During my MA course at Wimbledon, we had a discussion about sketchbooks where I discovered that I wasn’t the only person who just didn’t really keep a sketchbook. Notebooks, yes. Lists, yes. Trial runs, yes. But a ‘proper’ sketchbook – well, no.
And actually, I was fine with that. The important things was to make actual work.
But somehow now I find I have two real sketchbooks on the go: a small one about 15cm square, and an A4 landscape one. A few things came together to get me to this point: family commitments limiting my trips to the studio for large scale work; a desire to try different drawing styles and media, and even to improve my drawing by practising; a need to have a portable drawing kit for our trips out and to the British Museum.
Looking at what’s in them, the sketching falls into two broad categories: capturing what interests me in a scene as a supplement to or maybe even a counterpoint to photographic references; and learning by copying. Possibly the two classic functions of sketchbooks.
Here are some ‘what interests me here’ pages:
I have tried to keep this kind of sketchbook before. Looking back, I think what’s changed is my ability to identify what interests me so I can record it.
And here are some of my ‘learning by copying’ pages:
I hadn’t tried copying before the MA and during it, apart from our trip to the British Museum, I didn’t give any time to it. I grappled with the Turner sketches for three or four weeks at the British Museum and I could see how I needed that time to gain some sort of ‘muscle memory’ in my hands in order to understand (something about) what he was doing. I don’t think I’m about to go out sketching like Turner, or anyone else, but I have become more confident that I can use different drawing styles to achieve the images I have in mind.