Allotments development with Emily Ball

Feb 18, 2020

This week I spent three days working with Emily Ball.

It is a full on painting workshop for twelve artists that I organise every year, in February. Where else would you rather be on a grey weekend??

We were set homework –  a lot of drawing, which I had incorporated into my allotment studies.  We were encouraged to use these drawings to find our subject, not to copy them. I am happy and confident when making marks with the delights of charcoal, posca pens, inks and artgraf but slippery paint is a different beast and it takes time to learn it’s language. A lifetime!

Our job was to animate. I wanted to intensify the detritus of the allotment and tried to get the paint to give this back to me in a relevant language that is exciting and painterly. I am on the journey, but still lots to do!

Allotments – rip it up!

Feb 11, 2020

This week it has been finger numbing cold and now we are on the end of Storm Ciara, so I have focused on drawing from drawings, in my studio. Top right is upside down, but I quite like it this way.

All the images have another drawing ripped and collaged on top. I love the freshness that this brings, especially if the drawing is fine – but not exciting yet. It also opens up white space.

At the end of the week I remembered my Greek sticks! These can be found in abundance on a beach in Crete, they are mainly bamboo, I think. This little stubby root fits so snuggly in the palm of my hand. You can see little clips of these in action on my instagram @Karen_Stamper_Collage where I have been asked ‘Is that a chicken’s leg? A kangaroo arm??”?

Allotments 3 – colour mixing

Feb 4, 2020

The truth – I headed to the allotments at the beginning of the week, but boy was it cold! My fingers were numb before I got there and the plan was to colour match, in acrylic, on location. So I wimped out, collected a bag of leaves and branches and headed back to my studio.

A cup of tea, heater on, quick photographs taken I then set to trying to match the colours of my collection. What fun, just making marks and letting colours and shapes overlap, sit together and jump out from each other. This is just round one, there is a lot of matching to do yet!

Allotments 2 – juicy oil bars

Jan 28, 2020

January in Cambridge has been gorgeous, with big beautiful blue skies, little wind and low sunshine. Perfect for drawing outside, and I have rediscovered how much I love being outside, and in January of all months!

As well as mixing and matching colours on location I also collected a few plants and brought them back to the studio (do you remember the nature table at primary school?) What really suprises me is all the beautiful purples! Decadent damson, Melazane, Deepest plum, Pelt are some of the names from my paint sample cards.

On location I just took about 20 oilbars, big bold Sennelier bars (a gift from @Nicholaswilton and his @art2life programme – thank you!) They are soft and juicy, easy to work with when squatting in the allotments.

Again, I was totally absorbed, just me and the birds. Happy days!

New Year – New Project – Allotments 1

Jan 14, 2020

Do you live near some allotments?

I would really recommend that you take a little time for a walk through them – even in January! Even if you are not an artist the calm and quiet is wonderful food for the soul.

I am spending as much time as I can this month drawing in my local allotment. It is only five minutes away, I load up my bike with a box of drawing materials, pull on many layers of clothing (including a hat and fingerless gloves) and pedal off looking like an eccentric Cambridge artist!

Each February I spend three days working with Emily Ball, this year I am preparing for her workshop with these studies. All I am doing is getting to know my subject by repeatedly drawing, responding to the sights, smells and sounds around me. I don’t want to make nice drawings, I want to explore the scratchy bushes and alien like sprouts; the shy brides hiding under their veils, the balloon like bottles, the arching frames.

Every day I see more and more exciting shapes and lines, I am never disappointed. I urge you, go and have a look!

Online Creative Concertina Sketchbook courses

Jun 16, 2018

I have three short online Creative Concertina Sketchbook courses and one 25 minute lesson

NEW – A six week Free Up your Sketchbook course. Enrollment opens 1st October and closes 16th October

Each has six lessons, within each lesson are 2-5 mini lessons with short 2-5 minute videos.  To access the course you simply log in. You can complete it in your own time, a weekend or over many weeks, you can stop and replay as much as you need to.

When you click on the orange button below you can read all about the course, and watch a video, with no commitment. You can decide if this is the right course for you, then simply press the sign up button.

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 1 –  Buildings/Streets A great course to start with if you want to loosen up, but work with a subject

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 2 – Allotment/Gardens  This course builds on techniques learnt in Sketchbooks 1. I recommend that you take the first course to become confident, and so you will have all the techniques at your fingertips!

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 3 – Abstracts  Ideal if you want to create more abstract pages. You will develop your work with six starting points.

Creative Concertina – How Wild is Your Garden? This is the 25 minute lesson from Sketchbook Revival 20202. there are over 20 new techniques, not taught in previous courses.

A sketching break in Italy

Jan 10, 2018

Farindola, Abruzzo, Italy

A shy and secluded village clinging to a majestic mountain, Farindola lies on a hilly outcrop overlooking the high valley of the river Tavo. Farindola is 1 hour drive from Pescara (flights from Stansted) and 20 minutes from the small town of Penne. The village is famous for it’s cheese ‘Pecorino of Farindola’ See and listen a morning view here

In 2015 I spent two weeks in Farindola as an artist in residence along with 9 others as part of the first Farindola International Arts Festival. I fell in love with the people and the place, so I invite you to come back and sketch with me each September. Click to read my blog posting You can view more of my sketches on my Flickr page

My sketchbook holidays are for the independent sketcher who would like company too.

They are ideal for beginners who need motivation, as well as those with experience but looking for fresh inspiration. This is not a taught course, there will be no step by step demonstrations in one particular style; each morning we will wander to find our own viewpoints and then meet for lunch to share sketches and ideas. Afternoons are free for more sketching or exploring, followed by a get together to share ideas and techniques around 5pm.

The rewards are immeasurable, by being totally absorbed in a beautiful, stimulating  environment, with shared experiences and  ideas, you will broaden your horizons and open your eyes to new ways of sketching. My aim is to provide a break where you can sketch but in a supportive surroundings.

  ” I have produced more in 4-5 days than a whole year at home! It is amazing, I started the first morning a little apprehensive and by lunchtime I was totally absorbed. The time just flew by.”

Drawing on the sense of community and new friends, you will also find encouragement when you share your work and ideas with others.

            “I did not know what to expect from this holiday but I must say it has gone very quickly and was really special. It has provided me with an opportunity to break from my hectic routine and tune in to my creative side.”

This a short break from Saturday evening to Thursday. The best way is to arrive on the Ryanair flight Stansted to Pescara.

All you need to bring is your sketchbook and favorite drawing materials. I will have a small collection of materials too. From the village there are stunning views across the valley: in the village there are gorgeous crooked streets, two cafes, churches and so many roof top views.

Each day will start with breakfast, then it is sketching time until lunch. The afternoons are free for you to continue sketching or explore the area. There is an afternoon meet up time (5pm) to share sketches, ideas and techniques.. Early evening is the time for aperitifs and a well earned, wonderful dinner.

There are only two ‘hotels’ in Farindola. Rooms are booked first come first served. Both are up the hill from the main square, Altrocanto is 5 minutes gradual hill, Cuccomella another 10 minutes steady climb along the road.

Altrocanto, a beautiful boutique hotel with five double rooms, run by Thomas and  Marco, (bed and breakfast).  For three of the evenings we will eat together at Altrocanto, (four courses plus wine) leaving one evening free for you to choose.

La Cuccomella, a simple, clean friendly restaurant with rooms above and dramatic hill top views. views.


Dates for 2020

Sketchbooking in Farindola  Saturday 5th – Thursday 10h  September  ( Sketching Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)


Altrocanto 440 euros per person in own room.  380 euros per person – couple/two friends sharing

Apartment  4200 euros per person in own room. 360 euros per person   – couple/two friends sharing     

Prices include transfer, accommodation and three evening evening meals (four courses plus wine)

Prices are in EUROS

Extras: Flights (£60 – £150)  the best way to travel is Stansted to Pescra. Departing on the 6pm evening flight and leaving Farindola Thursday lunchtime. If everyone travels on this flight we meet in the departure lounge.

I have organised a transfer from this flight only. Pescara airport to Farindola



Creative Concertina Sketchbook workshops – 2020 New Dates

Dec 18, 2017


2020/21 New Dates

Oct 30th 2020 – Elm Farm Studio, Essex Streets and Buildings FULL

Nov 1st – Linton Village College, Cambridge Exploring techniques (Contact Karen) CANCELLED

Nov 11/12th 2020 Heath Barn Studios,Bromsgrove FULL

Nov 16/17th  2020 Stoneman Press, Saffron Walden (Contact Karen) ONE PLACE

May 5/6th 2021–  Lund Studios


The workshops are fun and hardworking, you do not need to prepare anything, just come along and develop your sketchbook pages in a supportive environment. We will work with inks, pens, pencils,paint and collage to develop 4-10 pages on the theme of buildings/streets/harbours. We will be responding to the collage elements and mark making, as in my sketchbooks.

Please contact me for more information

Sealed with a kiss

Aug 30, 2017

Sealed with a kiss   30 x 30 cm     Paper collage and acrylic on board   £425

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