Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Joy of Sketch

At junior school when drawing had become my passion, money was tight and fancy artists tools and supplies were a luxury normally reserved for birthdays and Xmas. Otherwise drawing pads and felt tip pens came from market stalls or Woolworth's, no frills cheap pulpy paper and vinegar-smelling ink.

And I recall drawing on the back of old greetings cards and till receipt rolls, not just cus times were hard, but cus it didn't matter, i just wanted to draw, draw on anything and everything, and if it wasn't paper, it was walls or pavements or - usually to my regret - school desks.
A few years later and i had A2 illustration board, Gillott nibs, a fistful of Rotring pens and a draughtsman's set. I felt the bees knees, all proper and professional like. But the drawing became difficult, i was far less prolific, far less spontaneous, cus that untamed energy had to be bottled, controlled and directed with careful pre-meditated precision, that's what i was told, what i thought.
And for me, it's where i was spoiled, where the seeds for future dissatisfaction and frustration were planted. That's the moment the 'tortured artist' was born. What tools? What materials? What technique? What should you do? What shouldn't you do? How? Why?
...and etc.
This month, during travelling and 'waiting around' time i finished a years old battered A5 sketchbook, knowing i hadn't much 'virgin' pages left, I'd packed a new one.
Never used it.
Instead, i drew on napkins, bus tickets, really cheap typing paper(about 70p for 100 pages), and even on the innards of a tatty novel. And i used old last gasp pens, no pencil or eraser, and markers that weren't compatible and bled into each other. And it works - it really turns up the buzz, taps right into that subconscious mother lode of creativity, the childhood self who is free of fuss. Whether it's the best sketch you've ever done or the worst, doesn't matter, as long as you're drawing, as long as you've let it all out.

Those costly fancy sketchbooks tend to intimidate, or make you feel like every drawing you do should be a work of art, soon as you open it you're careful and mannered, putting on the restraints. Unless you're some genius like Rob Crumb(not many of them about)or off your head on shrooms.
On the bus, in cafes, at the doctors, at funerals, I'm rabid about sketching, and in my studio i do it on scrap paper, envelopes, post-its, back of photocopies and especially on council tax bills, but NEVER in a sketchbook(i have plenty gathering dust).

Sketching sharpens your instinct, makes the brain-to-hand-to-paper coordination less anguished, less regimented, and more concerned with the pleasure of the act rather than the technicalities and the 'right way' to do it.
And it's helping me 're-programme' the way i work on finished pages, I'm biased, but compulsive sketching is making CEvil #2 a better issue than the first.
And it's all because of that little lad doodling on the back of Xmas cards.
Give away that moleskine that gazes into your timid eye! Liberate - draw on tablecloths, on menus, on windowsills - on each other! Let your pen free!

Or not.


Mark Buckingham said...

Well you know I agree with you totally. I went through the same transitional state starting back in 2000 when I was beginning to draw Peter Parker Spiderman... and it was the best thing to ever happen to me.
These sketches are all fabulous... full of life and energy ! I'm so pleased to here how reinvigorated it is making you feel regarding your art !
More please !!!!

Mark Buckingham said...

that should be "hear" not here. My spelling gets worse when I type in a hurry. sorry.

I laughed when I saw "disposal bag " :)

Gary Crutchley said...

You is one talented bastid, me tall friend. These are corkin'.
And it was really stonkin' to see you, earlier.
Lets not leave it so long next time.

Anonymous said...

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shane oakley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shane oakley said...

lo, bucky - thanx. i know we've talked about this many times and it's made a difference for us both. it is such a simple but enormously effective method to rid an artist of anxieties.
i know folk who DON'T sketch, other than when they're 'working'. but to me that's like saying you don't play your guitar cus you're not on stage.
there's always time to sketch, even if it's done sitting on the bog!

gary - that's 'talented bastURD', thankyou very much. tiptopten seeing you, mate, think we can improve on 9 months.

mark - you are a bit of a bozo since you missed the whole point of of what i'm saying. then agen it's obvious yer a sneaky sod trying to slide in an advert - and it worked!
i feel in a favourable mood today, you will not be sent to that black place of the deleted.
but if you do it agen i will have you kneecapped and the shop burnt down - cheers!

Andy Bloor said...

Fantastic stuff and so true... that's why I draw my stuff actual size now and enlarge them afterwards for inking... drawing them seems quicker and more fun... and I doodle all the time at work, when I should be working :-)

Rob Davis said...

Excellent sketches, Shane. And I agree with what you're saying. I don't do sketch books, never have, always draw on what comes to hand.
Still feel like I'm trying to shake of some of that tightness and inhibited feeling when doing comics, but I'm getting there. Slowly.

paulhd said...

If I could sketch this good, I'd do it more often. Some of my best ideas have come from doodling aimlessly though, so maybe I will do it more often after all.

John H said...

Spontaneity rules! Having a book handy is a nice last resort but scraps of paper here and there are much more fun. (Not that I draw but I'm always uncovering notes and scribbles I forgot about.)

The sketches in the printed book look great, could be used to good effect that...

shane oakley said...

andy - it's a very good method, use it myself ere and there.

...and doodling at the day-job is a sure way to keep sane.

rob - 'as long as you have a destination you will have somewhere to arrive, grasshopper'.

paul - you should, mate. some of your sketches have real cartoon bounce.
i think it's just a mind set, switching the brain to 'couldn't-give-a-fuck-just-gonna-have-some-fun' mode. mebbe a drink or two and some good tunes - and you're away!

john h - and it's ecologically sound, help save the rainforest - don't buy expensive hardbound sketchbooks!

Gary Crutchley said...

What happens if it's your expensive Hardbound sketchbook?
I'm up fer buying one of those.

Faff said...

You're so right about the freedom that comes with worryfree sketching.

Moleskine was the worst thing to happen to me in so many ways. At nearly a tenner a time for those handy little buggers I thought far to hard before putting pen or pencil to paper in them. I found a knock off version at £1.99 a time though that was just as good and the minimal price has freed me up and let me do anything I like in them. If I mess up a page and "waste" it i really don't care. I love drawing on margins and restaurant tablecloths and napkins and everything else but they're a cow to keep together.

shane oakley said...

dribbs - obviously that's different, the trees can die.

peter - what i used to do was rip the first page out, make the book 'spoiled'. psychologically that helps.
but really, the key is stopping yourself thinking everything you draw is precious - keep drawing on those tablecloths!

Bob Fingerman said...

These are really fun, especially the ones done in the paperback. I'm a firm believer in drawing with and on cheap stuff. I've done my last few books on copier paper and cheapo colored pencils. Very cheapo. I just feel freed by it.