Blech! I hate this part of the year, which is dark and cold and horrifically soul-rendingly boring. As ever, Christmas encouraged me to move away from all my carefully crafted routines, and eat lots of cake in front of the TV.
Then, just as I’m getting the hang of 2012, I finished my notebook. Rather than pick up another one I’ve been doodling on loose bits of paper, such as these watercolour postcards. Here, I’ve done an ink sketch of some of my Christmas haul, which has ended up piled up on the desk at the end of bed.
Next week I shall be on the road, so updates will probably be even more sparse than usual. But I shall probably be looking at more interesting things, and I’m determined to do some sketching out there, so you’re saved – SAVED! – from me drawing more piles of books. In all fairness though, I am going to retrieve about a hundred books, so maybe it’s more of a temporary reprieve.
This was one of those days where I really wanted to get out and sketch, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Plus, Dr Who was on later (I think it was that episode by Neil Gaiman), so I ended up trying to draw the hedge and the blue sky above it.
Plus, I really wanted to try doing watercolour in my new sketchbook. I kept taking it out but forgetting my watercolour set, which was just massively annoying. I even did one drawing where I added watercolour afterwards, so desperate was I to break the cherry on this watercolour sketchbook. I had been sitting in the open-air cafe at Hitchin town square (the nice one run by the Italian guys, not the big one in the middle) and been sketching all the bits around town, including a tree.
I started off by doing the buildings, which is a classic mistake that I do. I love architecture, so my first response to drawing in towns is to whip out my pen and start on the buildings. Really, I need to work up to them, letting myself get loosened up. I find that once I’ve been drawing for about a solid hour I’m capable of tackling subjects that, otherwise, I’d make a giant hash of.
But I didn’t warm up, so I made a giant hash of my drawings, whilst sitting in public at this cafe full of chatty people. As I finished, one of the other patrons asked me what I was going to do with my sketches. Would I be putting them on canvas?
It was an interesting view as to what people thought when they saw me drawing. The owner of the coffee shop had said to me “Hey, it’s like Covent Garden now, with the sketching!”. I offered to pick his pocket to complete the feel, but he declined. Then there was the lady who walked past and looked at me, dead in the eye, and said the word “sketching”. That was a bit freaky.
I guess these are all things that contributed to me staying in. Sometimes I just want to draw, and not deal with how other people see me when I’m drawing in public.
I gave myself some time off from updating the blog, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on my drawing. Since the end of December last year I’ve been trying to draw every day, and get better at it. Back in 2000-2003, my last burst of pen-to-paper artistic activity, I got to a relatively good level of artistic ability and then ended up concentrating on passing a degree in Fine Art, which had the side effect of discouraging me from drawing.
Fast-forward to now, and I’m actively trying to get good at drawing for a variety of reasons. I’m not going to go into those; they’d make as much sense written down as my shopping list – that is to say, they are both boring and mysterious at the same time. They make sense to me though.
I started off drawing in a sketchbook that I had lying around, but I soon found that I was spending far too long trying to make each page look “interesting” to make any progress. Here’s a page from the end of January, where I’ve been drawing for just over a month:
(I think you can click to embiggen?)
For some reason, I thought that I should draw things from Star Wars. This also combined with my drawing sexy ladies from the internet; I don’t recommend drawing sexy ladies though, because they don’t do a lot of interesting body shapes. It’s far better to take a sketchbook to a busy cafe, sit where you can see the queue for the tills, and sketch the people standing there. People on the phone are good too.
The point I was going to make was that this just took me far too long, and didn’t really get me any further towards “better”. So I stopped using my sketchbook.
Hey everybody in blogland! I meant to do this post as a follow-up to the last post, but I had a bit of a rough patch with my health and couldn’t do it. Anyway, lets dive in – INTO THE PAST!
Biggleswade is not an exciting place to look at, as the above photo shows. So, when I took up drawing way back in the past, sometime around 2000, I found that I wasn’t at all interested in drawing the landscape around me. I was really fixated on drawing the people around me.
Sometime earlier, in the 90s, I had found myself failing a course at the local art college. I don’t really have much of a recollection of it, but I know my drawing style was very different back then. I was interested in drawing design-like sketches, and I would make very super-neat drawings of inventions and things in my sketchbooks. Like so:
After I flunked out of that course, I didn’t pick up any art materials for a few years. After a while, though, I began experimenting with painting and collage, often while stoned. But, as Mike pointed out in a comment under the last entry, doing work stoned just doesn’t pan out. I’ve put a thumbnail of one of those early painted pieces in this entry, but I have a few sketchbooks of this sort of stuff, slowly sticking their pages together as the weight of the book bears down on itself.
But then, I have a lot of sketchbooks:
I’ve heard of elderly artists who have rooms full of sketchbooks, paintings, and drawings, and to be honest, it was one of the main reasons that made me switch over to using digital media. Sadly, the perfect lifestyle never really came together for me, and the last time I moved I spent all day moving boxes by hand. I have a feeling I’ll never be a techno-nomad!
Other artists I’ve talked to about this problem of book-cruft have told me about throwing out notebooks. But for me, these notebooks seem really personal. Not all of them; some of them are not that interesting, but I haven’t given myself the time to go through them and throw out uninteresting things yet. Looking through them, I found myself recollecting about the times they covered, but also how my techniques changed.
Earlier on, I was trying out more materials, trying to get a feel for sketching bodies. My later work, when I got better, was mostly done in pencils, still trying to get the feel for bodies. I concentrated on people, as I found that I couldn’t draw the things in my house, because it was impossible to “see” them – I already had a mental image of what those things looked like.
After eight months of working as a cleaner and then hanging out, sketching friends of mine, I went back to college on an Art and Design Foundation. It really inspired me and got me to concentrate on doing drawings of people. The two images above are from some life drawing sessions I did (for non-artists: where you draw naked people) and show my favourite drawings of that time.
Those drawings aren’t very representative, so I’ve also made a video of me leafing through a sketchbook from that period:
I did other things, such as this lino print, based on my drawings. But pretty much the whole year of the course was based on doing drawing, which I continued doing when I was around my friends. This led to a massive drawing done at a Bacchanalian New years Eve party:
What I didn’t realise at the time was how much this art practice was reliant upon a functional social life. When I reached university my social life stopped dead for about two years, and life drawing classes were hideously oversubscribed, bringing an end to the life drawing aspects of my sketchbooks. Instead, I began to experiment with colours and shapes, and ended up doing a lot of work like this:
Weirdly, when I was sitting on the grass at Newcastle University in 2009, I saw an art student using almost exactly the same technique. This is basically an advanced doodle! But I’ll try to talk about that in my next post.
Thanks for sticking around through this EPIC post! If you read this far, feel free to ask for the “late-to-life-drawing-lesson” story in the comments. Warning: it’s pretty gross.