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 third growing season.

Oddly oblong

I went out to draw the fennel. Over the week. It’s been showing me how its umbrellas escape their rolls of leaf and today, there are tiny yellow bobbles of flower, a few starting to throw out pollen for the pollinators (for which I use an bit of kitchen scourer … Read More

Showtime for the flowers

I’ve been waiting for the right flower for a heavily-textured piece of paper and here it comes – the first courgette flower, like an elaborate piece of smocking. Drawing a bud, I swear that the petals are emerging as I watch. Over the past three years, the garden has taught … Read More

A good year for jasmine

Normally, I pay it attention only to give its tangled limbs somewhere to go. But this year, the jasmine is in flower. And today, it rewards my stillness with glorious wafts of scent, echoes of perfumes gone by. Drawing, I notice that its flowers have just four almost-oblong petals, curled … Read More

Poppies popping

There are early morning errands to do. There are new poppies open, and bees. Poppies and bees it is, then. That’s less frivolous than it seems – in an hour, the sun will have moved and the bees will have moved on. So I take my coffee outside, taking care to … Read More

Pods and pollinators

I’ve been doing No Mow May. Showers forecast, I should cut the grass before it turns into a June jungle. But as it’s grown, so has my love for its floral loveliness, self-seeded nigella dotted amongst the daisies. So I honour it with a sketch, in early morning, daisies tinged … Read More

New blooms

Deadlines. In my other creative life, I’m a designer – and I’m working the weekend. But coffee brewed, I’m pulled out into the garden by the first sweet peas, a new variety grown this year (I can only remember the Grandiflora bit, which won’t help you at all…). All showy Edwardian … Read More

Catching a moment

I used to think of a garden as a slow sculpture. But some things change so quickly that I have to catch them as I spot them… The first ripe alpine strawberry zings out among flowers and green fruits. Just typing this has reminded me to harvest it – they’re intense … Read More

Early to rise

Warmth! Early to rise, I’m out in the garden when everything gets going. Spotting a snail curled around a spent daffodil leaf, I scurry for some paper and settle with my coffee. The snail, of course, is now travelling in a straight line but soon it’s on the curl again. … Read More

Visitors in May

I thought I was done with drawing the aquilegia. But brava! Here they are, in the sunshine, like a visiting troupe, flowers full-out, all costume and show. And the show brings fans – I sketch in a passing hoverfly… The buds, though, are like something from the imagination of a … Read More

Here, good cheer

It’s wild garlic season. Wandering out to survey my small landscape, I spot the first flowers sparkling in the shade. It becomes a trio of Spring firsts… The aquilegia, drawn in leaf last week, is now in dainty green-purple flower. I notice nibbles in the leaves. There’s an orderly queue … Read More

Living palettes and a brush tree

Today, I’ve been torn between drawing my one Queen of the Night tulip before it goes over and recording plants from friends. I’ve done both – but for entirely different reasons. Settling in with the tulip, I see that nature has done its colour scheme thing. Sage flower buds gather round, … Read More

Come the creatures

A glorious Easter Saturday. Years of community gardening taught me to seize the day – and in drawing, I have to seize the moment. Once tulips get to that louche stage when they throw their petals around, they only need the slightest gust of wind to shrug them off. As they … Read More

New leaf

There’s a point in the year when everything bursts into leaf. Trees sparkle. Winter-dull shrubs are tipped with perky green. The hydrangea, pruned of its dried flowers last week, is all furl and curl. Pairs of leaves hinge out from stalks speckled with the pink of its Summer plumage. The … Read More

Three stripes and a gorilla

While waiting for a glacially-slow backup to run – my other life is as a designer – I seek entertainment in the garden and there it is, in tulip form. The parrot tulips show their stripes early. I had drawn smart green buds a week ago, presenting themselves like two-tone ties. Now, … Read More

The shape of Spring

I’d never noticed before how triangular tulips are. But as I wandered out, there it was, seen from above, three-pronged stamen, trios of petals, neat, three-sided colour change at the petals’ base. Cue drawing tea break… Having got my eye in as I drew, I started seeing the particular shapes … Read More

Ahead of the equinox

The flowers have declared it Spring. And who am I to argue? In bud last week, the first tulips are fully-open in the morning sun. By the time I go out to draw them, they’re closing for the day, speedy sketching a race to catch the tricorn hat of yellow … Read More