Give it a go: Coastal sketching

Winter days may be short, but the coast is just as beautiful – and often more dramatic – in the colder months. Wrap up warm and get creative with Illustrator Jessica Hogarth
Illustrator Jessica Hogarth

Photo: Ceri Oakes Photography

For Jessica, art began at home: ‘My coastal upbringing has had an undeniable influence on my work. As a student, I did a project based on Robin Hood’s Bay, where I grew up, and fell in love with drawing higgledy piggledy coastal houses, wooden boats and fish.’ 

Whether you fancy visiting a new part of the coast, or you live by the sea and want to enjoy your local area in a new way, sketching is a great way of observing your surroundings differently, taking in colours, materials, objects, moods and themes that are unique to that area. 

‘A very cold winter’s afternoon when the seas are rough and there’s hardly anybody around will evoke such different emotions to a hot summer’s day in an area full of people making the most of the sunshine,’ Jessica says. 

‘It’s great to be able to sit back in the comfort of the studio and illustrate from photos I have taken, but drawing on location really makes me look hard at my surroundings and fully take in what’s there. The wooden buildings and colourful buoys spark ideas for colourways or repeat patterns, as well as one-off illustrations. I love expressing my personality through my work.’ 

To give those of us who left our doodling pencils behind at school a hand, Jessica gave us a few tips to unleash our own creativity.

Jessica Hogarth sketching in Sweden

Photo: Jessica Hogarth

Jessica sketches in Astol, Sweden

Jessica, what if ... 

... I can’t draw at all? 

‘Everyone can draw one way or another – it doesn’t have to be lifelike! There are no mistakes: some of the results you will be happy with, and others you won’t. You will learn to create in a way that suits you and plays to your strengths, and it’s fun figuring out exactly what they are. You’ll hone your own style as you practise. Play around with different materials like paint, chalk, felt tips or ink and I think you will soon start to enjoy creating art. Don’t be precious; just get some ideas down on paper!’ 

… I don’t know how to put what I see on paper? 

‘Start with a few short sketches while you’re out and about, take photos of things that catch your eye, then draw from these with your own twist, an artistic impression.’ 

… I don’t have the materials? 

‘I create the majority of my artwork with a fine liner pen before colouring it digitally, so I would always recommend just using pens! Black ink and various brushes are great tools for just loosening up and getting some marks down on paper, but you might feel more comfortable just with a pencil and paper.’

… it’s cold outside? 

‘Wrap up warm and try giving yourself time restrictions. Timed drawings are a really good way of challenging yourself to create artwork freely and quickly. Alternatively, sit yourself in the window of a cosy café that has a great view and enjoy a cup of something warm while gazing out of the window and drawing what you see.’ 

Stay safe while exploring the coast

  • Be wary of all edges around the sea and waterside. Slips and falls happen in all locations – it is not just high cliff edges that are a risk. 
  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. 
  • Always take a means of calling for help. 
  • Take care if walking in dark or slippery conditions.
Jessica Hogarth Ocean printed tea towel from RNLI Shop
A patterned tea towel, illustrated by Jessica Hogarth

If you’re inspired to try coastal sketching, we’d love to see your work! Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.  You can also see Jessica Hogarth’s exclusive Ocean pattern range, from tea towels to sticky notes, at