Tuesday, 6 January 2015

One Drawing a Day - Veronica Lawlor


Encapsulate the book in one sentence?

It’s a book of prompts and ideas for your drawing book, taking you through six weeks of fearless fun and experimentation with what they call ‘urban sketching.’

When did I buy it? Where and why did I buy it?

A Christmas present – much hinted at – from Jeremy.

Why is it something you stashed away and hoarded?

Something I had to wait patiently for!  Having read about it, and several other recent-ish books on drawing, I’d geared myself up for a New Year’s resolution to get back to proper drawing. I’d promised myself to do a drawing of some kind every day in 2015. This book had a fortuitous title, and I liked the buzz around it – it seemed informal and fun, splashy and colourful – and the product of a whole set of illustrators and bloggers who enjoy drawing messily wherever they are.

What year or edition?

Out in 2011.

What’s your verdict?

Overall, I think it’s a very beautiful book. It’s filled with examples of work from the sketchbooks of the author and her friends. They’re really very impressive and it makes for a visually stunning book. I love how action-packed their sketches are. They’re alive on the page. So many books about drawing or painting or sketching are very formal and dull and well-behaved.

Did you finish it? Did it work for you?
I pored over each exercise and every page and peered at every illustration for ages over Christmas. I mulled over the prompts and checked through the (rather large) list of suggested equipment. I felt enthused and energized.

But I’m not sure it helps.

I find it inspirational – to an extent. It’s saying – look at all this brilliant, accomplished work by my friends and I! It doesn’t quite tell you how to find your own style. It says ‘be fearless’, while running the risk of paralysing the reader and hopeful artist with fear.

I’ve drawn for many years. After my A levels it became ‘merely’ a hobby, and it’s something I’ve been through highs and lows with. I’ve neglected that urge to make pictures at times, and discovered it again with joy several times over the years. Also, I love drawing when I’m out and about, in between bouts of writing. My writing journals are filled with little pictures of people at other tables and of street scenes and all kinds of things. I’m someone used to making marks on paper – on napkins, receipts, paper bags – anything that comes to hand when I’m sitting and something catches my eye.

But even so… the lack of actual instruction and zappy ideas in this book made me feel a bit deflated after a while. I wanted it to shake me out of my accumulated habits and look at drawing afresh.

There’s a very funny cartoon that circulates on social media quite regularly – the ‘how to draw an owl’ cartoon. ‘Draw two circles’, it says in the first box, and then the second box contains a finished, perfect drawing of an owl with a somewhat brusque imperative printed underneath exhorting us to finish the thing ourselves. At times this book comes a little close to that…

It could and should have taken its time, I think. We all need baby steps and gentle encouragement to push us out of our creative safety zones.

What genre would you say it is?

It’s art instruction, but it’s also a touch self-helpy. It has that feeling about it of ‘take better care of your withered and wasted soul by getting a bit creative.’

What surprises did it hold – if any?

The gallery of pics at the end, with two pages and a C.V from each featured artist was a bit much, I thought. I felt like I was reading advertisements. Their paragraphs about why they draw were a bit sappy, too.

What will stay with you, from this book?

There are some truly beautiful reproductions of hasty, provisional sketches, giving us a real feel for the materials and media used – lovely close-ups of soft pencil marks, oil pastel and molten water colours. They fill you with desire to get your hands mucky as soon as you can. And maybe that’s the best encouragement of all?

Have you read anything else by this author? Or anything this book reminds you of?

It reminds me of a whole host of other – slightly hip and trendy – art books out there at the moment. They’re better than the stuffier variety…

What will you do with this copy now?

It’s a keeper – because it was a present and for the illustrations. And perhaps for dipping into, in order to try out the prompts. But I need more than this book offers. ‘Go out and paint clouds. They’re cool’ is not enough…!

Is it available today?

US edition available online.

Give me a good quote:

“It’s work, for sure, but it’s work that we love.”

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