A Sketchbook – unfettering ideas


Sketchbooks for sculpture ideas

When I saw the pencil and crayon drawings they gave me goose-bumps – these were preparatory sketches by Eric Gill, Gaudier-Brzeska and Epstein whose work was brought together in the exhibition Wild Things at the Royal Academy some years ago.

Being up close to these studies felt intimate, a glimpse into the genius of these pioneers of modern British sculpture and carvers of stone.  I felt their presence – knowing that it had been their hand, eye and creativity working out detail, flow, ideas.  Some of the drawings were made up of a few simple lines, but had an energy and freshness,  brimming with style and technique.

Utterly exciting.

An old sketchbook with drawings for sculpture

Sometimes a scrap of paper has to suffice as a sketchbook, to quickly make a thought a drawing


I know from my own sketchbooks, the urgency on occasion – the need to quickly release an idea, scribble the thrust of it, make it real.  Sketches are tiny live things, born onto the paper to grow and evolve.  A releasing from restraint and inhibition, from the ‘mind’s-eye’.

Sketchbooks are reference points for creative development and sources of inspiration for future projects.  Perhaps this is the magic of them – you can see the process behind the sculpture, the reflections and decisions made by the carver.  When visiting exhibitions I always look out for the sketchbooks, and become completely absorbed for this reason.

from my sketchbook - dove shapes

Working out what a dove looks like in my sketchbook


I find I use my drawing pads as a means of research, a learning place, getting to know my subject better – all drawn through eyes seeing the end result in stone.  I’m working out ideas – it takes a fraction of a second to make a curved line with a pencil on a sheet of paper, but ever so much longer carving the same in stone.  So I can be wild and experimental with my graphite lines and get feedback more quickly – though I do carve with exploratory abandon on occasion too!

working out what shape a dove is

The intrigue in, and unpretentious value of artists’ sketchbooks is widely felt I think – a review by the New York Times when Picasso’s sketchbooks were exhibited reads:

‘they are amazing in the freshness and multiplicity of their ideas, the vigor and assurance with which those ideas are carried through, and their godlike variety of ambition’

I have felt glow and energy from sketchbooks, but reflected too that they are a rare peek into the mysteries of the creative mind,  and how an artist works.   And, if I’m honest I’ve hoped – by looking at the sketchbooks, holding them, turning the pages – that some of their brilliance and artistry will rub off on me!

If you were here now, we’d chat about sketchbooks and I’d learn you were as intrigued by them as me, and I’d invite you to look at mine and enjoy hearing your views.

Until the next exhibition perhaps, where they’ll be, or open studio, I’ve put together one or two of my wildlife drawings in the form of an online sketchbook for you.  These are preparatory studies made prior to carving a sculpture in stone, and are largely birds and animals I see regularly from my workshop.

View Wildlife Sketchbook.



A Sketchbook of preparatory drawings for sculpture



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