I am so proud to have been one of the founding students at Sketchbook Skool, much as I still struggle with the spelling! Even when klass is run in the kloud (yes, in this klass we have to use “k”s), I run true to form – the student who doesn’t put her hand up in klass, but who sits quietly and as invisibly as possible, watching and doodling and soaking everything in, in that naturally introverted kind of way. So I suppose it is odd that it is the community aspect of Sketchbook Skool that has really made it special for me.

Sketchbook Skool is where I have found “my peeps” – kindred souls who love art for the process as much as the outcome – for the sheer joy of putting pen, or pencil, or brush, or anything really, to paper. We include artists from all sorts of backgrounds, age groups, skill levels and interests, and between us we have an enormous (and eagerly discussed) stash of art materials. Where else can you hear the merits of every single kind of sketchbook, the way they feel as you turn the pages, the joy (and fear) of facing that first blank canvas, and tips on the best bag to pack your materials in while surreptitiously sketching in a cafe? Where else will 200 people join in to excitedly talk about their latest (or cheapest, or oldest, or most worn out) fountain pen, the best nib for drawing a piece of fruit, and the sighs and groans as they find (too late) that the ink wasn’t actually as waterproof as they expected …?

I love the videos that every klass brings. I loved seeing Danny Gregory draw a piece of toast. I could have hugged Prashant Miranda as he sketched in India, painting with water from a rockpool, and then played us a song on his guitar. I was as proud as every other founding student when one of our favourite klassmates brought his Tintin inspired magic to Storytelling. I, like pretty much everyone else, have been inspired by Tommy Kane and his intricate drawings that put life into the everyday. Who else could possibly motivate thousands of people to spend hours creating intricate pen drawings of their kitchens?

I love the tips. I love the inspiration. I love the sketchbook tours. I love the fact that it is not predictable, and that what you get out of it is much more than just techniques. It is not about becoming fine artists. It is about the sheer joy and comradeship and mindfulness that sketching can bring to you. It makes us all equals, and it makes us laugh like little kids discovering puddles for the first time.

And I love the fact that these wonderful and inspiring artists are not the loud people who usually attract all the attention. I love that they all have their stories, parts of their lives that makes them special and bring meaning to their work, and which connects them to us in a very real way. I like that some of them are shy, or sensitive, or anxious, and not full of themselves. It is a very gentle, yet colourful, kindness that is being shared. As I said, I feel these are “my peeps”, and I love being amongst them, even if it is not in the same room.

But wonderful as all these teachers are, it is the community of students, who are in their thousands throughout the world now, that blows my mind. I have never been interested in Facebook. But suddenly I am. Suddenly I find myself admiring all these wonderful sketches – and especially the stories behind them. I recognise local landmarks, and experiences that I have been through too. What were the odds of someone drawing a story about their expatriate childhood in Holland that almost seemed exactly like my own? Lynn Cohen, who I drew in this picture, is just one of those thousands, a “klassic” Sketchbook Skooler if ever I have seen one. She shares her adventures, her sketches, her learnings, and inspires lots of conversations. She wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap (it is hard to know lurkers like me!) and yet she, like many others, inspires me almost every day.

So that is the community that is Sketchbook Skool. My peeps. And no, even though I have managed to throw in way too many “k’s, I will NOT be adding one to “community”!

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