Sketch Book Sneak Peek: Anna Emilia

If you’ve been a long-time reader of this site, you know that every Monday, we run a series of “Sneak Peeks“—inspiring photographic tours into some of our favorite homes. This month, however, as we celebrate a 31 days of all things color, we’ve been in an art frame of mind. We decided that, instead of just showcasing the inner workings of designers’ homes, we wanted to grant our readers an additional kind of sneak peek— into the sketchbooks of a few of our favorite artists. Some of them fill their sketchbooks with meditative doodles, exercises to rekindle artistic energy. Others use them to precisely plan out ambitious artistic projects. Whatever they case may be, anybody who has ever owned a sketchbook knows what a powerful tool they can be and what sort of promise their blank pages can hold. To kick off this month’s series of sketch book sneak peeks, we’re highlighting the work of one of our new favorite illustrators: Anna Emilia Laitinen. Hailing all the way from Finland, Anna Emilia’s work consists of beautiful, delicate line drawings and water colors, filled with life, warmth, and humor. You might also recognize her work from the header image for our very own Modern Etiquette column! After the jump, you will find 11 images from Anna Emilias handmade sketchbooks along with some of her own thoughts about her sketchbook process. —Max

Why do you use a sketch book?

Sometimes there is so much information to add to one image that collecting the ideas into a sketchbook page first makes it easier to see where to begin. Usually I know the feeling of the image with colours and forms, but the details that build the image might need more thinking. My sketchbooks are also my calendars and sometimes address books, too. They are diaries, with short sentences about my days and feelings, important chats with friends and lists about anything. Usually I paint the final images with watercolours, but my sketchbook images are drawn with a black pen. It is good that the sketches stay as sketches and are done with a different media, giving still enough space for the painting itself.

What are your go-to sketch book supplies? Are there any brands or media that you’re particularly drawn to?

Once I took a bookbinding class and ever since, all my sketchbooks have been created by myself. Even if they’re not the most pretty ones, I get the size and page numbers as desired and I can add my calendar to the end of the sketchbook easily. There might also be pockets or envelopes in the end to keep all the small notes and scraps of paper safe. And bows to keep the books closed.

Aside from preliminary sketches for larger projects, are there any things that you like to sketch just for fun? What are some things that you most frequently fill your sketch books with?

White paper gets filled with leaves of trees, flora and small wooden huts. There are also pressed plants that are picked from walks, dummies that I make of bigger projects before sending the final works, and even sewing patterns that I draw for my own clothes. Sometimes I need to rip pages off and then put them back, that is why there is also a lot of tape on some pages. If I’m feeling silly, there might also be a few talking and smiling cats.

  1. Those sketchbooks are going to be future collectibles for sure, especially since they’ll hail from the Internet when nearly everyone uploaded pictures, thoughts, words, but failed to put things down on paper, which will last far longer than anything in the ‘cloud.’ Anyhow, future collectors will look at these sketchbooks and wonder: who did these? They’ll do a reverse image search on Google just to learn more….

  2. Joy says:

    Wonderful new series Max! I love peeking inside Anna Emilia’s handmade sketchbooks. I’m inspired to find a bookbinding class and give it a go too. :-)

  3. Jenn Staz says:

    Love this series idea. I just drummed up the courage to start doodling and sketching myself.
    While I see that Anna Emilia creates her own sketchbooks, I would love if you could include information in the future about preferred type of sketchbook(s) and drawing utensil(s).
    Thanks for sharing Grace, and lovely work Anna Emilia!

  4. Beautiful and so inspiring.

  5. Cate Keesling says:

    What a lovely and inspiring sketchbook! Love this new feature!

  6. Gorgeous work. Lovely column. What an absolute treat to get a peek at how fellow artists work. You’ve certainly inspired me. Thank you.

  7. Nicola Cunha says:

    Thanks so much for the sneak peak! Gorgeous work!

  8. Lady Sippington says:

    Gasp! I’m transported into her world. *wow*

  9. I really love that she made her own sketchbooks. Loved taking book binding in school & use those skills everyday.

  10. Louise says:

    I love your sneaky peek posts. It’s fantastic seeing how an artists style is carried right through their work, even Anna Emilia’s choice of sketchbook seems so “her”!

  11. Sofia says:

    Love to see what is inside those sketchbooks- the whole world!

  12. Natalie Avery says:

    Oh my goodness, I just got into a huge bookbinding kick so this post is just dreamy to me. There’s just something about the act of making a book that really fulfills my creative urge. I’ve started by making journals and just taught my 8th grade class how to make them, but sketchbooks will definitely be my next project.

    Also, what a great idea for a series! DS, would y’all consider making it a more regular post, instead of just for a month? It’d be my new favorite!

  13. Bucky says:

    I love that she makes her own sketchbooks! I’m so picky about paper, I might have to start doing the same. Meanwhile, I’m dying from all the prettiness! Sigh…

  14. Judi Frost says:

    How refreshing, documenting with drawings and writings the most beautiful things in our lives. Sketchbooks are such wonderful makings by artists that we are so privileged to be able to visit through Design Sponge. Thank you.

  15. Bobbi says:

    Even before opening her sketchbooks, they are already art. Lovely!

  16. Love this new feature! Beautiful work.

  17. Polly Rowan says:

    These sketchbooks are beautiful!

  18. WSAKE says:

    how wonderful!

    i really love her work, so delicate and special…

  19. These are beautiful. Love the sketchbooks.

  20. Peta says:

    Anna is one of my favorite artists of all time. I’ve been visiting her beautiful blog for a few years. How divine to have a sneak peek at her sketchbooks here. So luscious and heartwarming.

  21. Amy says:

    i love this idea for a new series! and this first one is so good, well executed DS team. are the artists taking their own photos?I’m just curious, it would be neat to see how each one would choose to photograph their sketchbooks.

  22. I love this!! Do more sketchbook sneak peeks! Do more!!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      we will! stay tuned :)


  23. Emily says:

    Love this sneak peek into the mind of an incredible artist!

  24. i heart sketchbooks so! how lovely!!

  25. Joan Price says:

    Love the sketch books!

  26. Danielle says:

    Love love LOVE this piece! I actually have a yard of one of her beautiful textiles And find her work just magical. I would really like to know what her favorite pens are. A fine point black pen is golden for the type of work that she does. Thanks for this inspired entry… Hope you will be able to do more of a like nature in the future. :-)


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