You too can draw!
When did you start to draw? Why did you start?
Geography and location does not have to hinder creativity. I grew up in a small village at the bottom of New Zealand, my mother an artist and my father an engineer. In my home there was always artistic activity, screen printing drying on the fence, stainless steel sculptures hanging from the eaves of the house, TV stories being written and large oil paintings in progress. My forte as a boy was wood carving, which then extended to bone and stone, then on to metal sculptures. I guess there are aspects of drawing to designing carvings, but it was only once I left home that I had an urge to draw. I took a fist full of kids’ felt-tip pens on a trip to Samoa, and drew the pigs wandering the streets. It began from there.
A crowd began surrounding me so I could hardly see the subject. The sketch may have been ordinary, but I realised no one minded, they were just curious, suddenly I felt comfortable drawing – I still have that particular drawing. I was never self-conscious after that. I feel this is an important point every sketcher should reach as it takes them to another level, the confidence shows in their work. On-lookers, in my experience, are never critical. I would cite this experience as a feeling of success. When onlookers, who have a connection with what I am drawing are very enthusiastic, I often email them a scanned copy. I have many email addresses in the backs of my sketchbooks. That I have something to share, is a measure of satisfaction.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Does the environment play a role in that?
Good ideas come to us continuously, if only we pause to listen. Usually my sketch turns out better when I take a moment to appreciate what is around me first. You learn a lot about people, structures and scenes in the 5 minutes or an hour as you draw. You can see the Greek church has a barrel vault, an octagonal dome and so on. I believe each of us are ‘lamps to be lit, not vessels to be filled’. The only time the environment can be difficult is when it rains – I have evidence of tropical rain drops on several sketches.
Where do you draw most of the time?
Anywhere, bands, country churches, cheese rolling, markets, parades, car rallies – you name it. Five years ago two of us began sketching every weekend in order to hone our skills for when we travelled overseas. There are now a dozen of us, we call ourselves ‘The Taranaki Sketchers’. http://taranakisketchers.blogspot.co.nz/ We have tried ladder-sketching, umbrella-sketching, binocular-sketching, traffic-island sketching and even lying down on traffic-island sketching. You could say sketching on top of a ladder takes your drawing to new heights.
What is important to you when you draw?
The feature that appeals – what catches my eye. I start there, perhaps the grill of a car, the cross of a spire, the posture of a person, that becomes my reference. Each line from then on is relative to others – working out from there.
Why sketching? Rather than say, painting?
Like taking shorthand, sketching tends to be loose and fast and can be fun. The results are quick, and the hobby is portable. I call sketching ‘the Esperanto of Travel’. You are everyone’s friend irrespective of language. Especially children – they come up and talk, and sometimes even draw beside you – that is a pleasure.
French artist Eugene Delacroix states ‘perhaps the sketch of a work is so pleasing because everyone can finish it as he chooses. The artist does not spoil it by finishing it’. That makes me smile. Sketching is really anything you can get away with, using something to draw with and on.
The lovely thing about sketching is that you can remember every each occasion and location.
There is a marvelous global community of Urban Sketchers who post daily – often accompanied with reportage from their city. www.urbansketchers.org It offers a huge variety of styles. On the site you can view work from sketchers in your country via their directory. They even hold Symposium workshops – I’m due to attend the Singapore Symposium shortly.
How can our readers be part of the sketching community?
World Wide Sketch Crawl occurs every couple of months, this is where sketchers meet together in 100 cities and towns and sketch all day till they drop, then collectively share their results on the web. If you don’t have one in your town, you can start one. http://www.sketchcrawl.com/forum/index.php
Some cities and countries have virtual Urban Sketcher community webpages, many have never met physically. I happen to belong to the Aotearoa (New Zealand) Urban Sketchers. http://urbansketchersnewzealand.blogspot.co.nz/
Secondly, artist, Vincent van Google or so the press nick-named him, invites artists virtually to join him in a city or country of his choosing each month to paint/sketch using Google street maps. You drop the little orange pegman and walk the streets until you see a suitable subject. You post it on his ‘Virtual Paintout’ website. Some say this isn’t real painting or sketching but it is still fun on a dark winter’s night to armchair travel and sketch. http://virtualpaintout.blogspot.co.nz/
Do you have tips/ advice for creative beginners when they start to draw?
We have a rough philosophy in our sketching group which could be of help to anyone who wishes to draw:
- We like to trap light – ironically that is often achieved through shading. Light gives drawings and paintings a lift
- Owe no loyalty to a mark just because it is on a page – if you draw a line which is the wrong angle, don’t worry, don’t try to remove it, just draw a better one, it will look OK in the end.
- Our heads are looking up more than down – somehow if you are looking more at the model than with your nose in the page, you get a better likeness.
- Seek a dash of 'care-free' – Loosen up, give your drawing a sense of liveliness.
- Lastly - It is finished when you have 'said it' or the enjoyment goes - It is easy to overwork a drawing, and it can become laboured. You sense when this point is.
- In a more practical vein, in bright conditions I prefer to wear a peak or brim rather than sunglasses as they can interfere with the true values and colours.
Likely the reason you and I are having this interview, is because of my genuine enthusiasm for Tombow ABTs, your dual tip nylon fibre pens. These, along with a fineliner 0.4mm black pen, have become my trademark. I have used them for over twenty years and have developed techniques which I explain in my book ‘A pen full of light’. You can look at the pages online: http://www.blurb.com/books/3782653-a-pen-full-of-l...
- I colour my work with the Tombows by washing with a water brush. A water brush is also a Japanese invention, a brush filled with a tank of water.
- I lay some Tombow colour down with a pen, next touch my waterbrush on the fibre tip then wash away from the colour. So I use two sources of colour – that on the page and that from the pen.
- Sometimes I touch two pen colours with my water brush to obtain a third colour. Of the massive 96 colours Tombow supplies, the only colour I feel I’ve really needed to mix is ‘brick’.
- In between colours I clean my waterbrush on an old cut off sock I have on my wrist.
- If my colour is temporarily exhausted, I use the small tip from the other end.
- If your waterbrush is too wet the colour in the Tombow tip will be quickly exhausted and take a few minutes to recover.
The only disadvantage is not being able to lay down large expanses of colour, for say a sky. On the other hand, the advantage of Tombows over water colours is no mixing time is needed.
Apart from pens and paper, do you use anything else?
Sketchers are as bad as fishermen, they like gear and to talk about gear. I like at least 150g/m² grade of paper to take a wash. I prefer a sketchbook with a spiral binding to have a smaller area to manage. A clip of some kind is vital to prevent pages from annoyingly flicking up in a breeze. A lightweight, portable sketching stool with 40cm height depending on leg length and ideally with a small back for long periods of sitting. I like the Pentel medium Aquash waterbrush as it is the only one I have found where the cap fits snugly on the back of the pen avoiding it from getting lost.
Everyone develops their own preference for sketching kit.
Any final advice for budding artists?
I would encourage them to pick up a pen or pencil, carry some paper and use spare moments of the day to practice and doodle. You’ll find there are many spare moments. It is an inexpensive hobby and can be very satisfying. We all have talent, just think of your drawing as a small child. To improve your drawing skills, you need the enthusiasm to draw, followed by practice, practice and more practice. Surprise yourself – ‘give it a go’.
This article is part of our new blog-series "BE INSPIRED", where creative individuals share experiences about drawing, sketching and also give usefull tips.
You are also an artist, who loves Tombow products? Feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com and get in touch with us - we love to hear your story!