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.

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

Garden ink

Sun, rain, sun, rain… though Spring is a week away, it’s making the garden pop with fresh colour. My starting points for this week’s sketches are natural ink washes. It’s interesting having a base note of the main colour in the plant I’m sketching – it frees me to look at … Read More

Beautiful hooligans

Three-cornered leeks. I have no idea how they got into my urban garden but they’re hooligans, spreading their way around. Handy, then, that they do their partying in one space when there’s not much else going on. First, drifts of their triangular leaves, then chandeliers of green-streaked white flowers. They’re … Read More

Light, bulbs

With the light come the bulbs, this week, drifts of crocuses. I’m glad of the work I put in last Autumn, replanting saved bulbs and putting in new ones. On a day too sparkling to draw indoors, I hug the Winter sunshine and watch. In the pots, the flowers are … Read More

What the storm blew in

Storm Eunice lashing London, my cold frame escaped its moorings. In its journey to the other end of the garden, it revealed a view I don’t normally have of Spring bulbs in pots that will, come Summer, house tomatoes. So I made the most of it and did a quick … Read More

And they’re off…

I love a sweet pea. So as soon as the light lets me, in go my seeds, the improvised loo roll planters looking like firework boxes. Which, in a way, they are. Up shoot the seedlings, with promise of bright, fragrant flowers. There are unexpected visitors, too, my home-made compost … Read More

Winter posy

Frost-chilled, wind-blown, wild weather forecast, the doughty little roses in my garden looked ready to jettison their petals. So as it was too chilly even for wrapped-up drawing, I snipped off a couple for a posy. Even the colours look cold. The full rose petals are bleached to the palest … Read More

Just watching

“I’ll do the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch while I draw outside for the blog”, I thought. “I’ll listen out for the birds, then I can glance up”. But with a human outside faffing around with art materials and a line full of washing flapping about, sensibly, they stuck largely to neighbouring … Read More