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.

Plot hot

The garden hangs heavy in the mid-August heat. This month has always been the month when leaves drip, petals curl, fruit blushes – but today is not, was not, London-hot. And yet my one ripe tomato is doing its thing, green to yellow to pink, its neighbour just starting to get … Read More

Morning, garden!

Early, pottering through tasks, lists in my head, the garden calls me outside with my coffee. The second sunflower is out, glowing in the morning sun. Taller than the first, it’s thrown its petals back, like some young buck with a pot of hair gel. The bees are already at … Read More

Setting fruit, setting seed

The garden is a place in perpetual motion. But sometimes, what stops me in my tracks is the sheer joy of plants’ engineering… I love how hollyhocks just keep going, throwing out flowers at one end from their dumpling buds and setting seed at the other. The cucumber is climbing … Read More

Hovering

I draw very quickly – gestural sketches that are more about the essence of a thing than its detail. But drawing little creatures also needs me to be still, seeing what lands, noticing how it moves, taking in as much visual information as I can, as quickly as I can, in … Read More

Quiet work

There’s show, and there’s the quietly impressive stuff that the garden does when I’m not looking… I’ve grown my first giant sunflowers this year. After a decade of tending them at a community garden, it’s only working from home, with the same view through the day, that I’ve noticed that … Read More

Full fluoro in July

It’s 8.30am. I wander out with my coffee, my improvised cardboard offcut drawing board, handed-down paper, biro, white fineliner, watercolours, a jam jar of water, my favourite brush held together with impact adhesive and hope – and a fist-full of highlighters. The reason? Nasturtiums. Even just peeping out from their grey-blue-green … Read More

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