Drawing is fundamental to my work, but not in a wholly straightforward way. I do not for instance keep a sketchbook in any conventional sense, nor am I regular in sketching or drawing anything, everything, or even specific categories of subject. I have tried exercises of doing such, keeping a sketchbook, attending life class courses, etc., but they did not work for me. I need to be driven by purpose, or I must be in a kind of drawing zone – by which I mean that my subconscious perceives a reason for drawing.
I have not had any formal art training, my classes at school having stopped in my early teens. On the other hand, since I can remember I have wanted to be an artist, and have sought out information about the history of art, (overwhelmingly Western), artists’ biographies, work, and techniques, and visited as many exhibitions as I could.
I suspect that commissioning so much artwork during my publishing career has had a definite influence on my image-making. It took me – perhaps is still taking me – many years to break away from the process of thinking up an idea, then thinking how best to picture it, then choosing the style best suited for communication of the idea, then choosing the right artist. Perhaps the solution I have found is to generate ideas for work which are so personal that only I can attempt to communicate them – or at least elucidate them for myself. Thus I am moved to draw aspects of what speaks to me, of what somehow illustrates what I am thinking or feeling.
From life, blind drawing is what I mostly use. To be unobtrusive – and also so that I can carry a notebook around easily – I have a small pile of A6 landscape sketchbooks which I got from Muji years ago. I don’t think they do them any more, but as I have only used a few they will doubtless last me. The books are spiral bound, and each page has a perforation so that it can be torn out easily. Both of these are useful, especially the latter as I scan the drawings I like.
I think that I use blind drawing because it is an essence – a gesture, an attitude, a mood I want to capture, not the person themselves. What I do draw often becomes an element of my visual vocabulary, and is repeated in different manifestations. These drawings of cellists were the starting point for the design Trio, which became both a small piece and a quilt.
In this case it was a repetition of the same image, but more often the drawing is repeated in a different visual context.
Other drawings are done from my imagination/memory, or using photographs for elements more than a whole figure. To begin with I believed that using photographs (from books, magazines, the internet) was a failure on my part until much to my relief I learned that the great Francis Bacon had done this, and that it is fairly common practice. That, I suppose is something that would have been sorted out much earlier had I gone to art college
Wanting to represent a mixture of anger and loss of control I drew this figure.
I cannot remember what the basic source was – perhaps a man – an athlete stretching a leg against a wall. It would have been enough for me to extrapolate the figure I needed. In 2006 I was using wire mesh both in my images and literally as part of the collage, and feeling that I needed both that and something more of the earth – i.e. the slate, I created Hard place. (I called the technique brodage as it was stitch rather than glue which held all the elements in place.)
Four years later I felt that lack of control again, and the same figure was used in the quilt Home made soup.
I do all of my final drawing digitally, whether from the scan of a blind drawing, or using one monitor to show my source picture while I draw digitally on the other monitor. So the drawing is important as the start of the manifestation of the work, but it is a vague idea or feeling which actually starts each piece.