Friday, 3 March 2017

Routes through a sketchbook

One of the intriguing aspects of drawing in a sketchbook is how, assuming the book is drawn in from front to back in chronological order, a narrative builds up over time. I did this, then I went there, then I drew that. The thread of your life unwinds, sometimes accurately and comprehensively, sometimes less so. Images may fall into an order that seems rather haphazard, but that is the order in which events unfolded. The travel sketchbooks hold together best: such as the one that contains the drawings of a Spanish seaside town over 20 consecutive pages that we visited one summer, or the evolving journey taken on a drive south towards the sun. A theme can build up, but this isn't always so.

James Hobbs, Hampstead Heath, London

Most of my sketchbooks, however, contain drawings gathered sporadically over time depending on where I find myself with a chance to draw. They are usually drawings of London, because that is where I live. But London is lots of places, not one. Subjects leap about from one page to the next. Drawings are in the book because there was the time and opportunity to draw each one, rather than because of a specific goal to consciously record every step of every day. That may be the way some people work, but not me.

 James Hobbs, the Embassy of Ecuador, London, home to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
All of the drawings in this post are in one incomplete sketchbook from this year. All are of inner London, some almost rural, others overtly politcal, or architectural, or both. The demonstration by Downing Street captures a local moment (the newly inaugurated President Trump's travel ban) of an international movement that will perhaps be remembered in 50 years' time. A few pages away is a drawing of a group of trees on the edge of Hampstead Heath that hold no such significance at all. They happened to be there when I had the chance to draw. I simply liked the way the composition fitted together and how they let me play with the kinds of marks the winter foliage suggested.

James Hobbs, the view east from Tate Modern's Switchhouse
And so life zigzags its way along. Embedded in each drawing are the deeper stories that perhaps only I, and my friends and family, will recognise, such as why I was somewhere, and who I was with. We choose what we draw, and we choose what we don't. Perhaps the real significance of what ends up in our sketchbooks only becomes truly apparent years after we have filled them.
James Hobbs, Downing Street, London:
a march against Trump's travel ban

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