Student blog

Arty adventures after university

Well, I’m officially a graduate now. That’s exciting isn’t it! I’m not sure if the realisation has sunk in properly yet, despite attending my graduation ceremony last month (It rained on that morning – typical British weather).

I’ve really been enjoying the freedom of drawing outside of university briefs. During the degree, I would always plan to do my own work alongside university work, but I never quite managed it. Managing and juggling different art projects at once requires a certain kind of discipline, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t manage it (not many people do). Perhaps set aside some time during the holiday period to do a bit of your own drawing.

Planning a day out and aiming to produce some observational sketches is a good habit to get into. If you’ve been invited out somewhere, like a museum, a gallery or even the beach, pack a sketchbook (as well as sun lotion!) You never know what might catch your eye or inspire a drawing. It will also hone your observational skills.

Ballio College by Katie Briggs

A drawing from an early summer trip to Oxford. I wandered around the quiet and peaceful Balliol college grounds and did a few sketches. This is done in biro, black calligraphy brush pen and watercolour.

An observational drawing can act as a memento of your day and can stand alone, or in a group of drawings done on the same day. They may be part of a holiday journal if you wish to continue the series.

However, these sorts of small projects are open-ended, so they’re perfect if you’re short of time. It’s better to do one-off projects rather than setting yourself an almighty task during your degree.

My friends garden by Katie Briggs

My friend's garden - drawn on some pre-prepared pages in my sketchbook using pen, biro and watercolour.

You could also do “a sketch a day” sketchbook, a project I’ve mentioned previously. If you set yourself the task of achieving a sketch every day, you can very quickly fill a sketchbook. You will have put in the minimum effort, but have a whole project to show for it, and you will have left plenty of time for university work.

It’s now July and the summer seems to be whizzing by. It has been lovely to be able to do my own art without worrying about making a start on my dissertation (as I was this time last year).

I’ve been on a holiday to the Isle of Wight for a week which was wonderfully relaxing, staying in a little self-catered cottage in the middle of a tranquil sub-tropical garden. The only breach of the peace was the sound of red squirrels scampering across the roof whilst I was trying to get to sleep! I didn’t even get to see a red squirrel until the last day - they are surprisingly elusive.

Ventnor Botanical Garden by Katie Briggs

Ventnor Botanical Garden - it was very calming and relaxing here. I sat myself by the pond and started painting. I even saw another artist sitting opposite me - it's nice to see other people sketching when you're out and about.

I enjoyed visiting such tourist attractions as Shanklin Chine, Godshill and Osborne House. However, it’s normally the quieter spots that inspire me the most. I particularly enjoyed visiting and drawing scenes at Mottistone, a National Trust property and garden, and Ventnor Botanical Gardens. These places often have more free benches to sit on whilst drawing too.

Mottistone garden by Katie Briggs

Mottistone garden - there is a grass maze in the foreground with a stone as a marker in the middle. I drew the outline on location and added colour later, with the help of a photograph.

I try to carry a small selection of drawing materials with me, mostly to ease the weight. I normally pack a mechanical pencil, a selection of pens (including a white gel pen – surprisingly useful), a water brush or two and a watercolour tray to add a splash of colour. Sometime I prepare sketchbook pages first with some textured paper or a bright block colour to work on top of. I then choose the page to match the subject matter and style I’m going for.

Mottistone by Katie Briggs

Some of the steps up into the garden at Mottistone - this was drawn on a pre-prepared sketchbook page. I used biro and watercolour on top of the block colour background and it seems to have given my drawing a kind of dream-like quality.

Mottistone Manor House and lower garden by Katie Briggs

Sometimes I don't fill a whole page with a drawing, but instead leave a gap if I want to capture something small later, as I did here with the daisies.

This summer’s adventures continue...

Most recently, I went on a “sketchcrawl” with a group of artists called the Urban Sketchers. I’d heard about the group in a fascinating book named “Sketch Your World” written by James Hobbs, who discusses sketchcrawls in one of the chapters. The book is all about location drawing and contains some very helpful tips.

The sketchcrawl I joined was based in Oxford for the day, but more usually the group meet somewhere in London. Their website, including information about upcoming sketchcrawls, can be found at:

It was a very good experience and one that I would recommend to any fellow artist. It was a great opportunity to meet and network with other artists, share tips and drawing materials etc. It’s also a good way of making new friends too!

I spent most of the day drawing near the Radcliffe Camera and most of the time sketching on my own, but met up again with all the sketchers at lunchtime. I later split off with a few people that I’d got chatting to over lunch.

Oxford by Katie Briggs

Some studies of Oxford - the large stone heads near the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Radcliffe Camera. Drawn in fineliner with a watercolour wash.

If you need a change of scene, or a fixed day where you can be very focussed on observational drawing, then joining a sketchcrawl is a great way to do this.

Radcliffe Square by Katie Briggs

A further study of Radcliffe Square - a view looking towards the High Street.

Sketch books by Katie Briggs

These are some of the sketches produced by the group on our sketchcrawl day. At the end of the day we spread all of the sketchbooks out on the floor to share our work and discuss it with each other.

Well, that’s it from me. This is the last blog post I shall be writing here on UCA’s student blogs site. I shall continue to produce my own work alongside my first proper paid job which begins in September. My Behance profile can be found at: 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for this blog. It’s stretched my writing skills and has been a great way of sharing my views and my passion for art and design. I wish all the current students at UCA the best of luck in their courses and to all my fellow graduates for their futures. I highly recommend anyone with artistic flair to take up a creative pursuit – it can be great fun, and very rewarding!


Katie Briggs

Artist, illustrator and creative spirit!


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