Sketchbooks

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The sketchbook is a wild place to wander but it is also home. It is a place to tell stories and sing poems. It is a living thing that changes over time. It is a collection of moments, a continuous narrative of lived through experiences, real or imagined. The sketchbook is where encounters with the world gather.

Why draw? Draw to explore, to play, to have a relationship with line and colour, with paper and ink, because it is a joy, like listening to music. Draw to be where you are, to remember a feeling and heal a wound.

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I draw to remember swims and how my body feels in cold water. I draw to focus on the place I am at, to make me stay a while and be still with the creaturely remains or shadow that is before me or the landscape I have wandered into. I draw to record a thing I have found, so I can identify and find out about it later or because I am excited about its beauty and want to get closer. I draw to tell the story of a time, to express discomfort with ‘normal’. I draw for fun, because I can or for no reason other than the look of a line on
the page and the way it comes from my hand is like a spell. A splash of colour, delight in red.

 

Drawing can be the means of creating an image and that can be the aim from the beginning. As a wildlife illustrator my job was to create images to illustrate someone else’s narrative or to simply show people what an animal, plant or particular habitat looks like. The general understanding is that to illustrate is to communicate an idea visually. There is a story first and the drawing or sculpture or painting is created in response to that story. But I don’t draw to make an image I draw to see. There is no conflict between the activity of drawing a physical object by looking at it and trying to ‘illustrate’ a feeling or memory. All drawing is seeing and exploring what it means to be human, holding stories as words do, telling a narrative about the world but also the story of hand, eye, ink and paper encountering the world. The marks are the narrative of a time spent. You as viewer share that moment following the line, reliving that time spent. And as you share the imprint or remains of time spent, of soaked yellow ochre bleeding across thick water colour paper, of shaky line that remembers a gannets beak imbedded in sand, you are in your own moment. The story is of a dead bird but when I share that image with you the story breaks away from me and takes on a new life and becomes your encounter. You fill the page.

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