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Learning to draw

All about fear and sketchbooks.

I am currently learning to draw...this has been one of the most difficult and illuminating parts of the last few months. I have always felt like many people I 'couldn't draw' and had quickly moved on to making prints as this allows you to disguise this somewhat (I'm often surprised at my naivety/arrogance). I would see a thing in nature, make the most cursory outline sketch just to get the lines perfect, and transfer it quickly to the plate. I don't think this is a bad approach, many of my favourite printmakers do most of their work almost directly on the plate. The point is that the final image is better the more it's informed by good drawing. Initially I felt pretty discouraged, but have been learning to keep different sketchbooks and design books that have different functions. It was very exposing and unpleasant at first, but something has happened more recently which is that I have discovered I love drawing. I absolutely love it in its own right. I'm not sure what happened exactly, but I let go more and more of every drawing being good, and instead tried to make every drawing honest. It is also a volume game, I feel draughtsmanship gets more accomplished the more you do, plain and simple. I have yet to produce a drawing I really love, or one that feels finished, but I do occasionally look at something I've drawn and feel it's entered into the noise of alive work. Materials have also been a revelation - I have never loved overly tonal shaded drawings, and I'm a dedicated lines person. My brief foray into stone lithography has helped unclothe this prejudice but although I can appreciate all kinds of drawing more these days, I will always seek to use lines to create my tone. I also discovered drawing with an ink nib; it sounds ridiculous, but there's something incredibly liberating about the messy, decisive scratchiness of drawing this way, and I often think it's my best work.

My drawing setup:

1. A6: the smallest one that comes most places. This is my 30 second jotter and I'll draw anywhere and anything. I like drawing from the train as quickly as possible.

2. A5: a size up, different job. I usually sit for longer with this one. I might use watercolour in situ or do more work on a drawing when I get home.

3. A3: this is more a 'print planning' book. Often the plate size is already known and I'll try out several versions before beginning to work on the matrix.

Print planning: I use layers of tracing paper to plan layers.

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