So why the digitally enhanced artwork heading up a writer’s blog on drawing? Firstly it’s the cover of a book I co-authored with Louisa Sherman on Print-making at GCSE level and secondly because there’s been a lot of right and left brain talk recently. Most say pencil and paper wins over digital but with technology so superb that can enable Richard Hamilton to produce this intense portrait of fellow artist Dieter Roth, then all is not lost.
As a former art teacher, pencil and paper are still for me the most direct form of story telling. That’s all any child is doing when they’re drawing. With those very first ‘head-feet’ representations, they’re telling: This is me with my large head and big smiling mouth with teeth and eyes, I eat and I see and (probably no nose…) I don’t care about smell just yet. I’ve arms and lots of fingers (possibly even looking like overgrown tarantulas) because I’m a tactile being and I'm so dexterous I can pick up the tiniest speck. I stand on my own legs (though they’re probably still floating aimlessly on the page or they might just look like one leg to you) because there’s nothing more important than me— its just me, me, ME in this world.
All this the child tells us in a few random but amazing marks he makes on paper. It's his first story.
Cavemen knew something when they were drawing their stories. Not only did they use the cave walls as story boards but they turned story telling into a multi-sound-visual event with dance, music and drumming with firelight and the odd lightning bolt too, adding atmospheric lighting affects. True story-telling and showmanship! In fact they were far closer to the idea of visual story-telling as in film or video than a lot of civilizations who came after them.After Celia put a post up on notebooks, I went back to mine at random to see if I was trying to tell a story while I drew. I didn’t find any of my really early ‘head-feet’ representations but I found a conte crayon self-portrait done a few weeks before my twentieth birthday. The others are from more recent notebooks.
The giraffe page became my story of Zeraffa. The date on the page in this notebook is 1999. The book will be come out in 2013. Some stories take longer to infuse than others! But from the notebooks I discovered why I’m a writer rather than an illustrator. I’m an observer. Critical observation is the worst form of editor. It takes away the playfulness and stifles the way I want the story to grow and be ‘more’ than what I see. It seems easier to evoke this magic with words. It doesn’t mean to say I won’t be sitting with scissors and coloured paper like Matissse one day and telling stories of snails and blue dancing ladies when I’m ancient and can’t see too well.So where is this blog meandering? Do you draw? is the question I began with and how I’ll end. Matisse has been quoted as saying later in life when he took up paper collage... Freedom is really the impossibility of following the same road as everybody else: freedom means taking the path your talents make you take.
Whether you draw with words, or with Faber Castell crayons, or through the lens of a camera, or through digital wizardry, its still story and as long as you do, is all that matters… if we lose the power to use our imagination and to create story we’ll lose what it means to be human. Let’s use all we have… digital and paper, bells and whistles, drums and dance!