Landscape Sketching in the Highlands

dunvegan sketchpad

After a long drive we arrived at Laundry cottage in the pitch black, the only sound was running water from the nearby waterfall.

There had been a few minor worries en-route, slight overheating, suspicious drips from under the car and the Sat-Nav had given up the ghost but we were here…and the pack of shortbread left as a welcome gift was quickly consumed!

It was only the next morning we truly appreciated the setting we were in.

Surrounded by lochs, mountains in the distance and a spectacular view of Dunvegan Castle out of the cottage window…

Laundry cottage

Laundry Cottage, Isle of Skye, Scotland


View from Laundry Cottage window of Dunvegan Castle

Sketching on Location

It was a fantastic sunny morning so thought I’d take advantage and get out on the road sketching around the Isle of Skye.

When I sketch on location I like to approach it quite loosely and often use pens rather than pencils.

I have a mix of pens that mirror the choices and techniques I use when I build up a painting, so instead of a thin round brush I would use a fine line pen and likewise would use a brush pen for thicker, darker textural areas.

It’s worth mentioning that I usually use my sketches like a quick snap-shot of the scene, they’re not intended as final pieces but the aim is to get my eye tuned into the subject I’m looking at.

Instead of taking a photograph first and then making a sketch from that, I use the sketchbook like my camera viewfinder. Once I’ve established that a sketch ‘works’ compositionally, I take shots for colour references or more details I might need later for the painting.

Armed with the sketches and photographs, I can then head back to my studio to work up a more finished piece.

Selective Sketching

When you’re deciding on a scene to paint you naturally become more selective if you know you’re going to be spending the time drawing it – rather than taking a quick photograph.

The tendency can be to take hundreds of photographs thinking you will decide what to paint later on, however, making the decision when you are on location is a much more productive approach.

The one critical thing to remember is no matter how short the time that you’re actually sketching, be it one-minute or one-hour, you subconsciously absorb so much more of the atmosphere and feeling of the space around you when you draw it.

When I look back at my sketchbooks of the past I can be instantly transported back to the smells, the noises and sounds from that environment.

This is not to be underestimated because when you’re back in your studio you’ll never be able to conjure up the sense of time and place purely from a photographic reference, even though you think you will when you are on location.

A drawing no matter how sketchy, will be invaluable.


sketching will kemp

For the sketch above I used a mix of Faber-Castell PITT pens, a Micron Fine Liner 0.3 and a Pental Brush Pen.

The Pitt pens come in a range of different greys that can be perfect when you’re sketching with the end goal of a painting. You can use them to add tonal blocks of warm or cool to give you a subtle idea of how the landscape feels and quickly establish the tonal hierarchy.

I used a black pen and then a warm grey and a cool grey always looking for the shapes, spaces and the differences between lights and darks.


Faber Castell PITT Artist pens

passing place skye


on the way to coral beach

I was keen to explore the rest of the coastline so we took a walk out to Coral Beach, this is a beautiful area on the North of Skye.

What’s fascinating is the walk to the beach is very green, mountainous with stunning views across water and then it appears, hidden within the greenery that surrounds it  – a brilliant white beach made up of tiny shells and hard seaweed called Maerl, crushed by the waves and bleached by the sun.

coral beach from afar

Coral Beach

coral beach sands sketching

coral beach sands

sketching at coral beach closeup

With this sketch on Coral Beach I started off with a soft pencil and then worked on top with the pen. The sketch initially started just on the right-hand side of the sketchbook and I was focusing on the shape of the headland in the distance. I then extended to the whole of the spread of the sketchbook so it had more of a panoramic feel to it.

However, as the sketch progressed it began to feel very flat and didn’t really capture the essence of the space, this is what is so handy about sketching – not all sketches come out as you first imagine them, but they can be very helpful in saving you wasted time in the studio because you are shortlisting the views and scenes as you sketch.

coral beach sandscloseup


The bottom pen in the image above is a Pental brush pen that has a refillable ink reservoir just like a fountain pen. The brush pen can give you more of a broken line effect rather than just hard lines of the fine liner pens.

sketch coral beach

scottish seaweed

on the beach

On our way to the Weavers Cottage

We had a break from sketching to explore more of the island and Vanessa seemed to have an inbuilt homing device towards anything wool, woven or tweed.

Having come across a particularly beautiful blanket in a gift shop, the label ‘Powered by Pedal’ piqued our interest to track down the creators.



andrea and roger

The Skye Weavers Andrea and Roger have built a bicycle pedal-powered loom creating a variety of woollen products including scarves, blankets, throws, wraps and even tweed.

It was exciting to see traditional craftsmanship being kept alive and Andrea and Roger was so welcoming and generous with their time.


Whilst Vanessa enthusiastically perused the studio and shop, I couldn’t resist taking some photos around the workshop as there were so many interesting textures, shapes and subjects and the light was great.

weavers workshop

pedal power

The Pedal Power Loom

weavers at skye

weavers loom

coral beach skye weaversWe left clutching our new blanket that had been inspired by the colours and textures of Coral Beach

neist point

Alongside sketching, shortbread eating and seal spotting, I also did some location shooting for a new video course on ‘Sketching the Landscape’.

I feel really excited to be taking some of the drawing techniques out of the studio into the countryside.

My aim is to help you progress from sketching in the comfort of your own home to understanding how to compose and balance landscape scenes in vast surroundings and tackle all of the problems that occur with it.

When you learn how an initial expressive sketch can be developed into a more finished piece, you can start to develop your own style and grow in confidence for sketching outdoors.

will kemp sound

staffin island sketching

We even had time for a well deserved beer at The Three Chimneys.

Pro tip: The Hot Marmalade Pudding with Drambuie Custard comes highly recommended.


Isle of Skye Brewery – Skye Red

three chimneys

croft house

dunvegan sketching

dunvegan loch

dunvegan birds

I couldn’t resist a trip to Plockton, it really is a magical place that never fails to impress. Palm trees grow in the surrounding gardens and small boats mill in and out of the sheltered bay.

It was nice to visit again after it had been the inspiration for the Impressionistic Seascape Course.

plocton harbour


Plockton, Wester Ross, Scotland

plocton sketching the harbour

plockton sketch

I easily lost three hours sketching and photographing around the bay, every time you take a few steps and look up the view has changed. (Vanessa finally tracked me down smiling ear to ear holding aloft a new pair of hand knitted mittens.)

plockton blue

(p.s. the Landscape Sketching Course is now available, you can read more here)

This Post Has 236 Comments

  1. Can’t wait to see your new course “Sketching the landscape”. Often I think about sketching what I see when I’m out and about, but i’t always feels like it would just take me forever to finish a drawing. Would love some inspiration to do some quick sketching. BTW I love the images you have posted in this article…

    1. Thanks Lea, really pleased you enjoyed the images and when you’re sketching outside try not to feel pressured to create finished drawing every time, often it can even just be a few lines that can make all the difference.

  2. Thanks for sharing your trip Will! I now know why it is so important to take the time to make sketches and you have given me some great tips on how to do it properly.
    You said, “my aim is to get my eye tuned into the subject.” I am going to try and remember that when I am doing my sketches on location.

    1. You’re welcome Jenny, yes just taking those few moments for your eyes to tune in can be so helpful, often it will be a case of doing a few 30 seconds long sketches and then slowly increasing the amount of time sketching as you get more into the flow.

  3. Fantastic pictures and sketches thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Chrissy, pleased you enjoyed them.

  4. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Love all about your trip
    You are a great source of inspiration .
    Just back from a week painting on achill island but your website really helps me

  6. Thank you for sharing. Love the info and the photos.
    It reminds me of the dreary and beautiful west coast of BC where I am today.
    All the best,

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your trip Will. It looked so inspiring and your Pics are so sharp. I don’t know why I do not work outdoors very often because it is such an all encompassing experience. Thanks. jane F.

    1. Thanks Jane, pleased you enjoyed looking through the pics.

  8. Ha ha ha ~ love the pro tip :) sounds yummy!
    Vanessa’s shopping sound pretty good too. Great article ~ thanks! What a very beautiful place!! Looking forward to the ensuing course (if I can work paypal!!)
    Once again, thanks for the generous supply of info and inspiration :)

    1. Well spotted Carol! hope you’re doing well.

  9. Oh my! A piece of heaven indeed. Thank you as well for sharing the lovely photos. And….for the upcoming course. I am wanting to begin sketching and even doing a bit of acrylic painting out doors and this is timely.

    1. You’re welcome Dianne, really pleased you enjoyed looking through them.

  10. absolutely beutiful..thank u for the pics im overwhelmed..i love nature
    .thanks for the inspiration…hope i could start painting soon as im on holidy in oman currently.thank u for sharing ur wonderfl experience s.god bless…rashida.

  11. THANK YOU, Will….
    You re The Best!
    It is wonderful that you give to us so freely of your interests, drawings, travel photos, ‘inside information’, etc., etc. I know it will all come back to you 10-fold. THAT is what makes you so successful. Please don’t ever stop for God is really Blessing you, and in turn, Blessing us.
    Thank You Again,
    Conway, South Carolina

    1. Thanks very much Juanita, very kind of you to say so. Really pleased you enjoyed the photos,

  12. Thank you for sharing your images Will. My friend lives in Inchture and I have yet to be able to visit Scotland. Now I get a glimpse through your eyes! I’m starting to feel more comfortable with not worrying about drawing the detail so much and just getting the initial shapes in landscapes. Thank you for the constant inspiration! XO

    1. Hi Lori, that’s exactly right, sketching can be such a great tool just to get the basic feeling of lines in of a view, trying to think too detailed can easily lead to overwhelm, and not starting a sketch at all.
      Hope this helps,


  13. Thanks Will for sharing your photos and sketches and infinite wisdom as usual. I love the pics and the sketches. I always enjoy any thoughts you have regrading composition and how to go about approaching a painting whether it be in the studio or outdoors. You share valuable insights and I so greatly appreciate that. So glad you had a wonderful trip and had a great time in Scotland.
    Warmest Regards,

    1. Hi Maria, lovely to hear from you and hope you’re doing well with your paintings. Really pleased you enjoyed the pics.

  14. Hello Will,
    Thanks for sharing those breathtaking views of a land I will never get to see in person. You are indeed blessed. Thank you, too, for the inspirational instructions regarding sketches and pens to use. I look forward to your wonderful emails and totally enjoy following your lessons on ArtTudor. Thank you. Laurel

    1. Hi Laurel, thanks for your kind words, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials.

  15. Thanks Will for sharing your great pic’s and your generous advice!

    I am planning my first trip to England and Scotland next May and am so excited especially after seeing these beautiful pictures of some of the spots on my wish list.

    I’ve even told my husband he is welcome to golf at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Turnbury just so that I will have more sketching and picture scouting time.

    You have given me extra vision on how to better capture those special locations!

    Thanks much!



    1. Great to hear it Yvonne, sounds like a fab trip you’ve got planned. Pleased you’ve found the article helpful.

  16. Hello Will from Australia,

    What an exquisite album, thank you so much for sharing all your photos.
    AND, thank you immensely for the detail in how you go about drawing from a live landscape and the tools you use. Such a font of information.

    I’m enjoying and greatly improving my drawing skills after purchasing 2 of your drawing courses.

    Most of all however, my desire to sketch and paint has returned after a decade hiatus.

    I was in that part of the world in May this year and the scenery has to be seen to be believed – incredibly beautiful and stunning.

    Deep gratitude for your kindness and caring. All the best,


    1. Hi Gloria, nice to hear from you and really pleased you enjoyed the article, great to hear that your drawing has improved from working through the courses and you’re feeling inspired to return to sketching and painting.

  17. Hi

    It’s so interesting to see where you went and to learn how you work.



    1. Thanks Chris, pleased you found it informative.

  18. Thank you , Will for the helpful tips re sketching and the tools you use.
    I’ve been using the camera only to get what detail I thought I needed. The combination of the two, camera and sketching is what I need to do.

    1. Hi Camille, yes, combining the two can make a big difference. Pleased it helped.

  19. Timely, timely. I’m leaving in two days for my annual beach trip. I wasn’t going to take a sketchbook because I’m such a hopeless sketcher, but will now. I’ve been relying only on photos before now. Your sensible approach and detailed info about best tools makes a list I’ll use in the local art store tomorrow. Thanks. LLH

    1. Perfect timing Linda, yes it’s definitely worth packing the sketchbook even if they just really simple line sketches. Enjoy your beach trip!

  20. ” I also did some location shooting for a new video course on ‘Sketching the Landscape.'”


    On a related note, what kind of sketchbooks do you like to use”

  21. Wonderful blog here Will. It’s a beautiful place. I know it well as I’m Scottish and visited there many a time in my youth. I really like your sketches.

    1. Thanks Lesley, yes is really is lovely, pleased you liked the sketches.

  22. Great tips – especially the Marmalade pudding…mmm! Lots of useful information here Will. I love the way you use markers instead of pencil. Does this mean that it is easier for you to exaggerate colour, or use the photographs as a hint of what you will eventually paint? I have just started using marker pens to roughly sketch my compositions and find it a better way to explore different options without the temptation of using a rubber! A really inspiring post!
    PS Did those weavers really pedal power that loom? They must have been very fit!

    1. Hey Ali,
      It varies depending on the painting, but the markers give me a black that is closer in tone to the dark of burnt umber (which if what I would use as the under painting of an actual painting so it forces me to look for compositions that have that tonal range within the already) and a slight indication of the warm/cool of the area I’m drawing.

      Also it is much quicker to block in an area of dark with the brush pen than using soft pencil. And yes the weavers really did pedal power the loop, there’s a video that shows the loom in action on their website.

      Hope this helps,

      p.s pleased your dog was rescued safely!

  23. Hi Will,thankyou so much for the lovely photos and trip,made me really homesick,I was born in London,ive been to Edinborough long time ago,i have a pic of me on top of the castle,I have not been well and your photos and trip cheered me up,it was nice to hear from you.I live in Canada now,hugs

    1. Thanks Helen, really pleased the photos have helped cheer you up today,

  24. Hi Will,
    Thanks so much for such a wonderful article, I felt I was there with you and Vanessa. You have given me some good sketching tips for my weekend away next week to Gympie Qld. It truly looks like a blessed place, photographs are beautiful. And Vanessa’s shopping sounds deightful thanks for sharing that with us I really enjoyed that. So excited to hear about your upcoming course, I’ll plan that into my budget so I don’t miss out :)
    You’re such a blessing to the online art world, thanks again.

    1. Hi Tania, nice to hear from you, good timing for your weekend away, really hope your sketches come out well.

  25. Thanks for sharing Will !!! Beautiful trip . I live in Cholula Puebla in Mexico! And I hope you can come to sketch and paint here one day.
    Looking forward to taking your next lesson .

  26. Thanks for sharing this experience through your writing, sketching and photographs. I have been inspired anew to pick up pens, paints and paper. Lovely, thanks.

    1. Really pleased to hear it Anna, great to hear you’ve been inspired!

  27. I love looking at people’s sketchbooks. Your are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing Will. Cheers

  28. Thanks for sharing your tales of your Scotland holiday – beautiful photos of what seems an incredibly picturesque part of the world, all so different from here.Thanks also for the shots of your sketches – very inspiring.

    1. You’re welcome Linda, please you enjoyed the photographs.

  29. Thanks for Sharing your lovely pics Will.
    Such beautiful country, can’t wait to see what you decide we should do next with all the sketches and photos!
    PS: loved the seascape painting course and so nice to see the same mountain and cottages from a different perspective.

    1. Hi Teresa, pleased you enjoyed the seascape course, yes is fascinating isn’t it how the landscape and view changes just from a different perspective and position.

  30. Will,
    Thank you for sharing your talents and passions!! I am so inspired & want to take all of your courses! I have just been commissioned to illustrate a book in black & white. Are the pens in this article what you recommend? When does your drawing class begin?
    Sign me up!


    1. Hi Gale, I found the Micron pens to be really nice and they come in wide variety of sizes so they are adaptable for lots of different techniques. I also love a brush ben for the variety of marks. The landscape course will probably be available next year, just finishing off a new acrylic colour portrait course at the moment which should be available soon.

      1. Thank you Will for so generously suggesting pen types for illustrations. Is there a particular paper you would recommend to get a crisp look when sketching for illustrations? I am looking forward to taking your acrylic portrait class as well and the landscape class. Thank you again for sharing your expertise.

          1. Thanks so much Will!

  31. I was so excited to get your email and photos of the Highlands in Scotland!! We were there the whole month of August and absolutely fell in love with everything Scottish. I have been painting the lochs, sea scapes and cottages ever since. This is my new passion. We had lunch at The Three Chimney’s, so it was thrilling to see you were there. Susan

    1. Good one Susan, so pleased you had a month there, must have been great.

  32. Thank you so much for sharing your Scotland experience. I went for the first time in 2011 It was awesome. I must get back, this time with my sketchpad. Only took up sketching/painting in 2012 so much to learn. Keep sharing it means a lot.

    1. Thanks Sandi, pleased you enjoyed it.

  33. Will, you are very fortunate to have been able to travel to Scotland, what an wonderful trip, your sketches are just amazing, so glad we all had an opportunity to see them…I partiality liked the seascapes ….Joanne

    1. Hi Joanne, yes it was a real privilege to visit, thanks for your kind words about the sketches.

  34. Hi Will,
    Thanks you for those beautiful photos of Scotland . I was just thinking about doing some pen and ink sketches, and these have been inspirational. I would love to visit Scotland some day to actually sketch on site. Thanks again,

    1. Oh good one Chitra, sounds like it was a timely article for you, good luck with your pen drawings.

  35. Hi Will!
    First of all, thank you for sharing those wonderful photos with us, and thank you for sharing your art experience :) When I found your website, it is like a found a treasure chest! I learned a valuable lesson from your advice on sketching, so from now on I will take my time in sketching and shading, before making that sketch into a painting :) I really cannot thank you enough for your generous art lessons, I have learned a lot from you in such a short time! You have inspired me into becoming a better artist :)

    1. Hi Nour,
      So pleased you’ve been enjoying reading through all the articles and improving your artwork, great to hear that you’ve been inspired in your painting.

  36. Thank you for sharing your craft..over and over again. Its a gift from you that I really appreciate and look forward to each time.
    Stay well

  37. Dear Will: Can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your pics. I wanted to be there.
    It will be lovely to see the paintings you do from your sketches. Thank you for taking the time. Best regards, Constance P.S. You are a hunk.

  38. Hi Will,
    I am an art teacher. You are a great asset to artists as you put your techniques and mark making into words and show us the tools that you use to create your work. Well done. I look forward to reading and seeing more of what you do. Your sketches are great. If you don’t mind some day I might like to share a video like this with my students. I move between all grade levels, so if it fits into a lesson on landscaping, would you mind? Right now I am teaching middle school. I think it would work. But first, as I am new to my current position, I have to get the technology in place to share with the class. Let me know if that is ok to show how you work sometime and I will make an effort to do this. I think it would be good for you to be seen and it would be good for kids to see who someone like you, a landscape artist, works. Again thanks for doing such a good job and sharing.

    1. Thanks Maryl, hope the article can be of help to your students.

  39. Thank you for sharing, the photos, the blog, the artwork – everything
    so inspiring and beautiful

  40. Thanks Will. Beautiful photos too. I never sketch because I think I am hopeless at it but now I think I might try. Please keep your inspiration coming.

    1. That’s great to hear Cheryl, often just starting a sketch outside is hardest thing to do.

  41. Wow I love the photos, notes and your experiences. Looks like you both got to work and play! :-) thank you for all that you do!

  42. Beautiful sketches!

  43. Thank you so much Will for the pictures you send, they are beautiful! I love landscaping, but it takes me forever to get one done! Your inspiration really helps me. I am starting some new paintings soon, and love your ideas. BTW, I have been taking lots of pictures of landscape here in my town, by the Park and every lake I see. LOL, I just need that little push!
    Thank you so much, you are truly an inspiration,
    God Bless,

    1. So pleased to hear it Milady, having that constraint to only take a few photos and sketch first and then photograph will really make a difference in the quality of your finished pieces.

  44. What a wonderful experience for you! Thank you for sharing the delightful pictures and beautiful sketches from your journey. They’re awesome!

  45. Hi Will,

    Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and your much informative tips on sketching landscape . I have been sick for a while and have stopped sketching, but you have given me the will and inspiration to sketch again. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me. So happy to hear from you again.

    Poe Blay

    1. Brilliant to hear you’re feeling inspired to start sketching again Poe.

  46. Loved the photos of the Highlands in Scotland ! Wish I could could be there.It seems to be very similar to the South Island in New Zealand .You should visit sometime. I really enjoy your short courses.and look forwards to your emails.I have improved greatly,through your teaching.Thanks again.

    1. Hi Gladwen, thats interesting to hear about the South Island, I have friends in New Zealand that are long overdue a to visit, I’ll add it to our world tour calendar!




    1. Hi Cheryl, Yes, pudding by post would be an excellent idea! I’ve linked to the sketchbook I use in one of the comments above, the small one is a cartridge pad, and the larger one is a watercolour pad by Moleskine.
      Hope this helps,


  48. Hi.Will.
    Thanks for sharing your pictures and sketches. They are lovely. I am so new to this I feel out of my comfort zone. Sketching is something I need to learn more about.

    1. Hi Carolyn, you’re not alone in feeling out of your comfort zone when thinking about sketching outdoors, it’s a bit like thinking about doing a public speech! just start really simply don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create finished drawing with the sketches.
      Hope this helps,


  49. Looking at our photos and sketches is like taking a mini-vacation. Thanks so much for sharing – what an inspiration!

  50. After 6 years of painting inside from photos or still life setups, I’m only just working up the courage to start painting outdoors from life. Your photos and sketches are all beautiful and I’m also looking forward to the sketching course!

    1. Nice to hear from you Lindsay, hope you’re keeping well.

  51. Hello there Will, hope you are doing good thankyou for sharing your breathtaking beautiful travel pictures it was lovely to see your email today morning exciting enough to learn something fresh from your school Beautiful Landscapes of Scotland hope to visit these places soon. Take care.

  52. Thanks Will, what an inspiring,breathtaking part of the world, I am looking forward to participating in the Landscape Drawing Course and am trying to draw/paint something everyday.

    1. Hi Louise, pleased you enjoyed the photos, there really are some spectacular views in Scotland, hope your drawings are going well.

  53. thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures and sketches.

  54. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing. Must have been a fantastic trip. Loved the picture of the bottle and glass full of Stout ? or beer ? , but Landscapes i battle a bit with, not really my thing to paint, but can still apreciate the beauty of them, and admire artist who paint them.

    1. Thanks Jennifer, pleased you liked the photos.

  55. Hi Will, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful photos. I have never got round to sketching in an organised fashion but after seeing yours feel I can get started, they are such an inspiration. I have already learnt so much from your classes and will continue to do so.
    Kind regards,

    1. You’re welcome Greta, pleased to hear you’re feeling inspired to get started with your sketching.

  56. Wow! Beautiful photos and sketches. Very inspiring. Look forward to your next course.

    1. Thanks Tess, pleased you enjoyed them.

  57. Hello Will,

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful trip, photos and valuable tips on how to sketch on location. Your drawings are fabulous.

    I work mainly from photos these days, but with the standard wide-angle lens that comes with most basic cameras, you end up with a flattened perspective, so a sketch is invaluable for setting up the scene correctly with respect to composition and tone as well as for tuning in, as you say.

    Thanks once again.

    1. Hi Jennie, thanks your kind words about the drawings, good point about the flattened perspective, it can really make a difference to the realism of your finished paintings.

  58. Hi Will, great pictues and good tips. Come to the east coast of Scotland next time, equally stunning as Skye. You’ll always get a Highland welcome!
    Cheers Jan

    1. Thanks Janys, yes the East Coast is stunning as well!.

  59. Good on you, Will, your inspiring trip to Scotland! Indeed one needs courage to take the sketchbook outdoors, and now we have no excuse. We took your Light and Shadow Drawing Course on holidays, just finishing the Final lesson of “Dog on sofa” (we’ll send on photos soon), – a most enjoyable use of charcoal, chalk and sanguine pencil. This was a worthy follow up to the Beginners Drawing Course. Many thanks, Paddy

    1. Hi Paddy, great to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying working through the drawing course on your holiday. Looking forward to seeing how the drawings have come out (hope Anne is well)

  60. Hello Will, thanks for photos and sketches they are beautiful. I especially like the seascape with the lighthouse!

  61. Wonderful to see Skye through your eyes and revisit those lovely places after nearly forty years. Your sketches bring it all alive and make my fingers itch to start sketching again. Many thanks – Carenza

    1. Glad it helped to get you inspired to get sketching again Carenza,

  62. Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for the lovely tips and pics, made me feel quite homesick for Britain! If you are ever in S.A. please look us up, you will have free place to stay! I intend to get outside now and try to sketch….wish me luck!

    1. Good on you Sue, thanks your kind offer and really hope you enjoy your sketching outside, the first ones will always be a little bit shaky, but just persevere and you get a great sense of achievement from the process.

  63. Hi Will thanks for sharing this I have been to Skye a couple of times and done a couple of paintings from photos I took, I wish I had done some sketching when I was there, this is very inspirational, I like the idea of using the grey pens will have to try that out, what size of sketchbook do you use thanks Lesley

    1. Hi Lesley, yes the grey pens can be really handy, the small sketchbook is 4.5 inch x 6 inch (11.5cm x 15cm) in a landscape format. The larger Moleskine watercolour pad is 5 inch x 8 1/4 inch (13cm x 21cm)
      Hope this helps,


  64. As always, you are very generous with your knowledge. I remember back in the day how thumbnail sketches were invaluable and you upgraded them with the different pen choices and values. Cannot wait to try this. Quite smart.

    1. Thanks Jacque, hope you enjoy experimenting with the pen technique.

  65. Hi Will, I feel like I know you. What a wonderful trip and thanks for sharing. I am 57 years old and have started to teach myself to paint, my friend Dianne and I used some of your tutorials. We started with the ” cherry still life”. Recently I attempted sketching in my backyard to capture a pretty little pond my husband made that is home to our koi fish. I wanted to send you a picture to ask your advice on the piece. Thank you sooo much for all the free wonderful info you put on the web! Grateful in Ohio! Have a blessed day! By the way I love your accent!

    1. Nice to hear it Betsy, sounds like you and Dianne are on a roll! pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.

  66. These are the best tips on sketching I’ve ever come across. Thank you! You are right about drawing, it pulls you in and absorbs you totally in the moment. I probably do more sketching than anything else, largely because of that reason.

    Thank you for all your inspiring advice.

    1. Very kind of you to say so Greg, appreciate it.

  67. Thanks for taking me on a short trip to Scotland this morning . I have never been to Scotland or England and your photos were stunning. I wonder what was your favorite shot or drawing and if that is the one you will start with first. I bet they are all paintings in your head waiting to get unto canvas. Loved Plocken. That is my guess of your favorites. I see your work in those photos.
    Lovely, hope to travel there some day , but for now , I will return to the pictures and dream.

    1. Hi Vicki, please you enjoyed the photos, yes I do have a soft spot for the Plockton photos!

  68. Hello Will,
    Wow, what an amazing trip! I went to the Isle of Skye six years ago with my family and your pictures brought back the magic of that incredible scenery. I am so intimidated to sketch outside because I get overwhelmed by the landscape and where to begin. I appreciate the way you simplify your initial sketches into tonal studies using a range of pen marks.
    I so appreciate your posts and they truly inspire me to get on with it. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Lovely to hear it Jennifer, hope the post has helped to give you the confidence to try sketching outside, it is an intimidating experience, especially if you’re surrounded by lots of people (it’s a very quick way to make friends!) So just try sketching outside, even just outside in the garden, and it will help to build that confidence when you’re out on location.
      Hope this helps,


  69. We are kindred spirits, the West Coast of Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world. Thanks so much for sharing this wondrous landscape. Love your gorgeous sketches.

  70. Loved your photos. Having been to Ireland twice and Scotland once, I totally appreciate what a great experience you had. The visit with the weavers was an extra added bonus, created by how friendly everyone is up there. I do a lot of art and all my friends are artists! I’m the Pres of the Blacksburg Regional Art Association in Virginia so art is a part of nearly every day for me. We do plein air in many beautiful places around our area of the Blue Ridge mountains. Don’t know where you are located, but if you ever get in Blacksburg, look us up!


    1. Thanks Gerri, please you enjoyed the photos, thanks for your kind offer.

  71. Just bought myself some Castle Pitt pens.. Im off to Herefordshire this weekend and you have inspired me to do some pen work!

    That Red Ale looked amazing.. Great work Will !

    1. Brilliant one Steve, really hope you enjoy experimenting with the pens, and hopefully experimenting with some real ale!

  72. I love your words and photographs. As always the quality of your work is so high, but at the same time makes me feel like “If I try, I can do that too” – you really inspire me to do more artwork. I recently bought myself a sketchbook and hope to fill it with lovely views. I’ve been considering sketching in pen/ink but haven’t been so bold as to try that yet…maybe one day!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and your art :)

    1. You’re welcome Tasnim, maybe one day could be today?

  73. It’s amazing pics,these pics motivate me. Thanks for sharing

  74. I so much appreciate seeing your trip via sketches and photos. You are so kind to keep us in the loop. I feel like I got to be there as I read your blog. That means alotnto me.

    1. Thanks Dinah, pleased you enjoyed it.

  75. Hello Will, Thank you for the wonderful sketching lesson and photos of your trip. I have been to Scotland a few times and I truly love it. I will take your advice and spend more time with sketching rather than rushing into the painting. Already I have sat in my garden and sketched my Olive Tree. I agree sketching is really wonderfull, for many reasons. Thank you .I love all your advice.

    1. Hi Shirley, Great to hear it Shirley, hope your Olive tree sketch turned out well.

  76. beautyfull pics and sketches thanks for sharing sir….

  77. I enjoy hearing from you, glad you enjoyed your trip. It’s amazing what the eyes can see and how you show it in your work! Thank you for sharing your work.
    Have a good day .

    1. Cheers Melva, pleased you enjoyed it.

  78. My BFF and I made a trip to Europe in ’75, which included her Aunt and Uncle who lived in Scotland (no longer remember where). I remember most how green the farms and the beautiful rugged mountains and the cold cold winds. I wasn’t into artwork at that time, but appreciated the scenery. She took all the photos to heaven with her. Now I wish I had them, because I’m into painting! Your trip brought back a lot of wonderful memories, thank you very very much.
    We also made a stop at a local pub; wouldn’t it be a kick if we had sipped beer at The Three Chimneys also?

  79. Thanks a lot for sharing your wonderful experience Will. it was so motivating for me. I could never imagine the importance of sketching. realizing tones instead of just looking at shapes and wondering how to bring the beauty of nature on the paper. I’m gonna work on it today.
    Thanks again :)

    1. Pleased to hear it Varesh, thinking in tones can really help with both your sketches and paintings.

  80. Will, great report on your trip to Scotland. I am in the process of weaning myself from photos and tracing. Just bought an easel for en plein aire work. Florida is getting a bit cooler so I’ll be in the great outdoors next week.

    Just back from Venice and Paris. Ran into a phenomenal Monet exhibit at the Marmottan Monet. They used it to prove that Impression Sunrise really is the inspiration for the name “Impressionists.”

    1. Hey Hardy, pleased your Venice and Paris trip worked out well. Good timing with the Monet exhibition, sounds fab.

  81. Hi Will,
    I am a new member having seen you first on Arttutor. Was impressed with your teaching style and work and have just purchased your beginners drawing course. Have recently returned from a visit to Donegal in Ireland and saw again (since childhood) the beautiful Maghara Beach just outside Ardara – the beach is magnificently white just like the one you mentioned with the Donegal mountains sweeping up over the strand.

    Liked your account of your holiday; I too like going around local crafts. I will seek out the pens you suggested. I am at present experimenting with Abstract painting and have found that it has made me aware of the marks I am making without the need for representation. So I have been doing a lot of experimenting with Acrylics; learning to build up layers etc. I tend to be a bit ‘constipated’ when it comes to making marks and need to loosen up. However I want to improve my drawing and am looking forward to starting the course. Well done on everything and I look forward to hearing further about your work in the not too distant future. Living on the I of M i love the landscape and was interested to hear of your new landscape course.
    All the best for now,

    1. Hi Stephen, nice to hear from you, Ireland does have some stunning landscapes, pleased you enjoyed the article and good luck with the drawing course, hope you enjoy it.

  82. Thanks for sharing your trip will! Look forward to your new course. May you please also make a portrate drawing course? ^_^

    1. Cheers Sanaz, good suggestion for a new course, a portrait drawing course is on my list!

  83. Awesome sketches and photography. Very inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

  84. Just arrived back from 2 weeks in the Highlands, including 9 days on Skye and found your email re landscape sketching. What caught my eye was your sketch of Loch Dunvegan as I had sat at that very bench sketching Macleods Tables. I found Skye to be really inspirational and sketching there even more relaxing than normal, but I struggled with the huge vistas, often running off the page or unwittingly compessing the view horizontally; I need to work on that. Did you visit John Bathgate at Dun Studio just south of Dunvegan ?, a charming and unassuming contemporary landscape painter who let me browse through his many sketch books and spent some considerable time telling me about his styles, techniques and materials that he uses.
    Now looking forward to your video, any idea when this might be available ?


    1. Hi Dave, pleased you’ve been enjoying sketching in Skye, what a coincidence. The course should be available early next year.

  85. Hi Will, I love the photos and drawings. I lost confidence in my drawing and painting for a while but looking at your wonderful drawing and photos has given me the incentive to start again. Many thanks. Bridget Long

    1. So pleased you’ve been inspired Bridget, thanks for your kind comments.

  86. I will be in Scotland next July (and parts of England and Ireland) so I will plan to bring my sketching pens and paper and capture some images. My main time will be in and around Edinburgh and West midlands of Ireland.

    1. Nice to hear you’ll be giving the sketching pens a go Patti.

  87. Hi Will,

    By coincidence I had my first go ever at en plein air landscape sketching last weekend. I came up with a method that worked quite well. (And stopped me getting too precious and bogged down in the task).

    I decided to bring a clipboard with pages of scrap computer paper as well as HB and 3B pencils and a biro. I drove out to Strangford Lough near Scrabo Tower (County Down), stopped when I found a good view and then got to work.

    I set my mobile phone timer, grabbed the biro and did a “5 minute burn” ie drew quickly for 5 mins without concentrating on any one area for too long. When the timer went off I stopped regardless of the state of the drawing.

    Then I found a new view, switched to say, the HB, and did another 5 mins.

    Altogether I thought I did an Ok job. I took photos along the way as well.

    Looking through the sketches each one gets better than the last. Because I concentrated so hard on the landscape and didn’t just take photos, I can still see a lot of it in my mind’s eye.

    I felt I got a real feel for the landscapes – and there’s the not insignificant benefit of it being a great way to just chill out. Time well spent.



    1. Hi David, nice to hear from you, so pleased you’ve been enjoyed sketching the landscape, the pen / pencil mix can work well.

  88. How amazing the photos are, what a beautiful place to soak up sights of inspiration, I am very new to drawing and started oil painting 6 weeks ago, have wanted to start for many years. Recently retired and looking forward to traveling around Australia I have been encouraged by reading yours and your readers comments to commence an exciting new life of travel & art. Thankyou Will and all who follow his pages.

    1. Thanks Judy, hope you’re enjoying your adventures with oil painting, and pleased you’ve enjoyed the article.

  89. Twice a year I take a group of artists to Bali and we travel to different locations to sketch. Your tips about sketching and the types of pens you use are most useful and I will encourage my friends to do the same. Always love your tips and useful hints to get the most out of my art. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.


    1. Nice to hear it Gaye, sketching around Bali sounds amazing. Hope you enjoy experimenting with the pens.

  90. Thank you for the inspirational photographs and drawings.
    I have recently returned to drawing and painting and still enjoy drawing from nature. I do have to remind myself that all that the entire studio need not accompany me en plein air. In this case, less is definitely best.
    David Smith’s exercise of timed drawings are an excellent method of observation. Thanks for the reminder, David.
    Will, thank you.

  91. Great sketches but have to comment on the photos. There are lots of stunning ones but the beer and the glass is perfect! Wow!

    1. Cheers Priscilla, pleased you enjoyed the photos,

  92. Will Kemp, you are the bomb! I’m one of those people who takes lots of pictures thinking I’ll figure it all out when I get home. The hours I’ve wasted trying to choose the “perfect” photo to paint (after cropping, adjusting the color, highlights and shadows of each & every one) is embarrassing after reading your post. I must have 50 black drawing pens, pencils and brush pens – never even occurred to me to use gray-scale pens and brush markers, ditch the camera (until satisfied with my sketch), and proceed from there. Thank you, Will!

    1. Thanks very much Martha, really pleased its help to give you a new approach to your sketching, and speed up your editing process!


  93. Hi Will,Fab photos. Isle of Skye has always being on my mind to visit,haven’t got there yet,but your descriptions and sketches make me start to set a plan of action for next year….Defo going…. Your videos are great
    Thanks for sharing the trip.

    1. Thanks Siobhán, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the videos (and photos)

  94. Thanks so much Will, feeling inspired, off to buy some pens and get started!

  95. thanks for sharing the cool air of Scotland landscapes, and your sketches

  96. Will,
    I enjoyed the photos so much! Your approach to sketching is inspiring me to do better at sketching my subject FIRST before diving headlong into a painting.
    I am looking forward to your video on painting the landscape.

    The photos of Scotland makes me want to visit this beautiful country.

    1. You’re welcome Suzanne, so pleased you enjoyed the photos really hope you are enjoying working through the seascape video course.

  97. Hi Will,

    Loved to look at the photos and the way you illustrated. Its truly an inspiration and your tips really changed my view on outdoor sketching. Thanks a lot for sharing Will.

    1. Really pleased to hear it Maha, good luck with your sketches.

  98. Inspiration in every word, I’m a beginner painter and you motivate me each time I receive an email. Great stuff!

    1. Great to hear you’re feeling inspired Mike.

  99. Lovely to see these pictures Will. We’re off to Scotland next week, from beautiful British Columbia. I hope to do some sketching there. Even though it is gorgeous here, there is nothing quite like the beauty of Scotland.

    1. Thanks Lisa, hope you have a great time in Scotland.

  100. Hi Will,
    I enjoyed your Photography and you are sketches! really those are great inspirational sketches.I have improved my drawing and paintng skills a lot after viewing your videos.
    Thank you.

    1. So pleased to hear that Syed, fantastic that you’re improving your drawing and painting from the videos.

  101. What a great article. Thank you, Will! It’s always fascinating to get insight into the process that artists use to make decisions and translate what they see into what ends up on the canvas. One of the struggles I have with landscape paintings is keeping them simple and interesting but not simplifying them TOO much. I would love to see a bunch of your sketches side by side with a photo of what you were looking at.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


    1. Thanks Jennifer, pleased you enjoyed the sketches.

  102. Will,
    As always I love your work and teaching spirit! Do you have projected release date for the “Sketching the Landscape” course? Looking forward to it


  103. Dear Will,
    What lovely places. I live in a desert valley of the Rocky Mountains; we have our own kind of beauty, but right now I’d really love to head to Scotland! I will have to send you my take on the Impressionistic Seascape, but I can see it won’t do it justice. Looking forward to Sketching the Landscape course. You continue to inspire and motivate!
    Martha Roberts

    1. Thanks Martha, looking forward to seeing your painting.

  104. Will,
    Just finished a fantastic biography on Van Gogh and came away from it with a sense of awe at his commitment to trundle about with his bulky kit. I just want to thank you for not only including your photos and sketches but also talking about the tools you use when you are out sketching. Loved the bicycle powered loom and the photo of the local brew. Inspired to get out more with the purpose of coming back to the studio with new inspiration.

    1. Thanks William, really pleased you enjoyed the article and are inspired to get out on location.

  105. Hi Will
    Just found your site this morning and have been enjoying it immensely. You make me want to visit my relies in England again and visit the Isle of Skye. You have a wonderful approach to sharing your experiences and teaching. Also love your photos, Thank you for inspiring me to get my sketch book out and take it to the beach with me. I go there many times in week and always have my camera but rarely take my sketchbook. I am a fan and will continue to follow you and share your site with my artsy friends.
    Vancouver, Canada

    1. Hi Meryle, Thanks for your kind words, and looking forward to hearing about your beach sketching successes!

  106. Hi Will, continuing the theme of the artist at large and needing resources to sketch and so forth, are there any iconic Art Stores the travelling artist should visit to purchase such resources or just to look at gallery like. For myself I’m thinking London, Paris, Florence and Rome sort a thing but there might be others. There is a well heeled art store I like to visit in Australia because It has the most amazing things of ‘ye olde world’ quality. I generally just walk out with a pencil however, but inspired by the charm.

    1. Hi John, there are a couple of art stores that are well worth a visit, in Florence, check out Zecchi. And, depending where you’re staying, there are a few great art shops in London L. Cornelissen & Son on Great Russell street is great, or if you’re over near Kings street in Chelsea, Green & Stone sell modern art materials aswell as some interesting antique offerings. There is also Ditta G Poggi in Rome.

      Hope this helps,


  107. absolutely, cheers!
    Two day course in Firenze. One day sanguine and pastel portrait study, second day figure study from statues and perspective study undertaken en plein air!

  108. looking forward to the new sketching class Will . you are so talented thanks for sharing , you mentioned an acrylic portrait course ? when will this be ready cant wait lol

    1. Hi Adele, yes the acrylic portrait course is being uploaded as we speak! just adding the final touches and will be launching the course the middle of next week.


        1. Ha ha, good one Hardy, pleased you’re looking forward to it.

  109. My Glasgow roots ache to go to sky one day……..Thanks for the beauty pictures.
    I am off to buy some good sketching pens and then maybe out back if our Canadian weather stays mild enough to sketch…Happy holidays… BRIDGETTE.

    1. Good one Bridgette, pleased you’re feeling inspired.

  110. Excellent post Will.
    I like very much your drawings. And I love the Highlands.

    1. Thanks Mario, nice to hear from you, pleased you enjoyed it,

      1. Than you!
        I spent there one of the best moments in my life!!

  111. Hi Will,
    I’ve enjoyed working through your other courses, and I’m just wondering when you plan to run the landscape one? Looks lovely.


    1. Hi Pamela, pleased you’ve been enjoying the other courses, just been working on the lessons this week for the landscape course, should be looking at early summer for the course release.

  112. Good Morning Will
    Today I watch your landscape – sketching video.
    I want to thank you from deepest of my heart that you clear my 10 yr search n confusion abt art.
    Your course is too good.
    Alok Hari

    1. Morning Alok, great to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying the landscape sketching course.

      1. Hi Will
        I am thankful you reply me.
        these days I am very confident in my work.
        I hope soon you make a video on how to get inspire or inspiration .
        I am also waiting your foundation course on oil painting.
        My English is not good ,and i want to share many feelings with you.
        Have you any plan to come India.
        Please inform and be my guest when come.
        Alok Hari

        1. Thanks for the kind offer Alok.

  113. Will,

    What camera do you use to take pictures? Is that the camera you use to put up pictures for your reference photos for painting? I’m interested in purchasing a camera and would like your input.

    Thank you :)

    1. Hi Ren, most of the shots are taken with an iPhone, the others are with a DSLR (a Nikon D80) (digital-single-lens-reflex) A good entry level DSLR is the Nikon D3300. Cameralabs have good in-depth articles on the different available cameras, from point and shoot, Mirrorless to DSLR.
      Hope this helps,


  114. Thanks for sharing. Excellent course . . Thoroughly enjoying it.

    1. Cheers Darshi, so pleased you enjoyed the course.

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