A View into the Intimate Life of an Artist: The Role of Drawing


When I was attending art school, all the painting students were told to draw on a continual basis.? We were expected to carry a sketchbook at all times and draw anything and everything that crossed our paths.? I remember drawing people on park benches, cathedrals, in restaurants and a variety of landscapes surrounding the city. Often I encountered obstacles in drawing ?difficult? subjects. I drew them anyway.

Gradually, I made friends with my sketchbook and we became inseparable companions.? When someone was late for a luncheon meeting, out would come my sketchbook.? I would draw tables full of dirty dishes and glasses, or groups of people deep in conversation.? I was never bored; I was always finding new shapes, faces, and places to discover with my pen. I enjoyed the act of drawing, it was so simple.? My sketchbook fit perfectly into my purse.? I would often draw with a ball-point pen because it meant no erasing ? it kept me moving, adding new lines on top of lines that were not descriptive enough.

When I review these sketchbooks many years later, I cannot help being transported back to that time, place and emotions associated with each drawing.? Drawing takes time.? It is not like the quick ?click? of a camera.? When I look at drawings from long ago, I can remember which one was done at night or captured in the burning mid-day sun.? I can remember my discomfort, or ease at the time I was working.? Often, passersby would stop to talk.? I would make new friends or exchange thoughts with strangers.? My sketches were often accompanied by personal journal entries that recorded what was happening at the time.? I would add to my sketchbook postcards of places I would visit, theatre ticket stubs, or addresses of people I met.

The result was a very intimate record of my day-to-day experience of living.? Even drawings of hospital or clinic waiting rooms yielded good material to add to my sketchbook.? After all, even those experiences are a part of ordinary life.? They should be remembered.

Because my own sketchbooks are so important to me, I always want to see the drawings done by well-known artists.? Many solo exhibitions don?t include artists? sketchbooks.? I am always curious to see what the artist wanted to draw.? What did they include and what did they leave out?? Were there any drawings that showed the beginnings of major painted works?? Drawings are where artists ?think aloud.?? You can trace an artist?s thoughts by looking carefully at their drawings.

It has always saddened me that most art galleries show no real interest in exhibiting drawings.? I guess the reason for this is that most have no color or they can?t sell them for large sums of money..? The average art viewer does not realize their significance.

I am currently teaching drawing classes every Saturday and I am sharing these kinds of thoughts with my students.? Gradually, they are realizing how much fun it is to record the variety of things that pass before our eyes every day.? I watch with delight as their eyes are fixed on their subjects.? I know that a new understanding of their visual worlds is unfolding before me.

The picture (right) was taken of me in New Brunswick, at the age of 21…with my sketchbook.

One thought on “A View into the Intimate Life of an Artist: The Role of Drawing

  1. Malle

    Dear Deirdre,

    I really enjoyed reading “The Role of Drawing”, about how you first started drawing, how it has influenced your development as an artist, and your thoughts about the value of exhibiting artists’ drawings. Great photo too!
    I look forward to more insightful blogs to come…


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