Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Courtney Wotherspoon

As we continue with this month’s special round-up of Sketchbook Sneak Peeks, it is with great pleasure that I share one of my new favorite artists: the illustrator and lifestyle designer Courtney Wotherspoon. I stumbled upon Courtney’s work by chance while browsing the work of alumni from my alma mater, the Brooklyn-based Pratt Institute. I fell immediately in love with Courtney’s beautiful illustrations and the way she seamlessly blends a number of different media, from delicate line work in pencil to bold swaths of colorful paint. Since graduating in 2004 and moving to Toronto, Courtney has amassed an impressive list of clientele. Her fabulous illustrations have been featured in such publications as The New York Times, NYLON, SPIN, and Uppercase Magazine. You can purchase some of Courtney’s art and designs on her web shop here. Check out a special look into Courtney’s sketchbooks and some of her own thoughts about sketchbook keeping after the jump! —Max

Why do you use a sketch book?

The sketchbook acts as a great landing pad and depository of doodles, drawings and ideas. When I’m working on specific projects, I typically organize jobs by way of individual clipboards and their accompanying drawings and sketches are kept together there. The sketchbook is where everything else goes. The stuff I’m not currently working on (but wish I were), the images that don’t get to live in a specified ‘job’, all the rogue drawings and experiments with materials. It’s a motley crew when I see multiple pages side by side, but I guess that’s the idea. It’s where my different styles and materials all come out to play.

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

Pens, Uni-Ball Deluxe Micro, always black. Sometimes a blue ballpoint pen sneaks in if I can’t find my favourites.

Cut paper bits and glue stick, Derwent HBs and 2Bs that I end up sharpening down to the size of golf pencils, and sometimes a brush and acrylic ink, though I often don’t want to wait for it to dry before I turn the page and move on the next.

I started off filling large sketchbooks, upwards of 11″ x 14″, where I attempted to fill and complete entire ‘pieces’. Over the years, I’ve gone smaller and smaller and am now usually in a 5″ x 7″ or a mini 3″ x 5″ Moleskine. Some pages will be filled with colour, cutouts and imagery and others might just hold a single solitary pencil line.

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?

Food and packaging products, lettering and typography, funny looking faces and wrinkly hands, some prints and repetitive patterns; I’m typically just looking around me and drawing what strikes me rather than creating images from of my imagination. Whether it’s a page from a magazine, a tree in my backyard, or a beautiful building on a trip, I like to stay rooted in some sort of reality. It allows me to work on my actual drawing and ‘seeing’ and not get too caught up in concept – which can sometimes put too much pressure on the sketchbook. When it comes to the sketchbook, I like to just do what comes naturally, and oftentimes I need to sit down and think too hard for conceptual sketches to fill the pages. A lot of notes, ideas, and lists tend to creep in as well, so they usually all end up being hybrid sketchbook/notebooks. Grocery lists and a drawing of Lady Gaga living side by side. Sounds about right!


  1. I love this post! Its inspiring me to keep sketching, thanks

  2. I love sneaking a peak in someone’s sketch book, so much fun!

  3. Julian Hazlett says:

    Very inspiring.

  4. Such beautiful work!

  5. So glad you introduced me to Courtney…I love her work and what motivation to get back to sketching. Thank you!

  6. msjordankay says:

    moleskine sketchbook texture is so inviting oh yeah! lovely sketchin’s

  7. Loretta Heuer says:

    I am so envious…no, more like in awe…of what I see in your and J&J’s sketchbooks. How lucky you are to have each other to spur and support each other’s work.

  8. Betsy Caldwell says:

    Beautiful work…i mean play?! And you write well too. Good for you!

  9. Devin says:

    Congrats Courtney! You’re an inspiration.

  10. Tricia says:

    Would love to see more sketchbook sneak peeks! Loved this post!

  11. Izzy says:

    This is such an great spin on your usual sneak peeks! It’s really interesting to see inside an artist’s sketchbook, it’s a bit like seeing into the cogs and springs of a clock

    One of my favourite artists, Marc Johns, has really great sketchbooks, you should feature him! This is his website : , and this is a post he did on his sketchbooks:

    Thanks for doing this round-up, it’s really inspiring!

  12. Emma Mortimer says:

    I love how Courtney glues objects into her sketchbook and doesn’t just limit herself to a pen. I can’t wait to start carrying my sketchbook around, I’m going to draw what I see in my daily life. Finding the beauty in little aspects of life will make for interesting sketches that will help my growth as an artist. Other artists inspire me that take something simple and make it into something so much more. Being a maker of visual art will help me to get across ideas in my head that cannot be expressed with words. Art speaks very loudly.
    -Emma Mortimer 8:10


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