'Why draw?' This is a question I asked myself when applying to do a textiles course at university. At the age of 49, I had never really drawn anything. I had been creative all my life but I was a maker, not a sketcher. I soon found out that drawing is something that is absolutely necessary if you want to become a designer, so I had to book myself on to a crash course to learn how to draw before my application was accepted (thank you Michael Troy!). Although I was fearful of failure to begin with, and I can see the tightness in my early drawings, I eventually learned to relax and enjoy playing with colour and texture, mark making and experimenting.
I remember one particular day in my first year at university, when it all became clear to me. There were almost 70 students squashed into the art room and we were all given the same drawing task. Only, we were asked to use the hand we don’t usually draw with and we were encouraged to use charcoal, attached to long sticks. Our large pieces of paper were pinned onto walls and we had 3 minutes to draw a cross section of a tree trunk. Once the 3 minutes were up, our drawings were taken off the walls and placed side by side on the floor and we were asked to walk around them. There were 70 different drawings of exactly the same thing. Not one was better than the other, not one was worse, but each was individual.
This is why drawing is so important for designing. It comes straight out of you and is as individual as a finger print, it represents your style, your voice. It is completely original and this is the starting point for designing; to create something that does not already exist. I never draw objects, I see that as copying the designer who made the object in the first place. I prefer to use nature and landscapes as inspiration and as I walk a lot, I have an ever changing source of material to work from. I sometimes use photographs to keep records of what I’ve seen, but always get better results if my subject is in front of me. I use my imagination, or memory, for creating more abstract drawings and these work well too.
The sketches I make, the marks that appear on paper, are not works of art as such. That is, I am not about to frame them and hang them on the walls. But they are the beginning of the design process and will fuel weave designs or perhaps give me ideas for stitch. And because they come directly from me, I can be sure that what comes next will be original.
These drawings were very quick to do following a day on the beaches at Llandwynn and Newborough Forest on Anglesey in North Wales, and form part of the research for my next woven designs. For me, trying to capture the essence of the place is more important than it being a true replica of the scene itself.
...I used my finger to make this drawing. The textures of the pastel oils is perfect for smudging and you can see how excited I was by the bright greens. I took photos of my drawings at different angles:
This is a sketch of the forest, again I was playing with textures and looking at pattern this time. Using my camera to find different angles of interest, I can see structures for weaving here:
Why not try it for yourself? It takes a little time to find your style, but you will most certainly have one. Don’t be scared and don’t care too much. There is no bad. Make some marks!