Ian, myself and a few students (ok 3!) I attended this conference last week at Sheffield Hallam University (postponed in December due to the snow). Three speakers, illustrators Roderick Mills, Jill Calder and Steve Smith (aka Neasden Control Centre) shared and discussed their working drawings and how they inform their finished work. They all use drawing as a way of 'thinking' and the distinction between their commercial and personal work becomes blurred.
I have seen Roderick Mills speak before and we have invited him to come and doing a project with Year 2 & 3 later this month. Drawing is a process integral to his research 'journey', as well as to generating ideas. He sketches research material continuously and uses drawing as a way of fully understanding his content and what his work is actually about. What really resonates with me is how little Mill's work has changed since he was a child. It is honest and informed by his obsessions / personality (not style) and his experiences. He embraces making mistakes and explores media for its own sake. He thinks it is good to have tension when drawing - you may use media you are uncomfortable with to encourage surprise and danger - remember 'Individulaity of Imagination' and using obstacles against your habitual drawings folks? He encourages to always 'play', to make images, be independent and to make work for yourself, alongside commercial / college work. He never knows when his work is unresolved or 'finished'. He feels that the accessibility of so much illustration makes 'style' too familiar. Students become too aware of illustrators to the extent that they forget their own subject matter and simply reference work that already exists.This leaves no room for it to go further. Just draw ad be yourself. You should strive to find their own interest beyond purely illustration.
Jill Calder, whose work can often be seen in The Guardian believes that as well as being vital to creating a strong end product, drawing is essential to being able to communicate with clients, especially at speed. She talked about her journey into illustration through the magical sketchbooks of Picasso and Robert Crumb. Working mainly with pen and ink, she draws daily, from doodles, visual thinking, to solving problems for clients. She is surprised how little art directors draw. She also has concerns about how the physical activity of drawing is being lost in education. Students forget to pick up a pencil even in Primary Schools 'art' is being created on a computer. She advocates "being playful", open-minded to drawing, avoid getting stuck in a rut by using new materials or paper, working with others and always challenging yourself. Make mistakes, plenty of mistakes! As a lecturer, she hears students obsess over style. She believes that they should go back to basics and that a style will emerge naturally.
For Steven Smith, drawing is both 'a conscious sub-conscious process'. It is a method of looking and seeing, and is a key element of his finished work. It informs everything he does. He draws from life, by that he does not mean life-drawing' but life experiences including, music, films, going-out and conversations. He does not believes in rules or pigeon-holing yourself, both are always set for you by some-one else. He regularly draws without thinking, which he finds an intense process that uses all of your senses. He does not care how a drawing is done as long as it is good. He is interested in the digital world we now live in and the divide between digital versus analogue, this is what the dialogue of much of his work is about. He keeps drawing and feels that there is no end to his work - how do you know if it is a perfect image? He encourages using books for reference as this is such a different experience from looking at information online. While there are links on blogs / website, theses have been created for you. A book allows you to make your own connections.
What are your thoughts on any of this subject?
I would be delighted to hear your comments.