Friday, October 16, 2015

Brangwyn on Sketching

"Always I've had a sketch book on me...." 

"...And it doesn't matter how bad the sketch may be..."

Sir Frank Brangwyn, R.A., Portrait of A.H. Mackmurdo, 1 May 1945.
Red chalk on cream laid paper. Photo: ©Royal Academy of Arts, London.
"The fact remains that once I have tried to sketch the object—a mental photograph remains in my mind. Knock me down if I'm wrong."

From "Brangwyn's Pilgrimage. The Life Story of an Artist by William de Belleroche"


Robert J. Simone said...

Very true! A two minute value sketch makes all the difference in the world in the studio. If I take a pic of scene I have to invent a lot in the studio. If do a sketch AND take a pic I can remember more about the mood and the details.

S. Stipick said...

Unarguable for sure and its a real shame I didn't figure this out and really begin to enjoy sketching, to steal a line "no matter how bad the sketch", until my mid thirties. My biggest revelation seems to have occurred recently where a few quick thumbnails and a few accompanying munsell notations (I always notate from my head and not the book as an exercise, back at the studio I may check to see if the color in the book matches my impression), creates a very detailed image in my mind that seems vivid and clear even after weeks, months, and even longer. Perhaps its the intense moments of concentration and really trying to be accurate with my notations that leaves an indelible mark on the gray matter? Maybe its the fact that I'm a bit older, more patient with my observations, and now really enjoy sketching because of that? Maybe its a little of everything and even more that I am unaware of? Whatever the reason, no question it has had a lasting impact and is thoroughly enjoyable. Its just too bad I had such an aversion to it when I was younger.

sfox said...

I made it a goal to try to do at least a quick sketch most days when I was traveling in the countryside of Mongolia this year (tenth trip since 2005). I also did watercolors and longer finished drawings when we were stopped for the day or camped somewhere for two nights. I came home with a full sketchbook and journal and 30+ watercolors, most done during a three week period. And I immediately noticed the difference from previous years when I was back in the studio. I didn't have to warm up my "eye" or work my way back into a groove, but just picked up where I'd left off on the trip. James, you were the inspiration who made me want to make that effort and showed me the way. Thank you.

Dana Brooks said...

At lunch time i will head out from my office to my car and sketch what is around or near. James - your 'in the wild' and 'spur of the moment' approach gave me the nudge. I have to echo sfox's thoughts... Thanks James.

Tim Fehr said...

I think there's a connection in some folks with sketching and even doodling and remembering things better that 'normal.'

I agree that I know more about an object if I sketch it. I was aware of that early too, more aware of the volume and shape than I could get from a photograph. If I was drawing something, knowing its geometric shape and form improved my sketches. I can trace this back to a specific still life drawing assignment in 8th grade, when I got really frustrated with how my attempt was turning out, and started over and looked for the darkest and lightest parts of the still life, blocked those in (brown butcher paper and white and black pencils.) I looked at each object as a shape, a weight, a surface texture rather than as say a vase, a block of wood and a rubber ball. It's when I started to see what I was looking at in a different manner. From that point on, my drawings and sketches improved tremendously, although it was years before I understood what I was doing differently.

What I cannot explain is how, if I am taking notes at a lecture, and I start sketching or just doodling in the margins, I retain far more of the lecture than if I am just taking notes, or only listening.

I recently found some old college notebooks, and looking at the notes and the margin 'artwork' I was quite astounded as to how much of the actual lectures came back to me. I couldn't tell you who the instructor may have been, or where on campus that room was, but the notes I took make sense still today and put me right back in the lecture hall. Considering I graduated in 1978, I find that remarkable, indeed.

I've talked about this with some artist friends and at least one claims he has found the same thing when he doodles during talks.

dragonladych said...

Tim, this is more common than you might think. I'm the same. I even recall some doodles even though I have thrown them away long ago and I recall bits of the lecture. If I sit in a meeting I have to doodle or my mind will wander off.

In my case it's due to my hyper active mind (people call it attention deficit but I hate this term as it's the opposite of the fact)if I don't occupy the right side of my brain the left side will not have enough "juice" to follow a conversation. I wish teachers knew that but I still managed to get through school and University :)

jjmohan said...

Saw a magnificent collection of Franks watercolours just the other day, permenently kept at Grays Court near Henley on Thames... For any UK readers in that vicinity :)

Rich said...

Sketching! Just a minute of it may beat any other kind of visual memory.

Love this Brangwyn display. Where does a sketch begin and a finished work end?
Among the three here, the first "sketch"...well...what a fascinating juxtaposition between those scaffolds an the trees:
Square rectangular scaffoldinging build up, against flowing lines of natural growth.

lee kline said...

I carry a sketchbook journal with me always.

Cindi said...

Love this so much!

Rich said...

By chance came across a sketch of a mountain view by Goethe; sketched while crossing the alps on his way to Italy. It looks fine to me, although Goethe himself had no high esteem for it, he looked an it as kind of bloody amateurish work;-)

His remark on the sketch is interesting:

"However; the picture, by this fruitless effort, has been imprinted ineffaceably, inextinguishably in my memory."