Places and spaces. The world we exist in, and the way in which we experience that world. One of the first things I did when I began my practice consciously was to start sketching the world around me. To find buildings and places that I could really look at - to break into shapes, lines, tones and colours, to understand them better, to make them into spaces.
This started as a sketching project, but has increasingly become a dialogue with my drawing. The one looser and energetic, the other formalised and tonal. But the sketching has made me embrace idiosyncrasy and love movement, whilst the drawing has prompted clarity of vision, so that there is more economy of line, and thought in composition. One result of this has been more forgiveness of the wobbly line - a tendency of mine from teenage has been the pursuit of the perfect swish and swoop, or worst, a straight line.
The images today represent many of these features in various media - I have two considered drawings that evoke a setting. The Wasteland [fig.1] is a pencil study for a possible setting, playing with depth and detail, evoking a place in time - a space for characters to inhabit, and the emotional response, the tone, of that space. Whilst YHA Boggle Hole [fig.2] was a commission of a place as a present, a process that involves considering presenting that place, and making it a space as object. Drawn in ink, with a dipping pen I was able to create a degree of texture in building up layers of shading, but I also wanted to use this idea of place presented, to use and disrupt perspective and framing as a part of the conversation.
The others are sketches - of buildings and landscape. The buildings are sketched whilst drinking coffee, the landscape whilst taking a break from talking. Shaftesbury Theatre [fig.3] and Kendal Castle [fig.4] are pen sketches. I find using a thicker pen gives less allowance for fiddly detail, which in turn means you have to breath before making marks, to give yourself time to see where the pen will go, rather than my normal approach, which is to get marks on the paper and tame them to what I want. This was a choice that came from drawing, where I could take the time to refine line direction and thickness. You can see this approach more in the pencil drawing of Sixty-Sixty Sounds in Denmark Street [fig.5]. It’s not the best photo, but you can see how the think-as-you-draw nature of my mark making is refined to bring edges to a line, and to build up the tonal range.
I like both approaches, but there’s something rewarding about the pen sketches purely because it’s so much easier to overwork them. Pencil is seductive, and I could easily spend the day in a sketch that becomes a drawing, so in some ways I never feel finished (though, of course, I have to); whilst with pen your time and paper is finite, so the experience (and this might be a lot to do with sketching from coffee shops) is more of a rush - clear observation, decisive lines, and the capacity to adapt to mistakes, or to quickly abandon it and start again.
I have talked before about drawing as a way to respond to the world - hinting at its meditative qualities, and about the ‘mindfulness’ of focus - the close observation of the immediate and the ‘now’. In many ways this idea of space-making in drawing (or in art and design in general) is about the reflection on relationships that exist within and around places, that define space.
Earlier I mentioned that my practice was part of a dialogue, so I think that my last image should be a sketch that is a conversation - a way of communicating with my father who has dementia, who likes to watch me sketch - an act that is present, that is connected to the place around him, that may help to give it meaning (albeit briefly), that creates a space. It’s unfinished - next time I’ll make sure to take a cushion out for Dad, but after the first few lines, as I could relax into the perspective and proportion of the building, I could look and watch as his eyes followed my hand, measuring watch I was producing on the paper against watch he could see in front of him. As it happens, I think this drawing balances on the fault-line between the styles I’ve discussed today...
This was supposed to be another quick post - though I seem to have got carried away… maybe it’s the yoga? - but that’s for another post…