Friday, 8 December 2017

Digital and tangible sketchbooks: my postgraduate research


My postgraduate research into the collection and accessibility of sketchbooks in the UK's galleries, libraries, archives and museums, which has kept me busy for the past 12 months, is now finished and published online. (Cue the sound of popping corks.) You can find it on Humanities Commons at:

http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6H240

Its appeal may be a bit niche. Essentially, it's about how sketchbooks can be found and accessed in the UK's institutions. To do this, I interviewed a handful of people, mainly artists, about their experiences of going into the archives to research sketchbooks, and then sent a questionnaire to sketchbook-holding institutions about how they are collected and accessed – a magnificent 55 of these responded. The sketchbooks weren't just those that belonged to artists, but also those of designers, filmmakers, engineers, architects and others.

Arranging to see and handle sketchbooks in an archival situation requires a bit of forward-planning and organisation, but getting your hands on them can reveal their contents more fully than when they are viewed as printed reproductions or digitally. To hold them and turn their pages in your hands is to better understand them.

But there are many digitised sketchbooks available online that don't require you to head out to the archive to view them in person. Digitisation broadens accessibility to a global scale, and more and more institutions are turning towards sharing their sketchbooks this way: the Hunterian, Glasgow, the Henry Moore Institute, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Tate Archive are examples of those that show them online. There are, of course, many more.




Saturday, 2 December 2017

Around London in 2017

Bell Lane, London E1

Here are three drawings from recent Urban Sketchers gatherings around London: above, a glimpse of the Gherkin from Bell Lane in the East End...

Commercial Street, London E1

... towards Commercial Street from the churchyard at Christ Church, Spitalfields...

Lambeth Towers, south London

... and a view of the charmingly brutalist Lambeth Towers from the grounds of the Imperial War Museum. There's a link to the planned programme of gatherings in 2018 on the London Urban Sketchers website, found here. Everyone is always welcome.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Sketchbook exhibition opens in Lancaster

Sketch 2017, the touring show of 100 sketchbooks, including two of mine, is heading to its final venue, at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University, where it will continue from 20 November to 15 December 2017. It's an exhibition where you can get your hands on most of the sketchbooks on display, rather than peering at them in a glass box. There's more information about opening times and location on the gallery's website www.lancasterarts.org.

Meanwhile the group show of drawings at the award-winning Timberyard cafe in Noel Street, Soho, London, comes to a close on Friday 24 November. Time is short if you want to pay a visit there...


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Drawing for DocPerform

I was commissioned to draw an image for this month's DocPerform 2 symposium at City, University of London, which considers the future of documents and the documentation of performance. It was an enjoyable project to take on, and features two recognisable London venues and another one plucked from the imagination.

See more of my drawings on Instagram or Flickr.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

In a Cornish field



We had a week in the late summer visiting the lovely farming relations on the north Cornwall coast. We pitched our tent with a view down the coast towards Land's End, and between the showers there was time to get out a brush and black ink – I'd left the pens behind, intentionally, in London.


The way ink from a bottle is used has to be different from ink from a pen is used, yet my instinct here is largely the same. A few people mentioned the change in "style", but it doesn't feel like that, nor was it meant as that. The forms that can be created to show a tree or hedge seem more suited to a wash of liquid ink than the lines of black pen, as I mentioned in my previous post.


What felt new was perhaps not. They reminded Ms S, who would know these things, of what I was doing in the 1980s. So much for change.

You can see more of my work on Instagram and Flickr.



Saturday, 12 August 2017

With black ink in Wales

https://flic.kr/p/WLRcmd

Wales was wet when we went there, admittedly. We expected it to be, especially because we were staying under canvas. But I'm not sure it was quite as dark and forbidding as the drawings that I did there looked when viewed in my sketchbook now. I took a bottle of black ink, one waterbrush and one small sketchbook (one of three handmade by Daughter 2 and given to me for my birthday earlier in the year). It's easier to travel light, especially as the laptop with the unfinished dissertation was taking up space in the shoulder bag.

https://flic.kr/p/W5xwKU

There's something about the landscape that seems to call for broader sweeps of ink than is possible even with a chunky marker pen. The feeling was the same when we visited the Brecon Beacons for New Year a while ago, except then I took green and blue inks as well.

https://flic.kr/p/W5DJKy

The top two images here are from directly outside our bell tent (complete with woodburner) across the fields towards Cilgerran. This one, above, shows the contorted strata of the headland at Cemaes Head, which is on the cliff path that runs along the Pembrokeshire coast. It may not be the best way to judge a work, but of the three drawings it was the least liked when I posted it on Instagram, and yet it is the one I like most. It's a grim thing to be led by the hunt for "likes". The temptation is almost to try to post something that no one will like at all. I'm inclined to think it would lead to some interesting discoveries about your own work as you set about this task.




Saturday, 8 July 2017

Inside the library

Senate House Library, UCL
I'm spending the summer – or most of it – working on my postgraduate dissertation. My research is into the ways that sketchbooks are collected and accessed in the UK's institutions, which means a lot of time spent in galleries, libraries, archives and museums. This may not seem too arduous a task, and I'm not complaining: this is exactly what I am interested in. But time slips by and my old familiar friend the deadline is awaiting me at the end of September, so the pressure is on.


Northampton Square Library, City, University of London

Last week, for instance, I was at the British Film Institute archive looking at the sketchbooks of Derek Jarman. Next week I'm at the British Museum to see the books of Terry Frost and Roger Hilton, among others. I have other visits planned. The field of sketchbook tourism awaits: check the catalogue, arrange a visit to the archive, and get your hands on great sketchbooks. There are many more ready to be seen around the UK than you probably imagine. And while some are better than others, they can be a fascinating insight into not just the work of the artists, designers, architects, filmmakers and others who filled them, but their lives also.

British Library foyer

I'll post a link to my dissertation later in the year, when my data is collected and my research is submitted. Meanwhile, here are a few drawings from inside some of the libraries I have worked in over recent months, while the sun shone outside.

See more drawings here.