Blog virgin steps up to the plate…

First posted Nov 12 2009

This is my first entry into my first ever blog. It could be the beginning of something wonderful and engaging that spirals off into as-yet unforeseen territory or it could just as easily be put to an early death if it becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Anyway, here’s the premise:

My approach to sketching has gone through a number of different phases over the years and I regularly find myself thinking I don’t do enough of it. What I actually mean is that I don’t do anywhere near as much of the type of sketching I did as an art student, when I used to keep what amounted to a series of visual journals – small sketchbooks I would fill with drawings of whatever happened to be in front of me at that particular moment. If I look at them now, which I seldom do, they conjure up my squalid student days with a vividness that no photograph could get close to. Not because of any particular accuracy or brilliance in the drawings themselves, rather that the act of making a sketch, by its nature, involves a longer, more intense engagement with the subject than the snapping of a photograph.

Of course, I still do just as much sketching as ever but on the whole these days the sketches I produce are roughs, or preliminary drawings, for an eventual piece of commissioned illustration work. I rarely have the time to make sketches from life for their own sake and, as much as I admire the dedication of other professional artists who will use their free time to attend, say, life-drawing classes, this has always had a slight whiff of ‘busman’s holiday’ to me. I’m more likely to spend my free hours on the tennis court or the saddle of my bike.

In spite of this I’ve never shaken off the nagging belief that there is an intrinsic immediacy, honesty, authenticity and artistic worthiness about on-the-spot sketches from real life that can never quite be true of drawings made with a commercial imperative. This might simply be a hangover from Art College, where we illustration students were held in contempt by those from the Fine Art department, who probably thought of us as mercenary corporate sell-outs (which of course we were). Whatever, there’s a part of me that has wanted to resume sketching-for-its-own-sake for a while now, if only to find out if the old instincts can be resurrected.

The inspiration to do so has come from an unlikely source, namely a suite of online website-building tools. For a few years now I’ve had an extremely basic site that I put together with an application called Freeway and then just sort of left it floating in cyberspace, ignored and unloved until shame and embarrassment compelled me to freshen up the gallery section with a couple of new pieces once or twice a year. I was about to go through the same desultory process again recently when I decided that the old site was past its sell-by date and a more radical overhaul was required. This time, I thought I’d try out the online website-builder that came as a free service with the domain name / web-hosting package I have with Network Solutions. There’s a lot of geek-talk these days about ‘cloud computing’ so I figured this might be a good time to unshackle my website from my desktop as this seems to be the way the wind is blowing.

Anyway, before I get diverted too far down Dork Alley, it was while building my new site (the online tools are a treat to use, by the way; I should have done this ages ago) that I found I could easily incorporate a blog page. This got me thinking about what I might include on such a page, having never had one before, which in turn got me thinking once again about my latent desire to start filling sketchbooks with something other than quick reference drawings made while clicking through Google Image Search. The idea was born. There are obviously going to be periods where I genuinely don’t have time to produce anything other than job-related drawings but as far as possible I’m going to try to keep up a steady flow of observational sketchbook entries and post them here. Some might come with accompanying text, others might be left to speak for themselves. For now, I’ll avoid any modification with Photoshop and simply present them in their raw state.

If nothing else, this process will make me visit my website more often than has been my recent habit and while I’m there I might actually update some of the other pages too, so there is a practical value to the whole exercise.

I have no idea where this will go, how regularly I’ll post or if it will be of any interest to anyone, but aren’t those the defining characteristics of any blog?

Having said all that, I suppose I should really include a sketch…

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