Sketching ‘in the field’

Sketching is something I’ve always enjoyed, but as a former perfectionist (drama school helped me mostly shift it), I’m used to focusing on trying to make every little detail perfect. This results in every drawing taking several hours in a room with no distractions and a clear worktop. It seems a bit too sterile for creativity.

So I’ve recently started taking a little sketchbook and a few pens out and about with me on my walks. Then when the feeling takes me, I perch somewhere and just draw. It’s quick, rough and most definitely not perfect, but it’s also invaluable experience. We rarely experience the ‘perfect’ conditions for creativity, or at least what we think them to be. Through these quick, impulsive sketches I’m discovering the joy of a wonky line, a vague outline, a scribbled detail. And through this process, my drawings are beginning to look less like technical drawings and more, well, alive. Could this be because I’m drawing the real thing, rather than drawing from a photograph?

As a child I drew a lot, often just for the pleasure of it. As an adult, especially a self-employed creative preoccupied with productivity (has this replaced the perfectionism?), I often have to remind myself that it’s ok to be creative just for fun. It doesn’t have to lead to work, or a hundred likes on a social media post (but yes, I did post these sketches on Instagram….).

Of course, drawing ‘in the field’ has its challenges – in the first picture I wanted to add some shading to show the direction of the evening sun but was all too aware the midges had arrived and were eating me alive. So I took a photograph of this lovely spot and, back home, I added in the shading and created a bit more depth to the drawing (see image above left).

There’s also the time element. One evening I wanted to focus on a texture, doing a detailed study of the wooden bench I was sitting on. I sketched out the main components and began to fill in the details, but had to head back indoors for dinner long before I’d finished. So again, I took a photo and continued the drawing at home (as you can see from the image above right, I’ve still not finished).

I remind myself that these aren’t finished pieces. They’re reactions, explorations, a little adventure of pen on paper. A limbering-up of creative and observational muscles. And most importantly, they’re fun.

Notebook: Moleskine Art medium sketchbook, sapphire.

Pens: Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen india ink pen, fine nib.

Coloured pencil crab claw

On one of my beach walks early on in the lockdown I came across this beautiful crab claw, its owner long gone. The perfectly simple mechanisms contained within the claw made this a perfect potential puppet arm. Sadly, after several weeks out of the water it dried out and began to crack, but not before I’d managed to spend an hour one afternoon drawing it.

Sketching with a graphite stick is my preferred medium but I felt the beautiful rich colours of the claw were too important, so I gave coloured pencils a go, layering up the different shades from lightest to darkest.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and draw from observation. I haven’t quite got the shading of the curved surface right but I’m pretty happy with it for an out-of-practice attempt!