Behind the Scenes of Mariko Jesse’s “Keeping a Sketchbook: A Daily Practice”

For this month’s daily practice, “Keeping a Sketchbook,” we welcome new Creativebug instructor Mariko Jesse. She is an award-winning illustrator who is never without a sketchbook, and she encourages you to make a little creative time wherever you are. Being ready to sketch at any moment and in any location is an integral part of Mariko’s life as a working artist, and we wanted to be sure that her class reflected that as well.

a studio set with a paintings and frames hanging on a neutral wall, with a glass cabinet filled with books and ceramic plates and also a table with teapots and plants on it
Mariko’s set in the Creativebug Studio

We usually film all of our classes inside the Creativebug studio, but for Mariko, we packed up our camera equipment to film in multiple locations, both inside and outside. This is a rare situation for us, so we wanted to share some of the triumphs – and some tribulations! – of making this beautiful class come to life.

The Creativebug Café – Days 11, 24, 25

One of our super cute locations was the “Creativebug Café.” Mariko wanted to take her sketchbook out on an adventure to draw a beautiful piece of cake, as she often documents her yummy treats. Sketching in a café might mean that you don’t have a large table to draw on, and your materials might need to fit in your lap or your pockets, and these are aspects of everyday sketching that we wanted to capture. However, filming outside the studio also means that you get a ton of unpredictable background noise and random people passing in and out of the shot. So we made our own café.

a woman adjusts a small folding screen by a sunny window next to a wooden table filled with bakery treats and teapots
Courtney Cerruti finds ways to block light from the window inside Creativebug Café.

Set designers Courtney and Cobrina created a charming café corner in the office side of the Creativebug studio, filled with a mixture of real and faux pastries and teapots. Our film crew had to move all the sound and camera equipment, which may not sound like a big task but involved quite a bit of testing, adjusting, and consideration of lighting and camera positioning. The result was beyond sweet – as was Mariko’s sketch!

Artist Mariko Jesse poses with her sketch of a cake and a cup of tea - on the right side is a close up of her sketch.
Mariko sketches her afternoon tea.

Secrets of the Garden – Days 27 and 28

We spent a morning at Mariko’s Airbnb since it had a gorgeous garden that would be perfect for sketching. The flowers and plants were fantastic art models, however the incredibly bright sun and the unexpected breeze proved to be the challenges for the day.

Three people in a sunny garden underneath a wooden pergola next to a brick wall
Mariko sketches while Sam and Nicola from the crew figure out how to position the cameras and work with the sunlight.

The crew created a spot of shade above Mariko’s head with a large piece of foam board on top of a pergola, but the wind kept blowing the board up and down, changing the lighting and making quite a ruckus. We paused filming whenever the wind whipped up the board and hoped it wouldn’t blow into the neighbor’s yard. Eventually, someone was able to tie the board down, but a strong breeze then suddenly snapped the board and broke it in half.

The neighbor also started a Zoom meeting, which we could hear in Mariko’s microphone. We’re used to creating as much silence as possible in the studio, but when the clock’s ticking away, sometimes you have to go with the flow, and you might be able to hear a little background chat as Mariko sketches.

Luckily, you won’t have to worry about any of these surprises as you work on your own garden painting later in the month.

Artist Mariko Jesse smiles and sits at a garden table, showing her colorful watercolor sketch of plants and flowers
Mariko happily shares her finished watercolor garden.

Afternoon in the Park – Days 29 and 30

After filming at Mariko’s Airbnb, we hopped in the car, picked up lunch, and had a picnic at a local park. Once again, the sun and wind were big topics of conversation.

On the left: a close up of a film slate laying in grass. On the right: 3 people on the grass in a sunny park
Mariko, Nicola, and Sam take a moment in the shade for a picnic lunch.

The wind was unfortunately strong in the afternoon, but the show had to go on, and the crew knew they would have to get extra creative later with editing.

Nature let us know who was in charge that day, but our determined crew prevailed and got lovely footage of Mariko making art in the park.

hands holding a sketchbook depicting a watercolor landscape

Unusual Studio Moments – Days 4, 13, 14, 15

You’re probably used to seeing our artists seated at a table while they teach classes, but Mariko’s real life practice includes a lot of standing or sitting without access to a table. For a few of her daily prompts, you’ll find Mariko with sketchbook in hand and pencils in her pockets, sitting in a window or standing by a vase with flowers. You will truly learn to appreciate large pockets for art supplies.

Day 15 was a bit of a treat since some Creativebug staff made guest appearances in Mariko’s prompt for sketching a Zoom chat. You’ll find artist coach and set designer Cobrina, graphic designer Tyffany, and instructor Faith. Faith undoubtedly shared a wacky story to make everyone smile.

Studio Visits and Fun Field Trips

We are sometimes lucky enough to visit and film inside artists’ studios and/or go to a fun location to film B-roll for their classes and artist trailers. We were able to do both with Mariko.

Mariko takes some time in the garden with her sketchbook and watercolors.

We explored a historical mansion surrounded by lush gardens. There were a lot of tea sets and unique fixtures for Mariko to sketch inside, and we also got some quiet moments outside. You can see a few snippets of these locations in the class overview for “Keeping a Sketchbook” as well as in Mariko’s artist trailer where you get to know more about her work, her love of travel, and her large collection of teapots!

Mariko Jesse stands and sketches inside the ornate room of a mansion while Sam films her with a video camera.
Mariko sketches an afternoon tea set inside the mansion.
Sam films Mariko inside the orangerie as she sketches an interior scene with colored pencils. Sketch and upper right photo are from Mariko’s Instagram: @mariko.jesse

Filming with Mariko in and out of the studio was such a delight, and you will discover so much joy and freedom as you draw along with her and fill your sketchbooks with one-of-a-kind memories of your month.

Visit Mariko’s blog to see more photos and thoughts from her week at Creativebug.