Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Drawing from life
I have taken to carrying a sketchbook round me with me and drawing on the train. I used to carry a sketchbook with me wherever I went when I was younger. Now, it has become a writer's notebook that I always carry. I sit on trains caught between my competing desires to read a good book, write a good book and keep hold of my love of drawing.
I was an illustrator and cartoonist for about twenty years and much of my output was what I would call ideas-based. The illustrations were conceptual images designed to accompany a piece of journalism. The drier the piece, the more it would profit from having an image accompanying it.
It is a very particular type of work, very different from the skills needed to produce work for books. That's not to say that an illustrator cannot successfully do both - Chris Riddell is equally well-known in the worlds of newspapers and children's books - it is just to say that they are different. Apart from anything else, there is the difference in the allocation of time. A newspaper cartoon is usually the work of hours and has to be done that particular day and no other. It is about producing the best job you can on that day.
When I was at college I assumed I would become an illustrator of books. In fact the publishing work I have done forms a tiny fraction of my output as an illustrator. And somewhere along the way I became dissatisfied with my drawings - my observational drawings. Sketching became irritating and nothing more. I persuaded myself that drawing from life was irrelevant to the kind of visual artist I wanted to be. Now I'm less sure of that.
I am still dissatisfied with these drawings and I still wonder whether there is any real point to them, but I quite like the idea of seeing where they take me. And I also quite like the idea of sharing them. So there may be more.