Saturday, 7 July 2018

Sketchy Thoughts

As much as I love spending hours walking around art galleries, scrutinising works by my favourite artists and discovering pieces by artists that are new to me, one thing that I always want to see more of is their accompanying sketchbook work. I'm fascinated by these visual diaries/notebooks and how they reveal the thought processes behind the finished works that we see up on the gallery walls. And it's with this in mind that I thought that I'd give you a little insight into my creative musings by posting a few recent scrawls from my current pocket sketchbook (these days I rarely use a sketchbook bigger than A5 size).

My own sketchbooks are amongst my most precious possessions; probably the first things that I'd try to save in the case of a house fire. To me they serve multiple purposes. Often they are repositories for pretty much fully formed ideas for potential future artworks (mostly sculptures) - having long ago realised that if I don't get an idea down on paper straight away, I'm liable to forget it forever. But they are also where I go to work out the not-so-fully-formed ideas. Sometimes an idea is so vague that it's not until I start to see it take form on the page in front of me that it is actually realized. Sketchbooks are also great places to knock lumps off of forms before you attempt it in the real world. By this I mean that you can experiment and make your mistakes on paper, before you commit to the physicality of the actual sculpture. It's also a good place to refine the form of the sculptural work that you are going to pursue - the place where you discover its ideal outline.

I have more ideas for artworks than I'll ever have the time in which to create them, especially since the act of constructing a sculpture always generates ideas for various different versions of itself (usually there will be multiple points in the construction of a sculpture where you are confronted with the option of taking the work in one of at least two different directions), so I content myself with the fact that if I manage to get my ideas down on paper at least the work exists in some form.

Although the majority of my sketchbooks are filled with preliminary drawings, I do also use them for making working drawings of mid-construction sculptures - as a way of working out some of the finer details of a work in progress. I find that it can also be useful to make sketches of sculptures that I'm working on, purely as a way of temporarily distancing myself from the sculpture, and in which to see it from a fresh perspective.

As you've probably noticed from these few examples, I usually eschew the pencil; instead preferring to work directly in ink on paper. I like the immediacy of working with a pen. Knowing that you can't erase a mistake, trains you to be more accurate and economical with your mark making, or to incorporate rogue lines into the body of the drawing. Although, saying that, some of my thumbnail sketches can occasionally lean towards the clumsy, especially if I'm more interested in quickly jotting down an idea (usually accompanied with a few notes on materials and construction methods) than I am in pure joy of drawing.

Another thing that I love about sketchbooks is that they can act as an inspiration store. I have sketchbooks dating back decades and every now and then, when flicking through them, I will come across a forgotten drawing or set of notes that triggers an idea for a new work.

I smile now when I think back to my early days at art college, when the tutors would try and impress upon us the importance of sketchbook work, and would demand to see a body of preparatory drawings accompanying each finished piece of artwork. Inevitably we would all disregard this - go straight ahead with our main piece of work, then, once it was finished, we would laboriously try and come up with the pages of 'preliminary drawings' that had led us to that end point.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Venice Accounts Book Drawings

I've recently relocated my studio and art practice from London to a much bigger space in Shropshire (but fear not, I'm still popping back down to the Capital on a monthly basis, to get my fix of arty partying and the glorious pollution – this fresh country air is just confusing my lungs), and have been spending the greater part of the last month working on renovations to the house and outbuildings, so apologise for the gap since my last post.

As a result of the renovations, and the current lack of a functioning studio, I've not had much in the way of time or space to produce any new artwork – and therefore not much to post about. But today I was making travel plans with the art journalist, Holly Howe, for our trip to next year's Venice Biennale (every two years Holly, myself, and a small group of art insiders schlep our glad rags over to Venice for the craziness, and parties of the Biennale's opening week) when I remembered an old accounts book that I had found in the streets on my 2015 visit to Venice, when I was over there, taking part in the Rob Pruitt's Art Flea Market, pop-up event. That year, when I returned home to London, I brought the book back with me, and used it as a sketchbook in which I made some fast and playful charcoal and acrylic sketches/paintings.

I'm not sure why I thought of painting this creature, with its cactus horns, but it probably triggered the thought of the bunny-eared figure below - which now I look at it, reminds me of a kinda steroidal version of the rabbit character from the film Donnie Darko.

As you might already know from some of my previous work, I have a fondness for scrawling on old books and printed text.

As a creative exercise I like to set aside time to produce a certain amount of drawings, executed without much in the way of forethought, just to see what it throws up. Some of them work, and many of them don't – but either way, it's a good way of getting the creative juices flowing, and of maintaining the enjoyment of one's art practice. So here's a few examples of these loose paintings and charcoal sketches.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tattooed Tumour Box - with Working Drawings

I'm pleased to say that work on my sculpture/3D drawing, 'Tattooed Tumour Box', is finally complete. I started constructing the piece last year when I planned to build and enter it into the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Although I managed to make all the interconnecting box sections of the piece well in advance of last year's submission deadline, I soon realised that 'tattooed' element of the piece wasn't going to be fully achievable in time (as hard as I tried).

As with most of my artistic projects, I underestimated just how long the drawing side of the work would take. There are several reasons for this. One being the fact that all the drawings are quite intricate and time consuming to develop from scratch, especially since I planned for all the elements to have their own unique qualities whilst still looking like they could coexist in the same universe. Couple this with the fact that, put together, all the forty four separate planes of the sculpture's components add up to a much larger surface area than one might expect, I now clearly see why the piece took so long to complete – although, admittedly, once I missed last year's deadline, work on the piece slowed down for a while whilst I worked on other projects.

Another reason that the drawing process took so long is that each sketch had to be done four separate times – firstly worked out as a pencil sketch in one of my sketchbooks, then traced in ink onto tracing paper, thirdly, transferred onto the sculpture using carbon paper and drawing over the image on the tracing paper, and finally there would be the time consuming task of inking in the carbon ghost image on the sculpture's wooden surface.

Initially, I started off the drawing process by rendering elements of miscellaneous found objects, and morphing them together but once I got into the flow of it, and started to really develop a feel for the world that my drawings evolved from, I mostly abandoned the use of existing source materials, and opted for the freedom of simply making it all up.

To give you a little insight into the multiple processes that I lovingly went through (often whilst working through the night, till five or six the next morning) constructing Tattooed Tumour Box this last year, here are a few of the pencil sketches, tracings, and inked-in sections of the sculpture's surface.

Incidentally, the sculpture is made up of cut-up pieces of antique packing crates, sourced from the Victoria and Albert Museum where I work part-time. You can even see sections of old labels, stencilled numbers, and part of the lettering of “V. & A. M.”, branded into the wood in a charming early twentieth century typography.

There are lots of drawn elements of the piece that I've especially enjoyed creating, and one of them is the underside of the base section of the sculpture, and therefore probably the part that is least likely to be seen. So I thought that I'd give it an airing here. As the circular hole in the centre is for the insertion of the pole that makes up part of the work's metal stand, I thought that I'd make it a feature of the overall design, and incorporated a sphincter element to the drawing. The sigils which appear within to outer ring reference occult interests as well as being a tribute to the flamboyantly entertaining comic book writer, Grant Morrison.