It seems that the work I produce, on a daily basis, in my concertina sketch book has gained a following. How exciting. With that said, I thought it might be a good area to cover in some of my blogs, with this being the first one.
When you go to art school/college/uni, whatever you want to call it, one of the first things that is drummed into you, is the importance of keeping sketch books. Finding what you want to put in those sketch books, is initially, the challenge.
Nowadays galleries will display famous artists’ sketch books alongside their finished pieces in their large exhibitions. We are all being given an extra insight into the workings of artists’ own understanding of their work.
Take Leonardo da Vinci’s amazing sketch books which go on show around the world. He had a particular use for his, I am sure you have seen his sketches of the inner workings of the human body. His understanding of how the body fits together informs his painting. It might not be obvious at first, but it is through this kind of study he is able to produce his amazing portraits. All the problem solving is done in his sketch books.
That is what sketch books are brilliant for. You have an idea, you see something which you enjoy, jot it down in your sketch book and the reference is there for when you are ready to produce a larger piece of work.
Clearly, I am not in Da Vinci’s league but I have done as he and many other artists do and to be honest, it really didn’t make a lot of sense to me to begin with. Starting out, I just did it because I was expected to.
But I also had another sketch book, one I never showed my tutors as it was full of my doodles, something I didn’t think anyone would take seriously. So, I didn’t take it very seriously myself either, it was just the thing I enjoyed doing in secret.
A few years ago, I realised that those doodles, are me.
That is what my artwork is about. Shapes, colours and unplanned outcomes, many of which, just make me smile. And I use those doodles to inform my use of colour in work, I use them to understand how shapes work well on a page, how the tone of those shapes makes the work interesting and finally the letting go of the outcome.
Having realised that these doodles were me and worth bringing out of the closet, I used them to raise funds for my favourite charity “Action on Podoconiosis”. I started out with black and white then, as I love colour, started working with colour too. I don’t remember now how much I raised for the charity, but I did raise money and people really like them: I was delighted.
But if you look at my sketch books and the painting I produce, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is a disconnect.
My underwater series pieces don’t look anything like my sketch books, on initial inspection.
But take another look. The colour use is similar, my understanding of how best to use the light and shade is better informed and the realisation that I don’t have to control the way the paint and ink settle in a piece giving the freedom I love in the work, is all connected.
In this piece above, I have used the knowledge from my sketch book and my love of printmaking. I have screen-printed onto paper and then hand-coloured it a bit more before, cutting it up to make this and similar pieces.
In addition, I experimented with just the paint, ink and resin (not the cut-up paper elements) to produce the large pieces I display here on my website.
Sketch books are really important to an artist and if you are starting off on your art journey and just don’t get why you should keep one, keep two.
The one that your teachers have drummed into you that you must keep and the one just for you which makes you happy.
That one will be the one which truly reflects what you love, why you love it and what you have to offer the world as an artist.