29 January 2013


Happy 2013!

A couple of years ago I went through a phase of doing very finished drawings and studies in a nice moleskine sketchbook. I even glued a bargue in the back and spent hours meticulously copying it.

I drew portraits of my workmates during meetings, and strangers in coffee shops at the weekend, always trying to achieve a good drawing, a nicely composed page. It was a lot of fun and I always felt ok about handing it over to people when they asked to see. After a while though, I realised that this book, neat as it was, was taking up a lot of my creative energy. It's all mileage but very few, if any of these drawings led onto other work. Those kinds of imaginative working drawings I would do on loose sheets of paper so that I wouldn't blemish my pretty moleskine with the messy, iterative drawings that come about when I'm problem solving. It was the beginning of a process that spiraled for a long time - of putting more pointless pressure on myself and thereby squeezing some of the joy out of drawing.

I have another nice fancy moleskine now, though it is filling up far more slowly than that first one. Right now my most used sketchbook looks more like this:

Recently a young student attending the same workshop as me here in Vancouver, asked to look through the sketchbook I had been manically scrawling text notes in. I said no, it's just notes for myself, it's not really for show. He really didn't expect nor particularly like that answer.

I felt it was a mess that he didn't actually want me to subject him to. It's also full of personal writing, visual problem solving and compositional notes to myself. This all makes it more intimate, so I impulsively felt the need to guard it like a teenage girl. I'm not sure there's a 'nice' drawing anywhere in it. Yet it's more fun because there's less pressure. And somehow this book is far more useful to me. It's somewhere external to think and to record my thoughts. Like a ram upgrade for my last-years-model brain. And it's full of fun ideas I want to complete.

Here's one of those thoughts, picked back up and coloured. I've added the steps in a little animated gif so that you can get a better look at the manky little thumbnail it started with.

If anyone has made it this far, I congratulate you. Words? you say - didn't sign up for that aye? Well leave me a few words on your relationship to your sketchbooks and working drawings. Or maybe a tip on how you keep professional art making fun. And in return I'll promise to just post art next time, and not a self indulgent thesis. Fair deal? Sweet.


  1. Glad I kept scrolling down as that process is mint and the final result has some sweet lighting going on!
    I know what you mean about showing people personal sketch books when mine looks like a tornado went loose with a pen inside. Guess we have our different work flows.
    Sweet texture painting too!

  2. Oh my goodness what a bunch of treats here! It's like an eyeball feast! Om-nom-nom!

  3. Thanks fellas :)
    I had a chat with the talented Thomas Simpson about this very thing. He mentioned that some illustration teachers (Sterling Hundley was his specific example) recommend having a sketchbook that you designate as top secret and never show it to anyone. Then it's a safe little place for you to try things, fail and learn without ever worrying about 'OMG, what will Pearcey think'. I guess it's kinda like running your own server and practicing against bots? Anyways, glad to hear someone with a reputation agrees with my rambles, even if he doesn't realise!

  4. It's a good idea to have at least two sketchbooks for your best and worst things. But what about having several folders? You can move drawings from one folder to another having good ones in a folder with common access and bad ones in another 'top secret' one.

  5. Hey Veich, thanks for the input. That sounds like a pretty decent solution. So long as there is the 'top secret' folder, aka the trash pile aka the cutting room floor, then the creative process is much more healthy :)