A special little sketchbook, by David Dancey-Wood

My little black book.


Whenever I am approached by people at exhibitions or encounter collectors of my work there are many common questions I get asked over and over again. Some of the questions have been asked so much I grimace at the thought of them and now have permanent pre-written answers in my head. The most frequent being ‘How Long does a picture take you’ which I will deal with at another time. One question I am always happy to talk about is ‘Do you have any ideas for future work’. The reason this question appeals so much is because I know it is something that makes me think of a special little sketchbook I keep in my studio.



Many years ago I realised that as an artist, ideas do not flow on command and you can’t just pull something out of thin air when starting a new picture. There are so many considerations to put into play, the subject matter, the story, and above all the key ingredient, the composition. Having given it some thought I knew that ideas come at the most awkward times and have no rhyme or reason to their inspiration.


On many occasions, I will be unable to sleep and an idea will come to me at four in the morning or whilst driving to the shops. The trouble is, if you do not record them, they dissappear as quickly as they come to you.

This is why I started my little book of ideas, a sketchpad full of doodles, drawings, and notes recorded for future works. Some may see the light of day others will never come to fruition. What is nice though, is when someone asks if I have thought of a particular animal and I know it is ready and waiting in my book to be executed on a grand scale with all the trimmings.


I am sure this method is common for many artists and for those of you who are skilled in the way of the pencil it is something you should consider putting into practice as soon as you can. If nothing else it gives me a chuckle to sometimes skim through its pages and see how crazy some of the ideas are. Often I cannot believe how preposterous my ambitions have been with pictures that were way above my ability. When this is the case it gives me hope for the future in that the ideas that fall short today will be accomplished by a more skillful version of myself yet to come.

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