A question on facebook recently about what sketchers get from drawing by artist and teacher Roisin Cure really got me thinking. I was actually already thinking about it but it got me even more thoughtful about certain experiences that have developed my approach, be it, a book (Drawing on the Right side of the Brain by Betty Edwards), a course (Sketchbook Skool ) or a group (Urban Sketchers, particularly Urban Sketchers Manchester all come to mind. I have been starting to consider the great things about what it means to me to scribble and how it has changed my perception of the world around me. It may sound a little far fetched to say ‘it has changed my life’ but I certainly believe that drawing/sketching/making art has a huge amount to offer and really does change my perception and understanding of what’s around me. From listening to and reading about others, this certainly doesn’t seem to be an usual response either, others are equally enriched by the process. On reflection, here, in nutshell (or should I say in a very small sketchbook!) are the things I see as benefits for me, at this moment in time:
The process of sketching helps calm my mind and focus my attention I often have difficulty on keeping my attention focused upon one thing and this creates stress and anxiety. I flit from one thing to another and this compounds my ability to concentrate, creating a somewhat nervous disposition. To be honest, its something I have come to live with and over the years, it seems to have worsened. Through sketching, I am able to just focus on the drawing, nothing else. It calms my mind and enables me to relax. I become completely absorbed in the drawing and the process, giving me valuable ‘time out’. I have not found anything else that is able to do that!
It enables development of a much better awareness of the world around me and a deeper understanding of the places I live and visit Since becoming a member of the Urban Sketcher community, going out and about, particularly in Manchester with Manchester Urban Sketchers and beyond, I have developed a greater awareness and interest in the city I live in: from the new modern skyscrapers to the old Mills and other stunning historic buildings; their colours, textures, scale, detail. The same applies when I visit other places. Through the drawing, I am able to unpeel some of the physical layers and develop a better understanding of the place. This is an ongoing process of understanding and revealing! What fun! I am aware of more of the dynamics of the place, the festivals, events, traditions. It makes for a much richer experience and helps with feelings of belonging, helping connect me with others, be it through social media or other means. When standing outside, people may come up and chat, either about the process of drawing or about the place. It all adds to the experience and the ‘Sense of Place’.
It provides me with a record and therefore a clearer memory of an experience, a visit etc. Recording visits and trips in the form of a scribble, provides sketchbooks to revisit and remember-to recall ‘that time when I was drawing that’. Through drawing, I have to study the place/the person/the location so much more than I would usually do. I have to stand/sit and look and look. It etches it on my mind and provides a richer, more vivid memory. This is where the reportage comes into its own in a sketchbook. The notes accompanying a scribble provide valuable clues and dimension-I need to get better and creating these diverse and richer pages of narrative in my book! Here are my scribbles from last year’s trip to Wales. I remember it all the better for the scribbles!
It enables me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary Even the most simplistic of everyday scenes have a depth, substance and interest when looked at carefully, with more than a cursery glance! This narrative develops the more you scribble and draw. It provides you with a visual clarity, a fascination, a better pair of glasses! Even the most supposedly ordinary of places and things, train stations, street furniture, queues are the most fascinating when you look carefully!
Sketching enables connection with like-minded people Through the drawing groups I belong to where I live and also on line. This type of support is great because it provides friendship and a forum for dialogue and development of understanding. It’s a richer and more fulfilling way of living! In addition, through sharing these drawings on-line, it enables engagement with others that may have some connection with the drawing, be-it a memory or sentiment about the place or an understanding of its significance or history. This Cooperative building in Pendleton, Manchester is a good example. The Manchester Tour Guides posted a picture on social media and it prompted dialogue about the building, its history and me to go out and draw it!
Sketching gives me a voice and allows me to express my views of the world through a visual diary. Of course, there are lots of ways of expressing yourself, but I find drawing to be a great way of self-expression. Through the recording in sketchbooks, adding notes and other memorabilia I have a record of that time and place and of my ‘take’ on the scene. It is mine and mine alone, my visual signature. You only have to attend an urban sketching session to see the variety of ways in which a scene can be seen!
Finally of course and perhaps this was the main driver in the first place:
Through regular practice, sketching enables me to develop my drawing skills and improve my artwork It is a slow and continuous process but also one where progress is clearly noticeable as time passes-a better sense of perspective, more astute textural detail, a greater awareness of colour and shadow etc. Over time, my ability to see, and to tap into ‘The Right side of the brain’, continues to improve!
If you are a seasoned sketcher I’d love to hear your views or if you haven’t yet made a start, why not make it a New Year resolution! I am sure that as there is for me, there will be many positive outcomes for you too!