Our enthusiastic and inspiring watercolour painting tutor Mike Willdridge always carries a sketchbook with him wherever he goes and considers it a vital part of his artistic life. He’d like you to do the same. Mike says: “Whilst there’s absolutely no requirement to use a sketchbook (I know of several professional artists who don’t use a sketchbook), I hope you’ll find my suggestions for doing so to be thought-provoking.”
In this, the first of three blogs, Mike looks at using a sketchbook as a visual diary and for gathering information. Later he’ll look at its use in problem solving and experiment and finally, in personal and obsessive use. Sounds intriguing
But first, for all you aspiring artists out there, Mike has three questions:
- Do you have a garage/spare room/drawers full of finished and unfinished work?
- Do you often ‘chuck-away’ work?
- Do you have lots of framed works, possibly crowding up your walls/stashed away in a corner?
“If the answer to any or all these questions is “YES” then why not consider an alternative working practice — One that a) doesn’t take up a great deal of space, b) you won’t want to throw away and x) you don’t need to frame and store? Yes, the sketchbook!”
Mike adds: “I believe that the amateur artist’s joy in their craft comes from a feeling of having created something personal. Whilst much can be gained by copying others, ultimately, true satisfaction is in knowing that what you have created has been done so largely by you and, as such, has something very personal about it.”
Reasons to use a sketchbook: No 1 Visual Diary and Information Gathering
Mike says: “It’s incredible how looking back on a past sketchbook will instantly remind you not only of the subject matter but also quite personal feelings you may have experienced at the time. Try it! I don’t keep a diary but my sketchbooks (I have a lot of them) are an instant recall of many, many memories. Clearly there’s something unique about working in a sketchbook. Maybe a good analogy is that of ‘smells’. How often does a certain smell straight-away remind you of something in your past? I suggest that It’s much the same with a sketchbook.
“From this paint and ink drawing I can recall vividly the wonderful old chateau we stayed at, the exact time of day, the people I spoke to whilst drawing etc etc.
“A sketchbook can also be a great vehicle for gathering information. Maybe it’s for something specific – to help you with a ‘finished’ painting. Maybe you have no idea why you’re using a sketchbook but, at a later date, it proves useful; an ‘aide-memoire’ to help you or inspire you towards another work.
“I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but, so far, I haven’t used the word “drawing”. This has been deliberately to emphasise that ‘anything goes’ for working in a sketchbook. Yes, most of my uses of a sketchbook involve drawing and painting but a sketchbook can also take found objects, cuttings, photos, written work, scribbled ideas, other people’s work (my grandchildren are always painting in my books), postcards etc., etc.
“I’ll end this first blog by emphasising that sketchbooks can be very personal recorders of events in your life but there is no need to be precious about their use. You’re not likely to have to hang your sketchbook on a wall for all to see. The sketchbook can be, if you wish, a collection of memories and information for your eyes only.
“My next blog will look at using sketchbooks as a surface to experiment on and to help solve visual problems.”
Mike Willdridge works and teaches in a wide range of media and is an enthusiastic and energetic tutor with more than 20 years’ experience. Although his classes are always light-hearted and fun, he is experienced enough to vary the level of ‘teaching’ to individual needs.
Mike works quickly and in a loose style, encouraging his students to simplify their own work. His watercolours are mostly painted ‘wet into wet’ and in other media he uses a variety of tools such as household brushes, card and rags to produce loose and semi abstract work. He especially values drawing as a way of recording/responding to everyday events and makes constant use of a sketchbook.
At The Watermill we run painting holidays with expert tuition in watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels and other media and you can find out all about all our talented and inspirational tutors and their courses by clicking here.