18 June 2014

A fascination of sketchbooks

The morning was spent in looking through old sketchbooks ... I have many such ... surely the collective noun for sketchbooks is "a fascination"?  I started carrying a little sketchbook in 1987 and used to draw a bit at odd moments, eg waiting for a bus, as well as making expeditions to places like Kew Gardens specifically to spend chunks of time practising. In 1992 I took a deep breath and signed on for Julia Caprara's "developing a sketchbook" course, with no idea of what would be involved. We started by drawing a plant in various ways (outline, tonal, negative space, etc) - no, that was the second assignment - the first was a self-portrait, a bit daunting to say the least!

As time went on that sketchbook went to the park, and to an indexers' conference in Chester, where I took the time to draw an old doorway, with some success -
I used it in a course at the V&A which helped kindle my interest in Chinese objects and art, like the bronze vessel from the 12th century BC, and its 17th century (AD) lacquer replica -
When I discovered a favourite pen, nothing around the home was safe from being recorded -

Spiced Apple Jelly in the kitchen of the shared house

My life was crammed into one room

Trying to capture - and hold on to? - my 16-yr-old son
Another book was dated 1990. (Several were of uncertain date - do remember to put the year when you date drawings!) 
Drawings from a talk show on tv - before the days of the pause button

Memories of beloved china

My parents, relaxing of an evening (more a memory than a likeness)
Self portrait (with contact lenses and good haircut), 1990

Collage selfportrait from the late 90s, and glowering c.2009

The 1992 version mentioned above
Much in the sketchbooks was surprising because it been forgotten, and much didn't please the eye (then or now) but was useful for "looking" then and is useful as a record now. Early on in my spate of drawing courses a tutor told us not to tear out drawings we didn't "like" - those were important too.

What struck me was how important the choice of drawing medium is - smudgy pencil on rough paper is a no-no for me; I like the crisp line of a pen, though some pens have bled through the paper. Also noticeable is how much difference it makes when time and care has obviously been taken, which is easier of course when the drawing "feels right" at the outset. 

Overall, the books are a record of looking, and a record of interests. Some have photos and samples glued or pinned in. The repetition of subjects and treatments, over the years, is thought-provoking.

And it's so interesting to compare that 1992 course to the Large Sketchbook course I'm doing now.

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