Markersss!

This is a selection of my latest abstract squiggles from my sketchbook. I think that random doodling is a sure way to access your subconscious mind, in a spirit of Surrealists and Dada artists. I really like creating artwork which is spontaneous and unplanned, I like choosing random colours without any specific reason, but purely out of my intuitive urges. This type of art-making is also very relaxing as it lets your mind relax. I like to listen to music when I draw so the artwork is a direct response to the track that I am playing. The types of marks are surely affected by the beats and rhythms of the songs. Are you a doodler?

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illustration of watercolour swans on the sketchbook page

Drawing with ink and stick

For the past few months I have been working on a new sketchbook dedicated to ducks. Now I have scanned it and I can finally start putting it out online.

The first instalment of birds starts with this gif of pruning swans.

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Actually, the weather turned rather grim here in Cambridge since the time I drew this picture. So this is a little bit of wishful thinking.

I drew everything with ink and stick. The stick was made from an old Ikea pencil, which I wrecked rather brutally for the sake of art. Sorry, Ikea.

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Drawing with a stick is wild, it does a great job when you are frustrated with your clean boring lines and need a bit of a shake-up. You can use tree branches and all sort of other sticks for an even wilder result.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

About sketchbooks

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When I first started studying AS level in Graphic Design 10 years ago, I spent all my time “painting and decorating” my enormous A3 sketchbooks. Making a sketchbook felt like creating my own world, with my own set of rules. It was a place where anything could happen. I felt like I was alive when I was drawing in my sketchbook. I have to admit that filling in a sketchbook was my main goal, while completing the actual projects provided with some content. It was a sketchbook for sketchbook’s sake kind of thing.

On my Foundation year the transition to using sketchbook as a tool to develop ideas wasn’t easy for me. I was so used to decorating pages and arranging everything in order on the page. Discovering that it wasn’t necessary anymore made me feel lost. I used my sketchbook half-heartedly because I had to. And during my BA at CSM, there was so much happening that I never made an effort to use a sketchbook consistently, drawing on random pieces of paper instead and going for large-scale format drawings instead. I even went to bookbinding class once and found the idea of measuring proportions and cutting straight corners really boring.

In my post-university freelance period, I did find myself using a sketchbook when I needed to, but it ceased to be that special, personal activity that it once was. I used to buy loads of sketchbooks: expensive ones, square ones, the ones with fancy watercolour papers… But the thought of keeping a sketchbook and working in it methodically seemed too daunting. All that changed once I made my first sketchbook from scratch. 

I found a Youtube link that showed how to create a coptic stitch sketchbook, I tried to make one and then I was hooked! I make sketchbooks regularly now, and I always try to use recycled papers and cheap materials. I don’t want my sketchbook to feel too precious, otherwise I will feel nervous to make a mark.

Sketchbook One

I do not recall completing a whole sketchbook with observational drawings before – ever! But this hand-made sketchbook was just asking to be drawn in. I made it from scraps of found papers, mixing papers of different colours and thickness. Result: every page is different. This randomness works great for me –  it makes the process of drawing much more exciting. I do like a little bit of chaos.

When I first started with this sketchbook, my drawing was a touch rusty – as I haven’t been drawing regularly for years. I carried my sketchbook to many places, exercising my drawing muscle. Once I started drawing again all the advice from experimental drawing classes I ever attended started coming back to my memory.

Result – a year has gone by and the sketchbook is now complete. Even though one year is a long time to fill a little tiny sketchbook, it was still a big step for me. I learnt to give time to looking at things and doing things which are important to me. I started drawing regularly. I learnt to be kind to myself when the drawing didn’t turn out as I expected. I discovered that you can draw anywhere – even in the car (as a passenger of course) when the road is bumpy and you see things for about a second before they disappear. I learnt that when you draw the reflection of a person (on a train, for example), it is better as the person doesn’t realise that you are drawing them. Most importantly, I felt so happy every time I was doing a drawing, that now I am hooked and I can’t stop.

Other important discoveries I made:

British museum has got many artefacts, but the best thing to draw there is visitors: they are everywhere and they are generally either waiting in groups, or sitting on the floor exhausted, or drinking tea, or chatting which makes all of them perfect subjects for drawing. Plus, it is the most legitimate place for you to be an odd artist with a sketchbook – nobody minds.

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If you sit down somewhere to draw, something extraordinary might happen. A student from Cambridge university might come and sit on a bench opposite and practice guitar, which is pleasant and bohemian.

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Ordinary things that have nothing special about them are in truth extremely complex and beautiful. Like, this laundry drying rack. Or my living room which is just there in the background as you are sat watching TV after work. Top Gear was another great discovery this year, unrelated to drawing, but still great.

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Sketchbook Two

After filling up Sketchbook One, which took me almost a whole year, I decided to use my second sketchbook for quick, loose drawings.

The idea was not to get too precious over the outcome of the drawings. Also, instead of drawing from observation only, I started drawing from imagination. I drew random shapes and squiggles while listening to music, and it was quite liberating and fun.

There is a pond in the Jesus Green park near the place where I work, which is a home to a herd of moorhens. Long time ago, when I was still a student, I used to have a Russian friend who would call those birds “Bastards”. “Bastards!” she exclaimed every time we passed the pond. The name stuck and I felt a bit nostalgic about those birds when I moved back to Cambridge a few years ago. So I decided to start observing the bastards moorhens, with their funny long feet and nervous walk. There are many drawings in this sketchbook depicting the birds and their habitat.

This book also travelled with me to St Ives in Cornwall, where I did a few of my favourite sketches of the beach and people at the seaside. And I wasn’t attacked by seagulls even once.