Talents and skills are funny things. They can be beautiful, enlightening, pleasurable, unique and frustrating. Sometimes all in equal measure. In some ways you could say that they are like old friends and acquaintances. Some accompany you for most of your life and others come and go, satisfying a particular need at a certain time before disappearing off again. If we allow them to hang around long enough they get to grow with us, our relationship with them becoming ever deeper and more involved. They show us things that are new and fresh and that we didn’t see before, and often the tell us things about ourselves when we take a little time to listen and reflect.
Some can be quite short term, joining us for specific periods before evaporating into the ether, or fading into the background of our lives. Good, true friends, the one’s you know you can rely on truly, are like talents. They never really leave you. Often skills can be like those people you’re really friendly with at a certain job but the relationships don’t travel with you when you move on. I’ve had to learn certain skills at times in order to complete certain projects but, have never needed to call on those skills since that one occasion. They are the transient drinking buddies that come and go. Others I’ve needed time and time again and they are now like old friends.
For me, drawing is a very old friend. I’ve known it for years and it remains one of the primary reasons why I managed to survive in the creative world as a designer. We’ve had our ups and downs. It has brought me some success in my job through it’s capacity to allow me to communicate ideas effectively, it has also been, at times, the last thing I’ve wanted to do. Sure enough though, we re-acquaint ourselves in the end and carry on as if nothing happened. The intervening time seeming only a momentary pause.
Like a lapsed musician returning to his instrument after a long and protracted break, so has been the nature of my relationship with one of my oldest and most favourite abilities. It’s not been easy.
When I started working as a product designer I used to spend days, weeks sometimes, sketching and drawing. Ask any designer about sketching out ideas and invariably they will regale you with tales of the mountains of sketch sheets generated at the early stages of projects. Although the reality is that only a small proportion of the time spent on a project involves this activity, when you’re in it up to your eyeballs, it feels like it’s the only thing you do. As things have moved on and my role in projects has changed, so has my involvement in this stage of the work. In a nutshell, I get to do it less and less. My transition into modelmaking and prototype building means I don’t get to sketch like I used to. My drawings have changed from fanciful idea generation into a more diagramatic form as it has become a tool to aid me in working out how to make things. It’s still creative in a way but, in a very different way.
As an antidote to all this notionally technical output I’ve tried over the years to keep up with a sketch book in my own time, and occasionally branch out to complete the odd comical commission. This activity has served to remind me that I can still do it, but often in a very sporadic and unfocused way. One thing I noticed however is that because my work requires that I depict hard reality, when it comes to what I draw in my own time it takes the form of images derived directly from my imagination.
The fuel that feeds that imagination engine is derived from my other passion, notably motorcycles. I love ‘em. Not taking into account a short break between 1985 and 1992, I’ve been riding them since I was 17 years old. Over the years they have woven their way into the whole of my life. Because of this interest, I find them, and the world around them, a rich source of inspiration for my drawings.
This is the kind of thing that pops out of the end of the pen these days.
What I thought might be interesting, using this blog as a kind of public sketchbook, would be to publish some of the drawings that I’m now producing and take the time to explain my way through their genesis. It won’t be purely an expose of where the ideas come from but perhaps taking a closer look at the processes, both technical and creative, that lead to them being the way they are. I’ve always found that the story behind something can often be as interesting as the item itself. This will also serve as a really good way to force myself to think about my drawing. When you’re deep into creating an image you are often employing loads of little bits of tacit knowledge and skills to guide you, and this happens almost subconsciously. Presenting oneself with the need to explain what’s going on means you then have to think quite clearly about what’s going on.
So I will start to pick up on some of these things over the next few posts.
The drawing above was very quickly roughed out in a big A3 sketchbook and then inked over using a good old fashioned black biro pen. I think you can see immediately that I enjoy a sense of the absurd and slightly silly.
I hope you enjoy it, and by the way, if the size and resolution is a bit small I apologise, I’m still learning this stuff and will address this as soon as I can.