[A rainbow of blank-page recycled leather notebooks at Kate's Paperie.]
During the past few weeks I've been finding excuses to ride past the site formerly occupied by Atlanta's Brookwood Kroger (across from Neel Reid's Italian Renaissance-inspired train station), hoping to see fresh signs of new occupant, Sam Flax South, the in-the-process-of-relocating art supply and paper emporium. Like I've said before, shelves stocked with endless rows of colored pencils and sketchbooks seem to excite me far more than cases filled with sparkling jewelry. And it's a funny thing, because I haven't really sketched or painted regularly since I was a teenager. Must be the appeal of object after object arranged in softly gradating lines of color or the creative possibilities suggested by all the tools.
[Sylvia Drew's extraordinary leather-bound albums photographed by James Fennell, The World of Interiors, September 2011. Click to enlarge.]
[Moleskine large Japanese notebook]
But I haven't forgotten Sylvia Drew's spectacular albums; I still want to loosely emulate her and enhance my own scrapbooks with original drawings. So, when Chronicle Books sent me a review copy of Matt Pagett's primer, Sketching and Drawing, I really poured over it and decided to share a bit about the petite edition here.
The basic premise is that many of us instinctively (and joyously) drew before we could write but eventually stopped or lost our enthusiasm because we became intimidated. Still, drawing is a wonderful means of self-expression and a great way to sharpen our observational skills. Pagett notes:
"Drawing is a language in which letters, words, and sentences have been replaced by form, tone, and texture. Just as language is learned, so too the basic skills of drawing can be studied and understood."
He begins by easing us back into the realm of the drawn line -- prompting us to really look at drawings, and suggesting what types of basic art supplies will be most useful as well as what we probably don't need to buy. (Another reason to visit SF.) Then he offers an extensive series of exercises designed to help us loosen up and simply put pencil to paper. For example, one drill involves drawing with closed eyes. Following chapters offer lessons and more artistic workouts that deal with composition, line, value, and surface.
[Melanie Acevedo photos of artist Konstantin Kakanias painting, not drawing, and vignettes in his house as seen in House & Garden.]
I think Pagett strikes a nice balance by keeping the book relatable for the reader with no previous formal instruction yet relevant to former art students who simply feel rusty. He also gives the reader ample space -- and encouragement -- to experiment and find his or her own style and voice.
The book is economically priced at just under $25 and includes a sketchbook and primer together in one compact folding case, designed so that the reader can quickly alternate between text and creative exercise. Truth be told, I expected this to function quite awkwardly, but to my surprise the case works very well. Although both the sketchpad and book are detachable, I've found them to stay put when I want them to. There's also a handy stretchy band for extra security.
I like the idea of setting aside a block of quiet time each week to assemble a still life composed of beads, boxes, and vessels that truly captivate me and then tackle the sketching exercises little by little (sort of like taking a private lesson but free). Maybe by November it won't be so embarrassing to participate in Drawing in the Galleries night at the High.