Black and white abstracts

Dec 4, 2020


I loved working on these small abstracts – which slowly began to feel like boats. Working with ink and charcoal gives such a range of sensitive and bold marks.

I’m so excited I can’t sleep!

Oct 26, 2020


What a week! I launched my new six week online sketchbook course a week ago and I have been blow away with the work and comments.

I wake up thinking about my sketchbook.    This came at just the right time as we lockdown again.      So much fun – my head is buzzing!       My life started to change last Monday, thank you Karen !     It’s like entering a wonderland !    This course makes me sooo happy!      I can’t wait to see what is coming next!

Wow! I really underestimated how this course would be received. During these hard times many people have began to ‘feed their soul’ and do what makes them feel good, even just for a few hours a week. I know from my own experience that having an online tutor ‘in my studio’ really inspires me, so I am honoured to be teaching  such an enthusiastic group of sketchbook artists.

We artists know that we can be totally absorbed for days and weeks with our mark making, drawing and painting and that when we are in the zone nothing else comes into our heads.

Isn’t that a good place to be?

If you would like to be notified when this course runs again please follow the link

Are you jaded with ‘How to draw tutorials?’

Aug 15, 2020


Do you need to be able to draw to have a great sketchbook?

No, Non, Ochi, Nien, Nej, Nie, Hayir, Net, No!

I taught for many years in secondary school and 90% of the time I taught sketchbook development. I always found the most exciting books were from the ‘less able’ students, the ones who didn’t care, and were not able, to produce an A* technically beautiful sketchbook.

One of my favourite boys wanted to draw and paint a cockerel (rooster). He had chickens and a cockerel so he knew their character well. He was a reluctant attendee at school and came to art occasionally, I saw it as my job to try and motivate this boy, to find out what he was interested in, to find out about his world. He started to tell me about his cockerel and its character, his eyes lit up and he became animated and alive. I encouraged him to draw in his sketchbook with big bold bright crayons, and then we translated this into acrylic paint. The cockerel in his painting was quirky and squawky, strutting across the page, so full of life. I loved his painting, it reminded me of Picasso’s roosters –  and we know that Picasso wanted to draw with the freshness of a child. I do not have the work to show you, so here are the Picasso images that still remind me of my student.



I come from this school of thought – if we have a creative urge, if we can make marks patterns, lines, collage and paint, and this excites us and make us want to do more then we are so lucky. We are on the creative journey and this journey lasts a lifetime!

If we can keep this journey with us, on the move, in a bag on a table – in a sketchbook – this can be the first steps along the path. Over the years my own sketchbooks have become much more about mark making, and responding by developing the image in either a more realistic or  more abstract way – and having such fun doing it!

If this resonates with you, and you are ready to move on from ‘How to draw tutorials’ be sure to check out my online courses – from £25 to £290.

I also have short sketchbook news on instagram @concertinasketchbooks.


Too much equipment?

Aug 7, 2020

Do you take everything but the kitchen sink when you go sketching outside??

It may look like I have a lot of equipment here, but it all fits in a small rucksack.

If you haven’t joined one of my courses, and would like to know my basic kit for sketching outside, it will be in my next newsletter.  Just click here to subscribe

Too shy?

Jul 30, 2020

Are you still a bit shy when it comes to sketching on location?

Many people say to me ‘Oh I am not brave enough to sketch in public! What if someone looks at my drawing?’ I remember this feeling, closing my book quickly, pretending to be busy with my bag, turning away.

Facebook LIVE! Over 60 sketchbooks

Jul 22, 2020

So I did it, I dealt with technology and stage fright and managed two facebook live posts! 

I have spent many hours in a classroom in front of teenagers, so I should be fine, but knowing that facebook live can be seen around the world, and by peers and friends, who might be thinking ‘What is Stamper doing now?’ does make me a bit nervous!

With just my ipad and trusty tech assistant Richard, I shared my studio goings on and my sketchbooks.

In normal times visitors to Open Studios really enjoyed looking through my sketchbooks, over 60 books, from many years of traveling.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who joined me – over 4k views and 200+ comments! What a fantastic way to connect with people from around the world, I love it, it really is virtual travelling, not to the shady streets in Italy or the harbour front Auckland, but to the people actually living in these places, and chatting to them, sharing our love of art and making new friendships.

We may be locked down but in many ways we are reaching out more, and making new and different connections.

You can see my second live, my sketchbook tour here  

Keep up to date with my mailing list here

Free up your sketchbook and grow

Jun 22, 2020

This is my six week course that runs twice a year. If you are looking for a way to push your work forwards and find your own style, in a non-rigid way, with room to be independent and do your own thing, then this is the course for you.

There are six weeks of lessons, artists reference, and two zoom calls (£290). The next course will open for enrolment again in October 2024.

Take me to the information page for Free Up Your Sketchbook and Grow

Course opens again 6th November 2024.

If you have already signed up to one of my courses on Kajabi you can login here   Members login.  Please use the email that you originally signed up with. You can also ask for a password reset


Below you can also see/download the materials list

Free Up materials list PDF




All about my Online Sketchbook Courses

May 19, 2020

I have 11 exciting and creative online courses. They are on the Kajabi platform. It is easy to sign up with your email and a password, and that is all that you need to access the course.  In most of courses, once you’ve enrolled and paid, you have access to the course material forever! You can devour it all in one weekend or take things slow. It’s your choice! It is not a class that you join with the tutor each week, on my courses you watch the short videos, then have a go.

My courses are self paced; you can complete them in your own time. It may be a binge for a day, or spread over weeks. You log on and off when you want to. There is no weekly timetable.

Medium and Small Courses

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 1 – Buildings 

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 2 – Allotments/Gardens

Creative Concertina Sketchbooks 3 – Abstracts

Creative Concertina 4 – Figure/People

Creative Concertina 5 – Your Travel Journal

How wild is your garden? – A mini 25 minute lesson 

Collage The Street A mini 25 minute lesson 

A Simple Concertina Book A mini 25 minute lesson 

Larger Courses

Free Up Your Sketchbook and Grow 1Six week course to free up and develop a personal response

Free Up 2 – More Fun in Your Sketchbook

Free Up 3- Moving Out of Your Sketchbook


They are suitable for new artists and those more experienced artists who want to learn new techniques. I first started making them after touring the world ? (Sydney, Barcelona, Carcassonne, Whitstable, York, Cambridge 🙂) with a one/two day workshop using concertina sketchbooks in a fun, freeing way.

I like to share my techniques learnt over the years, I want to give you the tools and confidence to develop your books in a loose, creative, and often collage way. If you have a lovely new sketchbook and don’t know where to start on those pristine white pages then this is the course for you. You will learn how to use mixed media in your sketchbook, using many creative techniques and exciting mark making ideas. I want to help you free up and respond to the world around you.

My online courses are perfect if you find yourself too busy to attend classes and cannot find a suitable sketchbook class and you are happy to work around your own commitments

I divide courses  six/eight lessons with many 5-10 mini video lessons. In each short video I introduce new materials and techniques and as you go along you will build on the techniques learnt in the previous lesson.

Do I need to be able to draw?

My sketchbooks are much more about mark making and exciting surfaces, with as little or as much drawing as you like. Some participants draw lots, some collage lots. I do provide some pdf photographs for you to work from for inspiration, if you need them. I have included a lot more drawing in Creative Concertina 5- Your Travel Journal

What materials will I need?

You will use quite simple materials such as ink, collage papers, pva glue. I do not like to use a lot of fancy materials, that are difficult to source. The materials lists are based on my demonstrations and what I use, but of course you can develop these ideas with other materials. Links to suppliers are given on the course. The basics are: a concertina sketchbook (or you can make your own) posca pens, ink, gesso, spray bottle, pva glue, drawing pens, masking tape, collage papers, scissors, brushes, kitchen roll, sandpaper, pencils, magazines, glue, water soluble felt tip, sticky labels.

Which one should I do first?

I recommend that you start with Buildings or How Wild is my Garden so you can see the way I work, but you could jump in anywhere.

If you are ready to fall in love with concertina sketchbooks that enables continuous ‘drawing’ – page after page of changing scenes this may be just what you need.

You can see two small lesson sections  here

What others are saying

I am so glad I signed up for this. I have watched all the videos too and I think the course looks absolutely amazing. I need to purchase some bits and bobs and then I will be ready to go. I often include textiles in my work and I can see that there will be an opportunity to do this. Can’t wait to start.  Carol

Thank you! I have finally had a moment to go through the course. I teach sketching as well and LOVE your approach. I have told all my students about your work and could see having you come to Texas to teach at some point 🙂 Meanwhile, I am going to play with all the techniques that you showed us in this marvelous, user-friendly course. Can’t wait to sketch with you sometime–in the UK or here in the USA. Thanks again, 

Now I’ve watched once and taken notes and am so excited to begin! Will share in the facebook group as I go. Thank you, Karen, for this inspiring workshop! So glad I signed up for it. Jackie

Got so excited, couldn’t stop watching. Karen thank you for an inspirational workshop, time now to collect my ” toys” and supplies – and start exploring. Am a fairly experienced painter – but you have ignited my creativity to sketch and begin to explore my new home county of Rutland. A big thank you. Maggy

‘So pleased this online workshop has taken off. It’s really transformed my mindset to sketching’ Gillian

I’ve been looking at Karen’s work for quite a while and wondering how she achieved the effects in her concertina sketchbooks, so when the opportunity to find out came up, I jumped at the chance.

“And it was well worth the effort! I won’t give away Karen’s secrets – but I will say that she starts slowly to get us over the natural trepidation most of us feel. Dribbling ink and squirting it with water while it runs down five or six pages of the concertina must be a proven ice-breaker. After that it was just one bit of fun after another, involving PVA, gesso, frottage, markers, collage and some hard thinking.

I ended up with six pages of an abstracted townscape full of references to Crete. One of the fascinations of the concertina sketchbook is that as it’s folded, new compositions come into view.” Harry Bell

Loved every moment. Karen is such a generous tutor – so informative and helpful. One very happy student – thank you. xx ” Jude B

I was eagerly trying to soak up all the great techniques and info that you are willing to share with us.” Bernadette

“Thank you for very stimulating lessons. It Is very interesting how everyone interprets your instructions differently. I was somewhat out of my comfort zone as I normally like everything very ordered but there was a fantastic freedom doing the collage and I will definitely develop it further. Thank you for your time and enthusiasm.” Jane B

Allotments – Locked out

Apr 25, 2020

Over a month has passed since my last Allotments post, and the world has changed so much. I was so looking forward to drawing in the allotments, every month, throughout the year. There is a padlock and a social distancing notice on the gate now…

In the first couple of weeks of lockdown I tried to continue with work on progress, and of course it wasn’t really happening, but I made myself work big, and quick in acrylic. You can see in the first three photographs here. I worked from my Emily Ball studies, trying to recreate the energy and joy of mark making in paint.

I then started to recompose, cutting and tearing images, re-sticking to paper and wooden panels. And then I stopped.

Like many of you, I am sure, I flit between different projects. I began working on the small panels on the wall behind. They seemed to be just the right size, and with abstract compositions I began to get my mojo back. ?

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