Home is a river
The ice floes are long gone and, with the arrival of sunshine, life on the river is once again to be envied rather than pitied…..
April was an intense month in the studio, with many projects on the go, but the Beowulf festival at the beginning of May was a great success, culminating in a spectacular music and visual display projected onto the tide mill. Thanks to ‘Clare the Mayor’ and the visual/musical genius of Jan Pulsford for such an imaginative event.
When the festival was over I was tired and fed up with all things artistic; time for a break. Luckily in early May I had a trip to Eriskay planned, arranged by some good friends who had invited me to join them. The Hebrides have been on my list of places I want to go for so long that I couldn’t believe I was actually on my way. After feeling like I never wanted to pick up a pencil again, I started sketching on the ferry and found it difficult to stop.
The best thing about sketchbooks is that they reflect life – imperfect, unfinished, sometimes full of colour but sometimes not, different every page, capturing fragments of experience as they flow by. I love the way I can turn to an empty page at the start of a day, with no idea of what will be on it by the end.
A sketchbook is a contrast to producing a finished painting, which has the expectation that it will be a) finished, b) good enough to hang on a wall in public and c) technically accurate and/or artistically interesting. But the odd thing is (and I’ve mentioned this before), when I teach an art group and ask them ‘who keeps a sketchbook?’, very few do. There is some shuffling of feet and avoiding eye contact, murmurings of ‘I know I ought to really’ and someone says ‘I took a sketchbook on holiday but didn’t have time to use it’. Somehow it’s perceived as easier to produce a painting by copying a photograph than doing a few rough scribbles in a sketchbook.
So if you’re trying to paint and keep getting stuck, if your paintings keep coming out looking the same and a bit ‘coloured in’, then throw away the photos (at least for now) and get out the sketchbook. Go for unfinished and imperfect and some magic will happen – not necessarily straight away, but it will happen. Later, when you begin again to create a finished painting, you’ll have the skills to do something new and fresh. Though you may find that keeping a sketchbook is so addictive that you don’t get time!
Home again now, back to being busy in the studio for a while. If you’re trying to draw boats and keep getting stuck, or think they’re too difficult, treat yourself to a ‘Classic Boat’ magazine – my two page article about how to sketch boats is in this month’s edition – let me know if it helps. Most of all, keep going and don’t give up because you can’t get it right first time!