Why do I sketch? what’s the point when I can take a photograph? For a long time I asked myself these questions and placated myself with answers like, people seem to enjoy them, I enjoy sketching, or it calms me down or that they are a document of time and place, or they are a diary of thoughts. None of these answers seemed enough. So much so that it once stopped me sketching completely, I literally had the existential feeling of what’s the point? I had come to a dead end.

I was once standing in the rain, the wind and the cold sketching a grand building, I was shaking my head in self mockery and laughing at my situation and environment, I must be mad, I could be in the warmth, dry looking at an array of digital photographs of the architecture instead of sketching it. But still I carried on sketching.

Looking at these sketches a few days later the answer to my questions came all at once, it was of course all the things I had placated myself with but something more. By looking at each and every sketch I had done over the years no matter how many years I went back, I remembered individual observations about each one, every sense I felt. The noise, the smell, the atmosphere, where I was sitting, standing, crouching, where the people I sketched were sitting or standing, how they were laughing, what they were drinking, eating, smoking, what I was thinking, how the light fell on a building, the clouds, the weather, getting cold or burned by the sun, or wet from the rain without realising it until I’d finished the sketch. I notice details in buildings by drawing them I would never have noticed just by photographing them, if I don’t like a lampost or a street sign I can avoid sketching them or I can make them a focal point of the drawing if I do like them, I can change elements of the sketch as it goes, a car moves, people move, cloud formations change etc. etc.

Aristotle said we have five senses and these all come into play and are remembered by looking at ones own sketch but there are so many more senses such as thermoception, the sense of heat (or its absence), equilibrioception—our sense of balance—which is determined by the fluid-containing cavities in the inner ear and many more which all help to lift the sketch off the page. It’s taken a long time but now I finally realise why I sketch.

pregnant woman malaga
Pregnant woman, Cafe Galapain, Malaga.

man on a plane
Man in a blue chequed shirt on the plane back from Malaga.

Leanne sunbathing in Fuengirola
My wife Leanne, sunbathing in Fuengirola, Spain.

view from malaga beach
A view from Malaga beach.

London was absolutely heaving with people on Monday, whether it was the half-term holidays or the rain, condensing them into one certain area, in this case trafalgar Sq. or the comfort blanket of temporary respite in the warmth and shelter of the National Gallery, I don’t know. My daughter Azzanne had a University interview at the nearby prestigious Courtauld Institute to study Art History so I took the opportunity to visit said gallery purely to see the Canaletto’s, the Gaurdi’s and a single painting by Canaletto’s nephew Bernardo Berlotto. Humbled but nevertheless inspired I ventured into the elements to sketch some buildings namely the National Gallery itself, the corner of the Admiralty Building and the beautiful church spire of St. Martin in the Fields. I managed to find enough doorways, arches and eaves to enable me to at least temporarily avoid the raindrops, it was also bitterly cold I might add. The result was a trio of loose sketches to cast my eye over whilst eating lunch and drinking a pint of Ale in the Lamb and Flag, one of London’s oldest pub’s frequented by Charles Dickens himself. An altogether most satisfactory of days.

national gallery

the admiraly building

st martin in the fields