I’m Lydia Thornley, a designer, creative director, reportage illustrator and prolific filler of sketchbooks. Dispatches from a Small World started as a lockdown project, reporting from my London garden in sketches. This blog takes that journey of discovery into a second growing season.

Seizing the day

On a blustery day, in a pocket of sunshine, I nip out into the garden to collect things blown in for drawing in the warm. But on my way back, I spot a tiny snail on tidying-up duty, working through strawberry leaves in troughs that will host Spring flowers. So … Read More

Faded grandeur

In my urban garden, faded has its own grandeur. Once vivid, the roses are blooming in soft pastels edged with cherry pink, some round like little peonies, others presenting their petals to the garden. The jasmine’s sharp green leaves have only now taken on tones of russet, their rolls and … Read More

Starting with a tiny toadstool

I’ve been trying to draw it all week – a tiny toadstool in the improvised grow-bag that was home to the courgettes and now, with no intervention from me, hollyhocks. Studio work has come first but today, its neighbour nibbled, I’ve grabbed the last of the daylight and crouched down to … Read More

On nature day

It’s nature day at COP26 so I take a look at what nature is doing in the small world of my urban garden. Fashionably late, the cosmos is in flower. I associate it with Summer but looking it up, some varieties are happy in cooler weather. Getting closer to draw, … Read More

Small harvest

As trees fruit, winds blow and Summer veg go over, there’s an air of gathering-in about the garden, and not just for me… The rainbow chard, spindly this year, keeps going so I harvest little sprouting tops to add to a stir-fry. And it’s only in drawing it that I … Read More

In celebration of mess

The temptation to tidy is sometimes overwhelming – but aside from sprawling limbs of ivy and roses to dead-head, this is the season when I let things lie for a bit. This week, the garden has rewarded me with a hidden harvest…. hiding among leaves that looked done-for, I’ve found gorgeous … Read More

Foraging for colours

Chilly in the garden, spotting rosehips I gather some in and go foraging for more warm Autumn colours for kitchen drawing. The rosehips, red from a distance, have a subtle blend of reds, brick and brown, layers of colour needed, especially on this waste paper, coated for print. At first … Read More

Fresh flowers in October

It’s October – but just as I expect to be drawing all things Autumnal, the garden gives me fresh flowers. The ivy is alive with bees and wasps. Interested mostly in the top flowers, they let me snip off a sprig to draw, its yellows needing the glow of a … Read More

Outside in

It’s been a blustery, rainy start here to Autumn – a time for nipping out and gathering in for drawing in the kitchen. A stem blown down by a squally shower, the red amaranth looks like a flower designed by an upholsterer. The flower head grows tufts and twirls, tiny seeds … Read More

Seed and structure

I’m a messy gardener, partly because I like to see what plants do. At this time of year, my reward is spectacular structures whose job is to offer seed, broadcast in the breeze or neatly packaged for creatures to take. The poppies stand mediaeval, all rust and twirl, windows long … Read More

Back garden banquet

Holly and Ivy in September… that seems wrong in a “Surely we’re not talking about Christmas yet?” sort of way – but this week’s dispatch is all about the wildlife. Just as the garden has that look that an old college friend describes as “having had one party too many”, it … Read More

Stitch and twirl

I spend a lot of time apologising to spiders at this time of year, their carefully-spun webs across the garden wrecked by one galumphing human. This week, I got to appreciate some of their handiwork without breaking it – two lavender seed heads stitched together, here, with a passing hoverfly. The … Read More

Summer’s curtain call

Technically, this is the start of Autumn. But Summer is doing its curtain call. The sound of bees led me to the verbena, an ordinary fly there too, zinging with iridescence in the sunshine. The cucamelon that I planted more on a whim than in expectation of actual fruit is … Read More

Garden at work

In holiday season, I find myself hard at work on things with Autumn deadlines. I’m in good company, the late August garden heavy with productivity… Snails’ work is not something I enjoy, in the normal run of things. But pausing to draw one that I’d spotted in the courgette patch, I … Read More

Something old, something new

Pink. There’s a lot of it in the garden at the moment and it’s always more complicated than it looks. Perfect, then, for trying out some portable materials before a live sketching assignment at a wedding. I’d actually gone out into the garden to draw forage, starting with the new … Read More

In your own time

Some plants make an entrance at the traditional hour. Some arrive fashionably late. And all are worth a second glance… I always plant more seeds than I need, sharing the seedlings with friends. My spare chillis have been bursting into splendour in a nearby kitchen, while mine have been a … Read More