We all draw as children but most of us leave drawing behind as adulthood approaches, perhaps through self-consciousness, perhaps due to the importance given in schools to representational drawing. But artists and designers carry on, designers maybe less so these days, when so much can be done so quickly and slickly on the computer. For several years I was an external examiner on a university course in 'Spatial Design', and every year in my annual report I asked ‘why can’t the Design students attend life classes in the Art department?’ Their computer renderings were impressive, but many lacked the authenticity of real skill.
I’m not a Luddite, but I do think that direct drawing by hand is just as important now as it ever was.
For me, drawing is at the heart of every project, at the centre of everything I do or make. Drawing is not just representation, it’s a form of thinking - thinking with a pencil. Through drawing, ideas can be worked out. The best way of improving skill in drawing is drawing from life, as this is the most difficult exercise where every mark matters, and any errors in proportion stand out most clearly. In this way life drawing becomes a form of measurement, each part of the 3D form must be ‘measured’ by the eye, and translated into a flat 2D drawing. I'm not saying my drawings are any good; I'm saying it's the ongoing act of drawing that's the important thing.
This leads on to drawing as primary research. To spend an hour or so drawing something - really looking at it hard - is to discover quite a lot about that object’s proportions, dimensions, and character; far more than ever can be found out by taking a photograph, for instance.
Above : chairs seen at (L-R) Cheltenham Museum, my friends Bruce and June's, on holiday in France in 1986, Gudrun Leitz's Clissett Wood, Herefordshire.
I'm interested in proportion, anything from Serlio to the Modulor. Is there such a thing as 'good proportion'? - certainly some things look more 'right' than others, and so this has led me to the idea of measuring as a way of finding out. I'm always amazed at what measured drawings can reveal. This type of drawing need not be to any scale, but has something of a survey about it. It can tell you quite a lot.
Below : my drawing of a monk's cell at Le Corbusier's monastery at La Tourette (this was selected for inclusion in the Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries, 2013)
Most of this eventually finds its way into the design side of things :