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9th April 2013

Alex T Smith Sketchbooks

I am addicted to drawing.

Alex T Smith

I am addicted to drawing…. There, I said it. Mind you, it’s hardly a secret – you only needed to look at me to realise that. At any given moment I can be found with pencils poking out of all my pockets and my tongue poking out of my mouth as I draw FURIOUSLY in a sketchbook clamped in my hands. (FYI: Sticking your tongue out as you draw is Essential.)

I can’t ever remember a time when I haven’t drawn or kept some sort of a sketchbook. My first memory is sitting at the dining table, legs swinging under the chair, drawing a big, fat, wobbly circle with sticks coming out of it at all angles. It was a portrait of my teddy bear and I was Very Pleased With It Indeed. I was 25*… Ha! No, I was about two years old and that was it- I just drew and drew and drew.

I suppose I got into the habit of keeping a proper sketchbook at about 14/15 when I took Art and Design for GCSE. I had some very inspiring teachers who would often show us their books, and it was great to see all the preliminary sketches they’d made for their work and how they put ideas together.
One teacher, Mrs Goodwin, was quite the globetrotter and would come back after most holidays with lots of sketchbooks filled with photos and sketches and doodles and souvenirs. They were a treat to look at and really showed me the importance and pleasure in capturing little moments. There’s something special about sketching a scene or a person that a camera can’t quite capture.

I’m always in awe of artists who produce the most beautifully observed life drawing in sketchbooks. I enjoyed life drawing classes at university, but found that attempting to do something similar in my sketchbooks was too stressful and time consuming. So I just always draw in the way that comes most naturally to me.

My sketchbooks are a place for me to play around with ideas or images that have either floated into my mind or have been inspired by something I’ve seen. Although I’m literally ALWAYS drawing, I very rarely draw people or scenes whilst they are playing out in front of me. Instead, I like to observe it all and I use my eyes as a camera to take in lots of details.¬†Then later on I’ll remember what I’ve seen and try to get it down on paper. Doing this, I think, encourages me to look harder at things and really focus in on the most important aspects of whatever has attracted my attention – the gestures, the clues clothing gives about a character, the key points of the scene etc. Then I get these things down on paper, and whilst it might not be a realistic impression of what I’ve seen, it creates a visual shorthand that I find much more useful than a piece of life drawing.

So there you have it. I’m addicted to drawing and to my sketchbooks and I’m not afraid who knows it. It’s certainly not something I’d give up without a fight. A drawing duel, obviously. Pencils and paper at dawn!!

*I’d just like to apologise for this dreadful, dreadful joke.

Extra sketchbook facts:

I like to draw in A5/A6 Moleskine sketchbooks or just their plain paper journals. I use these pencils for all of my work – sketchbook and final artwork. I draw loose lines with a light coloured pencils crayon first to get the shape of a picture, then draw over it in pencil adding all the details. I have one main sketchbook running at a time, but most of my coats have a small, slim sketchbook in a pocket just in case I leave the main one at home.


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