a-lifetime-in-sketchbooksThe differences between ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ are not always easy to define. Drawings are generally personal, intimate things, often made quickly to capture a fleeting moment in time. Paintings often take more time to create, and are more social in that they are usually hung on walls to be seen. Of course, there are as many permutations of this as there are artists. Many great artists, such as Degas, drew with colour, using pastels, which are sticks of pure pigment.

dance-performance-ink-and-washGenerally though, drawings are monochrome lines, made with graphite, ink or charcoal on paper. It is very easy to find artist’s sketches and drawings on the internet, and you can actually see where a pen was pushed harder, a pencil used sensitively or boldly, a stick of chalk dragged sideways. Looking at an artist’s sketches can give an insight into their personality and private thoughts which are not so obvious in their finished paintings.

dance-workshop-pastelWithout the colour of a painting, a jumble of lines is all we have to make sense of a drawn image. We have to work a little harder to do this, and therefore a drawing can often be more engaging than a painting. We can see a direct connection to the artist and how he moved his hand to produce each line, how he represented texture, light, perspective, time, mass and even his feelings. If you are lucky enough to flick through the pages of an artist’s sketchbook, it’s like a direct insight into their soul. What caught their eye? What was worth the drawing time? Where were they? What mood were they in?

Sketchbooks are like visual diaries and I have one with me at all times, a habit instilled in me at college years ago. I can look back over almost 40 years of sketches and I know instantly where I was and what was going on in my life at the time. The drawings vary in quality and in method – some were done as visual notes, some are intense studies and in others I have used whatever came to hand to draw with. I rarely use my sketches as the basis for other works, although many people do. nude-watercolour-and-conteI draw to keep myself connected – to the world around me, to my hand/eye coordination and to the ideas and inspirations which might otherwise be forgotten. I see them as a separate activity to painting really, although of course the two feed into each other. Best of all is that these diaries are completely private; nobody else can really know or feel as much as I do about each drawing.

I would encourage everyone to keep a sketchbook. All you need is a book of plain paper which will fit into your bag or pocket, even if you think you can’t draw ‘well enough’…… and simply doodle, scribble, sketch, copy; USE it as often as possible. Keep notes of your ideas and thoughts in it too. You don’t need to show it to anyone and so it need never be judged. Keep it to get your lines flowing and your eyes seeing.