Stacey-Ann Cole -- A Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Stacey-Ann Cole. One of my other Sketchbook Conversations artists suggested I invite Stacey-Ann to share her story here and I'm so glad she agreed! I think you'll find what she has to say very inspiring. Here's Stacey-Ann's story:

My name is Stacey-Ann Cole and I’m an artist and illustrator who loves working with watercolour, enjoys experimenting with new media and learning new ways to be creative.

I keep a sketchbook as a safe place where I can go to, practise, experiment and be free from judgement, even from myself.  I’ve learnt that the key to a successful sketchbook for me, is to know that it doesn’t need to be seen by anyone else and that it can be a place where I’m kind to myself instead of beating myself up about the quality of my work.  I can make mistakes and it’s ok, that’s part of it’s function.  Some pages I like and some I really don’t but I usually find that I’ve learnt something regardless.

Stacey-Ann Cole, Sketchbook Conversations, Sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

When I start to show too many of my sketchbook pages on social media, in order to continue to be seen and not forgotten as we are encouraged to do in business, I notice that I start to feel anxious about my work.  This takes the freedom and enjoyment and playfulness away from my art practice and that is obviously not a good thing. Worrying about what others think is such a treacherous path to go down especially as a creative because if we are in business, our work has to be seen in some form.  We have to promote ourselves in some way.  But my sketchbook needs to be a refuge or I feel a bit lost and unhappy about my work.  I’ve learnt to be careful when I share my sketchbook pages.  If you are lucky enough to be confident to show your work regardless of whether you think it’s good or not, then that’s great and I admire that, but many of us are too fragile to handle it if we are don’t get that validation.

I have been working in sketchbooks for as long as I can remember.  It wasn’t a ‘thing’ like it is now, it was just a place where I went to practise drawing because I loved it and wanted to put the images and ideas in my head down on paper.  And one important thing is that my sketchbooks didn’t always take the form of an actual formal sketchbook.  One old sketchbook is actually a stack of plain white papers that are held together by bulldog clips and I remember using that at school.  My mum also gave me my old school exercise books from primary school that have my little drawings in them.  I think it’s important to not get stuck on what a sketchbook should look like, make it your own, use whatever surfaces you like.  I think it’s more important to focus on the practise of creating and using your intuition, rather than trendy books and supplies.

Stacey-Ann Cole, Sketchbook Conversations, Sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

Those early drawings are a wonderful record of my journey as an artist.  I love looking back on my old sketches and drawings to see how far I’ve come and what was streaming out of my head through my hands when I was a kid, when I was in my twenties etc.  Now it has also become essential to my work and practice as an artist and illustrator.

I am inspired and motivated by anything and everything!  Pinterest is great when I’m online doing research and so is Instagram.  I love following all kinds of creative people whether they are artists or illustrators or not as there is always something you can learn from others and their process.  A wonderful photograph can be so inspirational to me but so can seeing the process of someone making ceramic pottery.  I’m inspired by anything that can create an emotion in me, song lyrics, melodies, tv shows, films, conversations.  Images often come flooding into my head randomly and I need somewhere to put them. I find for myself that I just have to be open to everything as a source of inspiration.

Stacey-Ann Cole, Sketchbook Conversations, Sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

My favourite media have usually been a simple pencil, black ink pen and watercolour paints and they still are, but through taking online classes I’ve discovered that I love exploring with other media now too, either to use alongside watercolours or on their own.  I love drawing and linework, I love using paint pens, gouache, acrylics paints, loads of stuff. I just love experimenting and my sketchbook is the perfect place to do these explorations.

If you're just starting out my advice would be to keep your sketchbooks as a safe place for you and you alone.  Be careful of always needing the validation of others.  Only show them if your ready and just know that you don’t ever need to if you don’t want to.  You don’t have to share it online or with other people at all and if you start feeling anxious about what other people will think or how well your sketchbook pages will be received or how pretty it is, then it may be time to get back to keeping it private.  Write in it, draw in it, collage and play, pour yourself into it and make it into whatever you need for it to be at that time.  As I mentioned above, don’t be intimidated by trendy sketchbooks and art supplies as it can often be best to just start with what you have until you feel more confident.

Stacey-Ann Cole, Sketchbook Conversations, Sketchbooks, My Giant Strawberry

It’s there to support you and as creatives, we really need anything that can support our creative lives.  It can morph and change as you need it to, it doesn’t have to look a certain way or be called a certain thing, like an art journal or a sketchbook or a scrapbook. Make sure its easily accessible, on your desk or wherever you work, grab it and jot down your ideas, do a quick drawing or go to town and do a double page spread using all your supplies! Just use it and don’t get hung up on how it should look.  

Thank you Stacey-Ann for sharing your sketchbooks and your story here with us today.

Dear reader you can connect with Stacey-Ann on:

  • Instagram:  @sacoleart
  • Facebook: 
  • Twitter: 
  • Website: 

Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews

*Photos in this post ©Stacey-Ann Cole. Used with permission.


  1. I loved this Anne and Stacey! The lion and the mane variants and the use of light and shade in the watercolour portraits and the tiny pencil sketched boy and girl made me want to squeal with delight! I really enjoyed this sketchbook conversation and the view that we don't need to seek validation from anyone or publicly share that which we create. Being open to everything as a source of inspiration is great advice. So often I say I am inspired by nature (which I am) but I am also inspired by many things or inspired by people too! :)

    1. So glad to know that you enjoyed yet another Sketchbook Conversation, Simone.

      Thank you for being here!!

  2. I love reading about artists and their sketchbooks. I agree with Stacy-Ann that a sketchbook can be a refuge and that showing it on social media can be tough. It's taken me many years to get over that and I'm still working on it! I love your work, Stacy-Ann and feel grateful that you have shared it here on Anne's blog.

    1. Thank you, Judy! I'm so glad you enjoyed this post and the other Sketchbook Conversations, too.


  3. Thank you Simone and Judy for your lovely comments :-)


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