The return of the sketchbook

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My new project for 2015 is to get my sketching mojo back and get drawing back on the Deano agenda. I don’t pick a pen up anywhere near enough and I decided to sort it out.

So I bought a brand new Moleskine — heavier weight, off white drawing paper of course and crucially a size just over A5, large enough to capture a decent canvas but small enough to tuck into a bag.  I bought some new pens to get me excited: Pentel fine line and heavy, fountain Pentel and Signpens, standard issue for designers. I thought I’d also try some brush Faber Castell pens too — all bets are off at this stage and using a new pen can often inspire as much as the subject. New tools always excite me and are essential at the outset of a project like this.

Subject matter was the next consideration. Sketching is like a muscle that needs exercising to grow it and then when fully pumped it needs plenty of reps to keep it up to scratch. So where am I constantly exposed to countless, interesting scenes? If you read this blog you know I frequent a lot of bars and restaurants and that seemed like the perfect subject. I’m there anyway, so why not sketch at the same time. In truth it’s not too obtrusive and is often a starting point for conversations. I was also inspired by the wonderful London Sketchbook’s section on bars and restaurants in London so off I went.

I’ve had a proper go over the past few weeks and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen I’m getting into a groove of sorts. Sketching is habit-forming too and taps into my obsessive compulsive nature with a compulsion to collect views and in turn sketches. It’s great also to sketch what I would have otherwise Instagrammed. My first few sketches were a bit clunky but I was determined to just draw and create without worrying about the outcome. I have to get into a groove with it and not get too anxious. What I have found though is that my eye is getting better and better and each sketch is a reasonably faithful representation of the atmosphere of the bar or restaurant: calm, chilled, hectic, noisy, quiet, relaxed, full on. Of course no-one sits still or poses, so it brings huge challenges for me as faces were never my strong point, but either way I just draw.

I’ve also decided to use these sketches as illustrations for reviews of the place we visit, which I think adds an interesting dimension to the narrative of the drawing. The sketch below is a beautiful little neighbourhood restaurant in Debeavoir Town in North London called Sweet Thursday, named after a little known Steinbeck book. This isn’t a full-blown review but the hipster, retro, eclectic charm of the restaurant comes out in the drawing I think. It was late afternoon on a cold Saturday in February and we almost had the place to ourselves. The pizza was divine: just what we needed, packed with flavour, piping hot and a perfect foil to the great value and gullible on-tap organic wine. I built on my bare bones sketch later that evening and was quite pleased with the way it emerged. Enjoyable experimentation with fat black nibs to stress shadows and contrast.

It’s a fine line between spontaneity and overworking but I think I got this one about right. But there are no right and wrongs and I’m keen to experiment with new styles and techniques. Keep coming back to the blog to see how the project develops. Hope you like them.

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4 thoughts on “The return of the sketchbook

    • Thanks Claire 🙂 I’ll keep them coming and see what happens. Sketching is as scary as it is rewarding and it’s good to be creatively challenged when this doesn’t happen so much in my work life. Takes me back to when I was a designer, using skills and craft. Love it.

  1. I love what you are doing with these Phil, really enjoy seeing them pop up on your IG feed. I genuinely look at them with a sense of awe that you can do this. It’s humbling to see.

    • Cheers buddy. You have my second sketch in your book remember 🙂 I love the feeling of excitement seeing these sketches take shape. It’s tapped in to an old feeling I used to have. It’s now returned. Thanks so much for the positive comments they really help to reaffirm what I’m doing.

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