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.

Hope sprouting

It’s hot lemon and ginger season, colds everywhere in my city. The garden seems to be in sympathy, the iris corms knobbly in the rich, dark earth, sprouting tough, bright leaves, yellow to green to blue-grey. The snowdrops are glowing like exquisite little lamps. As I draw, I notice spikes … Read More

Flotsam and jetsam

On a frozen day, I nip into the garden looking for flotsam and jetsam – stuff on the soil, leftovers, things blown in on the wind. Snails have left their shells, a chance to marvel at them. Each unique, all whirl and mark and ridge, drawing them I notice that they … Read More

How the garden grows

It’s hibernation weather. But from a window, I notice the garden’s rhythms as it works its way through midwinter. Waving, looping, bristling, springing – each plant is moving in its own way… What starts me off on this view is the three-cornered leeks. Big, soft loops of fresh green, these will … Read More

Pinks and clues

In late afternoon, I spot the first shocking pink cyclamen flowers and draw them quickly, in the last of the day’s light. Leave them overnight and they’ll have been snacked-on by a passing creature. I grab a highlighter. Watercolour alone isn’t up to the brightness of these flowers and even … Read More

First out

Assuming that there will be little in the garden to draw, I plan a small harvest to sketch indoors – there are herbs, three-cornered leeks and a few chard leaves. But the garden has other ideas… In the last of the day’s light I spot the first snowdrop out, then fresh … Read More

’Tis the season

On Christmas Eve, I head out into the garden to see if I can find some merriment and there is is: bulbs peeking out, scraps of soil cast aside like Christmas wrapping. The snowdrop bulbs were a present, planted all over the garden for good cheer at the turn of … Read More

The thaw

Rain tomorrow. But today, there’s still snow. As it recedes, the hydrangea leaves hang, sodden and weary from the freeze. The conifer branches, released, ping back up. I want to catch it while I can, matt, sculptural snow against the dark gloss of the leaves. But first, I go outside, … Read More

Frosting and snow duvets

Frost and fog have tilted the garden’s colours to grey, just a hint of leaf here and there and a flash of flower pink. Everything looks iced – shaken over the roses, glittering on the spiders’ webs, so I draw with a muted palette and add dots of white with a … Read More

And the ivy

The holly and the ivy… This time of year, I draw a lot of holly. But wandering out into the garden on a day so grey that it’s barely got light, it’s the ivy that’s singing out. I think of the ivy as one thing, sprawling over the back of … Read More

Berry bonus, mini trees

On late Autumn days of mud and gaps, the garden seems spent. But on a warmer-than-it-looks Saturday, nature coaxes me to the far end, where berries drop and ivy sprawls. There, purple-black and glossy among lime green leaves, is one jasmine berry. Eyes tuned, I look up, at the holly … Read More

Texture to colour

I’ve started my drawing day bimbling around sketching the lilies given to me by a kind neighbour, partly because I promised myself that I would and partly as an excuse not to go outside. It’s chilly. This should be no surprise – it’s November. But in this year’s strange climate, it … Read More

A surprise harvest

It’s clearing day for the sunflowers. The squirrel has done its best to hurl itself at the one seed head spared by wind and rain but there’s a full head of seeds, which I hook over a tree for the birds. Tough stems cleared and saved for plant supports, I … Read More

Nature’s fireworks

A dark, dank day has me reaching for soft-toned, soft-textured paper. Not, it’s called – a tactile surface somewhere between smooth and rough. It was my dad’s choice for watercolours (I always wondered at the ‘not’) and today, it’s mine because I have small things to draw, in a posy foraged … Read More

Snails’ pace

Snails. They have a reputation for slowness. But after overnight rain they’re making the most of a garden going over, edibles ready for last harvests and composting. I spot a yellowing squash leaf teeming with them. It’s a bit like a one-minute pose in a life drawing class – swift marks, … Read More

New leaves

Blustery showers blow leaves and windfalls into the garden so I head out in search of Autumn colour. I’m diverted by the hydrangea. Topped with dry flowers that owe more to a parched Summer than seasonal turn, it’s grateful for the rain. Pairs of buds are tucked into each pair … Read More

Rabbits’ ears and roses

Rabbits’ ears. That’s what we called these soft, furry leaves when I was a kid. I was going to write ‘so visiting the plant sale at Copped Hall in Epping, I couldn’t resist buying some’ – but I can never resist a plant sale. I sketch them before planting them in … Read More