Until earlier this year, most of my urban sketching was done in a sketchbook. Sketchbooks of all shapes (landscape, portrait, concertina), sizes (pocket, A5, A4, A3) and brands. Moleskine, Stillman and Birn, Handbook and Seawhite of Brighton are a few of the brands I’ve used. However, as I increased my sales of sketches and prints, it seemed sensible to create more of my sketches on loose paper. You can read about my #ThisPlace series of original drawings and limited edition prints here. These images were saleable and easier to scan. This in turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in my sketchbook work and a rather haphazard use of sketchbooks in the following months. This blog is about the impact that I believe reducing my sketchbook sketching has had on my drawing practice and how I propose to move forward.
My sketchbook sketching practice
Earlier in the year I was using an A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbook much like a visual diary. I sketched in this sketchbook very regularly using a variety of approaches and often wrote notes of explanation about the scene. Sometimes I divided the page into a series of smaller thumbnail sketches. Subject matter was varied. I also had different sketchbooks for different subject matter eg. people sketching notebooks.
My Sketchbook sketching alternative loose paper work
For some reason as I started to do more loose paper work I did less sketchbook work. The loose paper works tended to be whole scenes with very little in the way of descriptive text. A title and date were the norm for these sketches. Often, they were colour first and they would take longer than my average sketchbook sketch: perhaps 2 plus hours. Because they were to be prints there was also a tendency to be more precious about them. I enjoyed these pieces and there are strong benefits to creating them. However, I do feel that my sketchbook sketching work took a back seat. This in turn had an impact on the variety of things I was sketching. In hindsight, I think I should have put more effort into creating both types of drawing in parallel.
Sketchbook sketching-The benefits
Here are what I consider to be some of my key benefits of sketchbook sketching and the reason why I need to do more of it!:
- I am creating a visual diary, something to look back on, a chronology of events and ideas.
- The sketchbook automatically provides stories: of places, of occasions, of objects, through the visuals and narrative.
- It keeps me observing and recording: anything that catches my eye, so increasing the variety of subjects that I sketch. Inside, outside, from the car, waiting for a bus etc (this seems less likely with a loose piece of paper!).
- Everything is in one place so it becomes a toolbox of ideas about subjects, sketching process etc.
- Because it is always to hand, it keeps me sketching daily. I have to say that by not keeping a regular sketchbook, it is easy to slip into bad habits of not sketching very regularly.
- Its not as precious as a piece of loose paper (for me anyway!) so there is a greater tendency to try different approaches.
- Sketchbooking keeps me thinking about presentation of the pages and layout and therefore storytelling. It goes beyond the composition of the drawing itself.
Sketching in sketchbooks gets me out with other like-minded urban sketchers and sketching friends. Of course it doesn’t matter whether you are doing this in a sketchbook or on loose paper! However, when using loose paper I often go on a specific ‘mission’ to do a sketch and this is often alone rather than with a group.
Getting back on track with Sketchbook Sketching
Last weekend I attended one of the Urban sketchers 10 x 10 workshops at Salford Quays. The session meant that I took a sketchbook with me (I chose an A5 moleskine that had remained half full for sometime!). I subsequently created a number of sketches over the bank holiday weekend in this small book. It got me thinking about getting back into a regular sketchbook sketching which I plan to do in the coming days. In order for me to feel the benefit I am going to use a main sketchbook rather than several at once. I will try to use different approaches depending upon the subject, time available and materials. These are likely to include pen and ink work, watercolour, collage and perhaps coloured pencil/crayon/pastel. Given that my key interest in sketching is driven by the reportage storytelling aspects, it is that which I need to focus upon in my sketchbook work.
I am also going to think about ways of overcoming the endless searching for a perfect sketchbook! There are always pros and cons with any type of sketchbook so I am going to try to live with this and stop using this as an excuse for not progressing! What have been your main sketchbook sketching dilemmas? I’d love to hear about them!