Marja-Leena Rathje
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little sketchbook


As some of you know, we visited Montreal last June and met in person long-time online friend Beth and her husband. I've been wanting to show this special and beautiful gift Beth gave me, a little sketchbook about 10 x 12 cm. (4" x 4.75") that she skillfully crafted. I treasure it and think of Beth every time I look at it. Today, better late than never, I did my first little sketch into it.


Inspired by an image I saw somewhere a few years ago of a prehistoric rock carving in Roughting Linn in Northumberland, UK, I'd done a quick pen doodle on scrap paper and later taped it into my larger working sketchbook/notebook. As I contemplated doing a series of rock art images in Beth's book, I remembered that image. I used graphite aquarelle pencils, a black aquarelle stick and a damp little paintbrush - what fun!


A lovely notebook is such a scrummy object. I have too many of them, but cannot stop acquiring them. They are even more special when they are from a friend, like this one is. I am intrigued by your sketch - it is oh so difficult to break the white!

Love the colors. Your drawing reminds me of alien from outer space. Or the back woman who's out for a walk.

It's such a nice sketchbook that I'm afraid, had it been given to me, I'd never be able to draw anything in it. However, your illustration of the rock art image is perfect.

I think I'm with Susan, I'd be the type to keep something like that pristine. But I know that Beth would have wanted you to use it, as a welcome place to add your own creative impulses.

Olga, thanks, it took me a while to have the courage to make a mark in it.

Cathy, it's amazing how some rock art figures can look space-age-y.

Susan, thanks, that was my feeling for some time too.

Leslee, I was fearful of making a mess of it, and that just may happen later but I agree that I think Beth wanted me to use it. The thought of this little book holding both our creative works is quite inspiring for me!

I thought aquarelles were the end-products (Images? Paintings?) themselves. Fortunately Wikipedia was able to tell me differently:

L’aquarelle est une technique picturale à base de pigments broyés, agglutinés avec de l'eau gommée. Elle se pratique généralement sur un support papier.

Cette technique se caractérise par sa transparence et se différencie en cela de la gouache, opaque. Sa rapidité d'exécution en a longtemps fait une technique de croquis et d'études. Elle a progressivement acquis ses lettres de noblesse pour devenir, à partir du XIXe siècle, une technique à part entière.

BB, yes, the sketch could be called an aquarelle or watercolour. It more commonly refers to the medium. It can be a pencil with water soluble graphite or water soluble crayons or pastel sticks. They come in many colours though I used only the graphite and black here. They are sold as aquarelles.

The beauty of these products is that you can draw with them first, then use a wet paintbrush to wash parts or all of it for that watercolour look.

Little, quickly achieved sketches like these are often worth more than much more carefully worked piece and are a pleasure, as these must have been for you, to come back to years later in your sketch book.

I have used aquarelle crayons for a long time, and love them because they so easily combine the precision of drawing, with the help of a splash of water or a wet thumb, with the misty and fluid quality of water colours. Aquarelle is of course directly translated into English by "watercolour", the technique and the art form. It all sounds much better in French though.

A beautiful gift for your beautiful work, Marja-Leena. I'm sure that it will be a wondrous thing when filled with your evocative images, whether observed or imagined.
I too treasure such handmade sketchbooks, they are so inspirational, almost begging us to cover their pages with fragments of ourselves.

Joe, yes, I love quick little sketches that capture a special image. I didn't know you do aquarelles! I'd love to see them on your blog.

Natalie, thanks! So well said...

What a great pairing - Beth's notebook and your illustrations. I have the small treasures that you gave us when we all met up near Natalie's nearby on the bookshelf here in the (now not so) new house.

Dick, thank you so much for the lovely words! We had a wonderful meet up, didn't we? I still think of it often. The gift of friends made through blogging and then met in person is the most heartwarming experience.

Beautiful, and things like this must be used, life is too short to keep things on the shelf... having said that, though, I ended up putting a beauitful concertina notebook with a red button clasp which Fire Bird sent me in the china cabinet until I was worthy to use it! But you should have no such inhibitions...

Lucy, your concertina notebook sounds gorgeous, just the thing to display on a shelf! Oh, but I do have inhibitions, which is why it's taken so long to do the first sketch. Life has been rather hectic lately and I haven't done more....