Wednesday, 4 April 2012



At the Museum of Modern Art, Wales in Macynthlleth there is currently an exhibition of sculptors’ drawings until the 5th May. Disegno, as it was called by its curator Stephen West, aims to demonstrate the role that drawing plays in the creation of 3 dimensional work for some artists. I was invited to include some of my drawings from my sketch books and a piece of work.

Drawing is something most of us do if we go to school. It is something that most of us stop doing when teachers, or friends and family, tell us that we aren’t doing it correctly, because it doesn’t look anything like the thing we are trying to draw. Some of us are either stubborn or become addicted to the process, or both, and continue to draw as adults. According to my mother, it was always easy to keep me happy as a child with a scrap of paper and a pencil. The only time I ever remember being even slightly discouraged was when my drawing of a Labrador dog made my father laugh because he said it was a dead ringer for General de Gaulle.

At art school the foundation of everything we did was the sketch book. We were encouraged to carry it everywhere and to use it daily to record anything and everything.
But the fact that the ever present book would occasionally be scrutinised by our tutors, meant that, for me, it became a self conscious activity. It was something that needed to be done in the right way, in their eyes ….whatever that might be, and I was never really sure.

It wasn’t until nearly 10 years after graduating, when I started making baskets as opposed to cane sculptures, that drawing suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me. Basket weaving is slow work, requiring a heavy investment of time, so I began to use drawing to resolve aesthetic and technical problems in order to avoid having to undo hours of work. I have not stopped drawing since.

I use graph paper for emotional and practical reasons. The expensive black bound sketch books we were encouraged to use at college terrified me; I never felt that any marks that I might make in them could improve such perfect white paper. Graph paper makes no such demands and can help with scale. My sketch books have also, with time, become valuable to me as diaries and records of work.

For the first time in 30 years I have put a sketch book on public display, and I am now worried that having done so may inhibit me again, as the tutors scrutiny did then. But just possibly, it may be that I have finally grown up enough to not worry about what other people think about my sketch book. I really hope so.

You can read more about the exhibition here.


  1. I will call in at this show. I agree with the sentiments expressed and to me sketchbooks are very personal working outs with all that implys so could only ever imagine sharing them publicly if edited. But sketchbooks are exciting insights too for an artist to share their process and the humble, direct beginnings of ideas as visual possibilities with pencil and paper.

  2. I hope you enjoy the show Michelle. My sketch book is in a glass case, I could not go as far as to let strangers riffle through it!