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  • TraceyJayneThomas

The humble sketchbook

Photo of a selection of sketch books

I thought that looking through my old sketchbooks would be a process of reflective assessment, but I was struck by the value of them as a resource.

They aren't just objects of the past, they are full to bursting of work followed through from concept to final pieces and all the ideas, failures, research and processes in between. They are a fundamental part of a body of work.

Through drawing, investigation, exploration, research, analysis, experimentation and play, who knows what will come?

Photo of page from a sketch book featuring pencil drawings of a branch

It was time to open a new sketchbook and begin. With my head full of thoughts that had yet to organise themselves, I took a walk on the beach, and seized upon an interesting piece amongst the flotsam and jetsam with which to undertake a study.

Drawing, the process of looking, examining, to be making marks in response to that information gleaned, felt like I was waking up, like yawning and stretching, I could feel the dormant stiff joints coming back to life.

I'm reminded of an excerpt from John Berger's Drawing is Discovery :

'For the artist, drawing is discovery...It is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind's eye and put it together again.'

Within the idea of exploring what a simple pen or pencil alone can do, I had ideas of filling a sketchbook with text book exercises in tone, shading and textures – a perfectly good, sensible starting point.

However, what actually happened is that I reached for my charcoal and ran riot, literally. I scribbled my way through several sticks of charcoal. Clearly, I thought, I needed to get something out of my system. But on sitting down again, with pencil poised on said sketchbook to begin – there was still reticence and resistance. By starting on that first page, unless I completed the whole book, I would fail, it would remain forever incomplete – or, I would proceed begrudgingly, and curse myself for ever embarking on such a project in the first place. I know those feelings, I have a draw full of unfinished dedicated sketchbooks.

I also recognised my reluctance as pushing against such a responsibility. It was too dedicated a task, too considered, too much of a responsibility to commit myself to. My life outside of this studio is so full to bursting with responsibilities, that even something as small as this feels like a constraint too much. In here I have to run free, this should be my playground.



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