Drawing or sketching?

Back in the day when I trained as graphic designer, drawing was a fundamental part of the Graphics course at Jacob Kramer College in Leeds (now Leeds College of Art of course). Training fledgling designers to look and interpret what they see through the medium of charcoal or pen was a fundamental cornerstone of the designer’s training and much of what we did in those days before the computer took over was about skill and technique and less about technology.

I’m not one of these people who decry technology and the gradual erosion of the skills graphic designers had, but I do mourn the inability of many modern designers to put pen to paper. At first, I hated drawing and those Monday afternoons with Lem (our Latvian tutor, whom many of you will know) were knee knocking experiences. I’ll never forget the first life model drawing session – she just threw off her decrepit dressing gown and got everything out. We all were nervously scrawling with the lumps of charcoal that day.

But I learned to love drawing. We decided we’d drawn the life models from every angle imaginable (and belive me, we had) and decided to go further afield to draw real things – aeroplanes, trains, cars, shopping centres. It’s a habit that’s stayed with me over the years too. What I always loved about drawing was the looking. It sounds obvious, but to draw something you have to really look at it and take in all the detail. To this day, when I look back on drawing that are years old, I can remember the details that I’d committed to paper. The drawing unlocks a compartment in the mind where that information still exists.

In latter years, drawing has acted as a relaxation and contrast the fast-paced world I now inhabit. It’s a way of capturing something that a camera cannot – even though I stayed true to the pure, simple, line pen drawing style taught at college (“make your bladdy mark people, don’t be afraid” Lem would insist).

Last year when I went to Venice, I bought a wonderful drawing book in one of these lovely little bookbinders just off the grand canal. Leather bound and hand made, I’ve not had as much time as I’d have liked to get the book going. In the past few weeks, I’ve been finding the time – and my mojo – for drawing again. I’ve been slipping my drawing book and newly purchased pens (yes, I’m a pen geek too) into my bag in case I get a spare few minutes to draw.

When I was drawing yesterday in City Inn Leeds waiting for a meeting, I was struck by the majesty of the Leeds skyline (really) and realised this is the kind of view that as students we’d have killed for.

One final thing. I’ve always had an aversion to the word sketching. I think it came from Lem. He said we didn’t sketch, we drew. And there was a big difference. For me, sketching has always spoke of loose, off the cuff connotations – the dictionary says  ‘a simple or hastily executed drawing’.

To draw is ‘to compose or create in lines’. For me personally, making a mark has always been careful and considered. Even when we only had 5 minutes, we never sketched, we drew. I’d love to hear some other views on the matter and no doubt I will as for some reason, I think it’s a very contentious issue.

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