the weight of tenderness you packaged up and sent to me. But what words of love can I return to you? I am bereft of anything but deep depression and longing. I long so much to be loved in the way that you love and cry rivers of tears that words like yours are never meant for me. xx

I had hoped to show you some more, but I’ve had a few problems with images loading today… so maybe one or two more next time, if you’d like to see some more?  I did have another idea though.  I read this article in the New York Times during the week about photographer Nicholas Nixon, who has taken a group photograph of four sisters each year over the last 40 years.  It’s intriguing, and the black and white photographs are beautiful. I randomly suggested on Facebook that I bet I could rustle up 40 self portrait drawings from close to the last 40 years myself – Should I? I asked. Yes, came back a couple of replies. So, what do you think, should I? It will likely take me more than a week though, but are you curious… I think I am!

I’ll be back tomorrow with some Slow Sunday Stitching – I’ve got something to show you that I’m excited about, and after a bit more stitching tomorrow, it should be almost done.

Look forward to seeing you soon, until then happy drawing and stitching.

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Art Studio – At Peace (mail art)

For Kim, 2007

Today is a special day for me: today is my son Kim’s 17th birthday! To celebrate I thought that on today’s Art Studio post I’d share a work I made a few years ago now, a mixed media letter to Kim. It was part of a mail art (correspondence) project with another artist (‘C’). As part of the mail art project we regularly exchanged art in the post over a period of about 18 months, beginning in 2007. Each piece of mail art we sent was made in response to the previous one that we’d received.  Many of the ‘letters’ (not all of them included writing) were exhibited at the Exchange gallery in Penzance.

I still love this little mixed media piece, it’s so tactile and I’m really sorry you can’t feel it too!

At Peace (front), Mixed Media Mail Art © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Letter (the front)

At Peace (centre fold), Mixed Media Mail Art © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Kim (aged 5) (centre, opened, approx 11″ x 7.5″)

At Peace (back), Mixed Media Mail Art © Stephanie Boon, 2007 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Seeds (the back)

Kim was five in the photo and nine when I made this mail art with it. The paper is hand made and has a beautiful translucency and texture to it that appeals to me for lots of reasons. The photo was always one of my favourites: Kim was lagging behind on a walk through summer fields, chatting away to himself, lost in a world of his own; one of those sentimental moments that melts your heart and stays with you forever. The fabric ‘pocket’ contains lunaria (honesty) seeds and is hand stitched in place. The seeds can move about freely behind the fabric – which was once part of the party dress I had when I was 10 years old that I mentioned in a previous post (I’m adding some of it to the Ocean Waves quilt I’m making for Kim at the moment). I sent it to the other artist in a hand made envelope, but unfortunately I don’t have a picture of that to show you today.

Maybe next week I’ll show you some more work from this mail art series – quite a few pieces actually include stitching!  For now though, I’m going to go and put some candles on a chocolate cake and get ready to celebrate with Kim.  It should be a good weekend. I hope it is for you too 🙂

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Art Studio


Sketchbook drawing, Devichoys Wood, Perranarworthal, © Stephanie Boon 2001, www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Devichoys Wood, Perranarworthal, 2001

Over the past few weeks I’ve shown you some recent landscape drawings in colourful pastels, this week I thought I’d show you some drawings of trees from old sketchbooks – all done in black and white. They were all drawn in wintertime near to where I lived at the time of each one.

The one above is the largest in a squarish format book ( 265 x 210mm). I vividly remember making this drawing, even though it was 14 years ago. I was wrapped up against a really cold day and went out just because I had to get out of the house (do you ever feel like that?). The  woods were very close to home and the sun had fallen below the horizon by the time I left again. The path through the wood winds up hill and I was really drawn to this view out across the valley through a break in the trees. I remember hearing crows going to roost.

The trees in the next drawing were at the top of a wood near Trelew (Mylor) where I lived for about 5 years. I walked through them often; in the spring they’re filled with wonderful carpets of ransomes and bluebells. It was a bright winter’s day when I drew this one. I sat on the ground just off the path and I remember being fairly happy with it – unusual for me! (Especially when I was as ill as I recollect I was at the time – usually a recipe for hating everything I do.) It’s in another squarish book, but considerably smaller. This one is only about 148 x 130mm.

Sketchbook drawing: Line of Trees at Trelew, conte. © Stephanie Boon, 2004 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Line of Trees at Trelew, 2004

Finally today, here’s a tree that I can see from the garden where I live now. I drew it from the kitchen window, it’s too close to draw if I stand outside.  It’s quite obscured now, just a few years later – too lazy to trim the hedge in front of it! This drawing is even smaller again, in an A6 Moleskine.

Moleskine sketchbook drawing, Tree From the Garden, © Stephanie Boon 2009, www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Tree From the Garden, 2009

I’ve always loved drawing in black and white and particularly enjoy using conte pencils and chalks, which is what all of these sketches were drawn with.  It’s funny to think that it’s still one of my favourite media all these years later.

I hope to do some more drawing this weekend and of course there’ll be sewing on the agenda too!  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some slow sewing over at Kathy’s Quilts tomorrow. What will you be doing?

Have a lovely weekend

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Art Studio


Pastel and graphite on paper (A3 sketchbook).

Hedge. Pastel on paper. 2015 © Stephanie Boon, 2015. www.DawnChorusStudio.com


Back in a familiar field.  Sat on wet grass again. Sky watching. Listening to the birds: crows, a buzzard, more I can’t name. The sun’s behind me and the light changes dramatically every few minutes as clouds blow past.  It’s warm compared to recent days.  The trees I’m looking at change from almost black to yellow, then they’re tinged with pink. I can’t capture the changes quickly enough, I tear the paper in a statement of surrender, shift my perspective and start again.  And again.  It’s dusk suddenly. I can barely see anything, the details have disappeared and soon I won’t be able to see anything at all.

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Art Studio

Paul Loders Field

Unison pastel on A3 paper (sketchbook).

Pastel drawing on A3 paper, 'Paul Loder's Field' © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Paul Loder’s Field

It was a bright, clear February afternoon, but bitterly cold. I went for a walk dressed in 7 layers of clothing, rucksack on my back and freshly brewed coffee in my flask. I ended up taking a short route of about 3 miles or so looking for somewhere to draw the low winter light before the sun fell behind the horizon. After a couple of miles I wandered up through familiar fields eventually settling on a spot in the middle of a field belonging to a local beef farmer: his Charolais cattle are probably in sheds at this time of year.

I sat on the cold, wet ground just off the trampled footpath that crosses diagonally to a stile that meets the road. I didn’t see anyone else for the hour and a half or so I sat there with my sketchbook on my lap.  I was frustrated with my drawing attempts. I had in mind something more abstract that would capture the atmosphere I felt, conveyed in shifts of colour to capture my mood, but the drawing became more literal than I intended. Though not lacking in atmosphere, perhaps.

As I was working I wanted the page to be bigger, to be using a fluid medium and not to be so damn cold. I wanted the light to last longer. I wanted more colours in my box.  Nothing felt right. As I got up to leave I turned to look behind me and saw the large deep pink sun dip quickly behind the hills. The sky looked hazy, wispy shades of pink and trails of white.

I’ll go back to look and feel again. Soon.

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