Alan Marks sends a great little post all about a much ignored area that he sees the joy in."I really like pavements. It all started after I graduated from art college, when I moved from Wiltshire to London.
I was always told that I should keep a sketchbook; it is a discipline, a resource, a vital tool. Good advice, no doubt, but I have never kept one. I’m not confident, I can’t lose myself enough, to stand and draw on the street corner, or even in the middle of a field. I am rarely motivated to draw the stuff around me and I don’t like drawing in books, it feels restricted and precious. To bang on about it, I don’t even really like the word “sketch”; it suggests a certain way of drawing; a sort of short hand. I do like life-drawing, there’s an intensity to it and I’m happy to draw in a class where everyone is striving to get it right. I like drawing animals too for the challenge of getting that instant recognition of shape and movement.
Stories, poems, words, are what really motivate me to draw. This is about looking inside the stuff of everyday life. I take cues from words and phrases. People ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?” Well, from the text. If I do a character ‘sketch’, (in this sense, of course, the word refers to a brief portrayal of someone,) from a description rather than from a story it tends to be straight on and a bit static. Given the story though, I have the character’s thoughts and predicament; there is already drama; I have his viewpoint or the reader’s view of him. As much influenced by cinema as by painting and drawing, I begin also to form ideas about angles, panoramas, mid-shots or close-ups, movement, lighting and use of space. Somebody once said that all illustrators are frustrated actors. Well, I’m not a performer but there’s something in that; I often strike a pose, pull the face or act the part I’m drawing. (The old lady who lived opposite my London flat thought I was a lunatic.) Understanding the drama, knowing the character’s thoughts and actions, is part of illustrating a story.
I’ve drawn almost every day of my life since I was child; yet I recall myself as a child saying “But I don’t know what to draw!” I need to draw, but I need a narrative; perhaps I need to act too. So what else could I do? Illustration solves the problem of what to draw.
The Shakespeare book jacket illustrations in this post are by Alan Marks and published by Franklin Watts.
(Click on the images to enlarge the illustrations)
I first met Jane Goodall at Heathrow airport with the publisher Michael Neugebauer. Michael had already published The Chimpanzee Family Bookwith Jane; had been to The Gombe National Park in Tanzania to photograph the chimps, and was already a supporter of Jane’s charity, the JGI. The possibility of my working with her came up and I was asked if I could draw chimpanzees. I’d never drawn one and perhaps I could have replied, “Yes, but I will need to see them in their natural habitat”. Being freelance, I simply said, “Yes, of course”. Jane and Michael flew off to separate and exotic parts of the world and I drove back home to my drawing board. It isn’t just the freelance thing though; I assume that I can draw anything because drawing is a process of discovery; and a good way to learn about an animal, for example, is to draw it. As well as doing various pieces for the JGI, I have since worked with Jane on With Love a book of true stories about the lives of chimps and Rickie and Henri, again, a true story about the relationship between an orphaned chimp and a dog.
I have sometimes been asked if having children changed the way I thought about illustrating children’s books. Beyond seeing the world from their level, (you spend a lot of time on your knees as a parent of young children), and realising that they can be visually very acute, I don’t think it has had a big impact on my work. I suppose we draw for the child within ourselves. But one of my favourite projects came directly from having young children.
Lilly was dressing up warm. It was the first day of the Christmas Holiday and Jack Frost had been about. He had left no footprints on the new carpet of snow that covered the ground. But each window pane had frosted to his touch, and the wind seemed keen to rush indoors; you can always tell when Jack Frost has been about.