Collaborating with Other Artists

Sketchbook Explorations book cover by Shelley Rhodes

I recently purchased Sketchbook Explorations for Mixed-Media and Textile Artists by Shelley Rhodes, and I love it!  I recommend it to any creative who wants to try using a sketchbook to loosen up and become more spontaneous.

I enjoyed it so much that I knew I wanted to share it and start my own creative collaboration. I thought it would be fun to use sketchbooks as an opportunity to reconnect with my artist friends while exploring and experimenting with new art themes and materials.

Sketchbook collaboration of a man and a women yelling at each other in black and white by artist Kathy Ferguson
Try it for yourself. This is a sketchbook spread I made with the theme prompt Opposition/Contrast. If you were the next artist, what would you add?

Sketchbooks allow an opportunity to explore and experiment with freedom and capture ideas for future work. Though I’ve kept sketchbook books for years, I’ve filled them with more art business notes than physical sketches and painting ideas. This time I wanted to start a sketchbook that was more an illustrated diary, a visual record of ideas for more developed artwork.  However, I knew without accountability and encouragement, I would not set aside the time to do it.  This is how the collaborative sketchbook circle was born.

I asked two artist friends to join me.  We each started with three small sketchbooks (different sizes and paper types). We assigned a “theme” to each set, giving us a starting point and cohesive motif to work within. Next, we worked on a page/spread in each of our three books. Finally, at the end of two weeks, we swapped our set of sketchbooks with each other.

Sketchbook collaboration between three artists
Here’s a finished sketchbook spread. The first artist added delicate ink and watercolor drawings. The second artist collaged on paper with a bold hand-printed honeycomb design. I finished it with some glitter hexagon shapes to connect the two elements. (Beware the use of glitter in your studio…it tends to stick around!)

Each artist adds something to each sketchbook page.  When the third artist adds their marks, the page is considered finished. At that point, new pages are started. Round and round, the books will travel until all the sketchbook pages are filled. The goal is not to make finished artwork; it’s about working within a theme and responding to what the other artists have put on the page.  I am so enjoying this collaboration.

Have you worked on any creative, collaborative projects?  Can you share any advice for us newbies?


  1. My son Ben just got married and, instead of a traditional gift (we’re a non-traditional family!) he asked for two of your small art works!

    Now you have two more appreciators!

    I’m a NY-based photojournalist and take non-traditional photos for my weekly column (

    LMK if you’d ever consider using a photo as background for your unique work!

    Also, I may write a column about artists coping with these past couple of years. Would you be open to being interviewed?

    I think your art is magnificent!


    • Kathy Ferguson says:

      How exciting for my art to be a wedding gift! It sure beats getting a crockpot :). I read some of your Insider columns (they are wonderful). They really made me miss New York City. I’m currently in Colorado for the summer. My husband is COVID-phobic, so we most likely won’t be back in the city until late October (fingers crossed!) Luckily, two of my three adult children live in Brooklyn, and my son just got engaged last week, proposing on a Gowanus street corner where they had their first kiss. :). I’ll be mailing out the paintings hopefully within the week.
      I have to bribe one of my kids with a future favor to go to my NYC studio and pack and shipping them since I’m not in town.


    • Kathy Ferguson says:

      Dear Naomi,

      I realized I missed a couple of your questions.
      1. I would be happy to be interviewed about coping as an artist these past couple of years.
      2. I haven’t thought about using a photograph as a background, but I do sometimes use photos to make gel-transfer collage elements that I include in paintings. Especially of things from nature like flowers, trees, branches, and nests.

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