(Number three in a series of ten ideas I have about sketching.)
20 August, 2018. So, you’ve got yourself a pen. Maybe it’s a fountain pen. It fits your hand perfectly, and it makes the most wondrously wonderful lines possible. Your pen (or brush or pencil or crayon or sharpened stick – really, it doesn’t make any difference what it actually is) pairs so remarkably well with the paper in your equally wonderful sketchbook that you cannot wait to make marks upon that most pristine of surfaces, the empty page. You know exactly what you want to draw (or paint or scribble, et. al.) Pen and sketchbook in hand, you are poised. I have but one incredibly poignant question to ask of you.
Why are you drawing this thing?
Seriously. These marks you wish to leave upon the page? What is driving you to make them? What interests you so much about this subject that you want to spend time making the marks?
In other words, what is the story?
Now hear me out. I realize not every scribble tells a story. (Even as I typed those words, I questioned the veracity of my statement. Maybe I should more accurately say that not every scribble is intendedto tell a story.) But the potential for narrative is one potentially important aspect of sketching. So why are you sketching thissubject in the first place? What will be different about your subject tomorrow? Later today? In five minutes?
Who is being depicted? Where are you? Where have you been? Where are you going? How did you get there? How much of the story are you willing to reveal, and how much are you wanting to hint at? How much remains obscure, so that only you know the story?
I’ve always considered myself a simple storyteller. In the classroom I usually rely on things that have happened or experiences I’ve encountered to make a point, to facilitate the “teachable moment” with my students. My sketches – and your experience may differ – well, anyway,mysketches are usually a response to that which is in front of me at a given time and place. It’s why I often choose to notate my sketches with date and location. And it’s why I often choose to elaborate upon those scribbles with text.
I often find myself unconsciously doodling on any scrap of paper that happens to be at hand, reacting to my immediate environment. The energy of those initial strokes of the pen are what most intrigues me – I interpret these loosely sketched marks as a sort of fresh shorthand for bigger, broader narratives… a conversation, if you will, only part of which the rest of the world is privy to. I feel a gestural mark communicates more through simplicity than can be told through great detail.
in a sense, we’re all making marks, most of which are scrawled upon the world and the people around us – farmers use a plow, builders a hammer, and sketchers a pen. Personally, I treasure those marks, those small moments and interactions with the everyday ordinary, and the overlooked. I choose to pause for a moment to observe these encounters in search of the story fragment that is there if we but watch for it.
So again: why areyou drawing this particular subject? What is the story you have to tell?