My "Adventures with my sketchbooks" talk

March 9, 2012 | 2 Comments

Yesterday I gave my first talk on sketching – to one of John Haycraft’s art classes. John is a wonderful wonderful artist and architectural renderer who is so generous with his time and always inspires me! So it was a great privilege to be asked to come and talk about how, what and why I sketch. For the last few weeks I haven’t been sketching much as I have been going through my five years of sketching and trying to find the most important aspects of my approach to sketching and then attempt to structure it in a coherent way. I enjoyed doing this immensely.

Not only do I love sketching and love talking about sketching BUT I also love thinking about sketching.

In the last 12 months I have been doing quite a lot of thinking … I think it started with Laura Frankstone’s post about process vs product. My response to that is below (with a link to her original post)

I have been doing a number of interviews lately which always makes me think and late last year I wrote an essay (for an exciting project) about travel sketching – to do that I did a lot of thinking about why I love travel sketching so much. Also, the last time I sketched with John Haycraft he asked me whether I was a ‘recorder’ or an ‘imagemaker’. At the time I was too afraid to admit that I was not an ‘imagemaker’ but I now am totally convinced that I am a recorder!!!

Many of you that have met me will know that I am a good talker (once I get started I am hard to stop) but… I am not a naturally good speaker… So last night I was very conscious that I ought to speak slowly and clearly and keep my hands on my lap. Sadly… It didn’t take me long till I got excited about talking about love of sketching… And well …you can guess what I was like! I just can’t help it…sketching just gets me excited! I had an absolute ball sharing my adventures with John and his class.

Anyway, I thought that many of my readers might be interested in some of the things I have been thinking about to explain why I have become addicted to sketching and how I have managed to fill over 80 sketchbooks in 5 years.

1. I just love sketching (and on location in particular!)

  • I get such an internal buzz when I sketch. I love looking and observing things and get a wonderful feeling of discovery which I want to record. My hand loves to draw and respond to this discovery and I love splashing watercolour around and living dangerously with its unpredictable nature.
  • I love the external interaction that happens nearly every time I sketch. Nearly always someone talks to me (99% of the time it is positive!) But always as I am sitting still observing things/life, something happens around me…people come and go, what I am sketching changes etc.
  • I love the risk-taking and out-of-control factors when sketching on location. There is always an excuse why your sketch is not perfect – wind, rain, glare, a truck blocked your view, you were hungry, the ground was getting hard, ants were biting you etc etc.

2. I have an enormous sense of freedom in my sketchbooks

I think a major factor in this is because I am an architect. Every line has meaning on an architectural plan – one line could mean an extra step, a change in floor finish, an edge of a balcony etc etc. We have to be careful with every line we draw… But in my sketchbook I can do what I want…and my lines can become free and have fun!!!

Three emphases that give me this freedom:

  • I am process orientated – as an architect I sketch to design, or sketch to describe my designs. The drawing is just the tool. So I am less focussed on the end product that perhaps people who have studied art. I LOVE the process of learning!
  • I am more concerned with filling a sketchbook and telling a story from one page to the next rather than achieving perfect individual masterpieces. I also know how to convert a sketch I am not too happy with into a spread that I lke by text, more sketching, borders, colours etc.
  •  I am a recorder more than an imagemaker – I rarely ‘do a sketch’ but rather try to sketch and record whatever I am experiencing.

I had more things that I wanted to say but this is enough for tonight!

(BTW – photos by Laurel Holmes, Shirley Levine and various other friends)


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