Summer flows like the tide
Amongst many things this pandemic time has taught us patience and flexibility. When events we look forward to may or may not go ahead, we learn to be resigned if they don’t and delighted when they do. I had been planning an exhibition of small sketches based on my year on the river as part of the local ‘Spirit of Place’ events taking place throughout the summer. When the indoor space could no longer host the event, it moved to an outdoor venue which meant no hanging space, so I took my books and a few bits of artwork along to enjoy what turned into a delightful small music and arts festival.
This has given me more time to go through my sketchbooks and add to the selection of small paintings so that I can hold my ‘year on the river’ exhibition later in the year. Turning sketches into paintings for exhibition is something I do very rarely so it was a challenge to try and re-create the small scribbles made quickly on the river without losing the freshness and feeling of ‘being there’ .
I was reminded recently of a conversation some years ago on a cruise ship across the Pacific. I loved going out sketching on the days we were ashore in all these wonderful new places – Honolulu, Samoa, New Zealand – where there was so much to see and try and get down on paper. The artists in my class liked to see the sketchbook pages when we were back on board. ‘So will you make paintings of these when you get home?’ someone asked. ‘Oh no’, I replied. (It would never have occurred to me!) ‘So why are you doing it, then?’ he replied.
A good question, with multiple answers, and it led me to write my little book ‘Keeping a Sketchbook Diary’ as soon as I got home. (This is now out of print and writing an updated version is very much on my list of Things To Do).
Here are some of the reasons I use a sketchbook – I’d be interested to hear yours (and tell me what I’ve missed!)
1. Improving drawing skills (‘miles on paper’) Just do it, no-one needs to see the wonky pages!
2. Working out what to do for a commissioned illustration. I’ll read the article that needs illustrating, or the client’s brief, and work out how to turn words into a picture.
3. Relieving boredom whilst waiting for someone or for an appointment (see also no.1)
4. Making an idea visible – for a scarf, mug or other piece that I can digitally print.
5. Keeping a travel diary, mixing words and pictures (my favourite), see also no.6.
6. Capturing a moment – a familiar place in different light, wildlife, observation, appreciation.
7. Doodling, trying out different pens or pencils, playing with shapes, taking a line for a walk.
Come the autumn I’ll be running more art courses, mainly on zoom but hopefully a few real ones too, so keep those sketch books going. If you want to practice some speed drawing, Art Safari founder Mary-Anne Bartlett runs a free weekly zoom session which is great fun and good for confidence building – hop across to www.artsafari.co.uk to get in touch and be added to the mailing list. I’m there too, pressing the buttons and pouring the drinks!
If you’re able to come to Woodbridge during the first weekend of September you can join our sketching festival – plenty opportunity for ‘miles on paper’ in a great location with a range of workshops and activities to help you to progress your skills and stay inspired. Full programme here:
Keep smiling, stay inspired and keep on sailing through these stormy times.