English artist and avid sketcher Ruth Geldard took our Etchr Slate Mini out for a night of sketching musicians in situ. Here's her story.
Sometimes, when I’m drawing in a busy music venue, trying to juggle sketchbook, and drawing paraphernalia, someone will look over my shoulder and say helpfully,
“Wouldn’t it be easier if you just took a photo?”
Wouldn’t it indeed? Well of course I could work from a photograph, with the benefits of no time limit and the fact that it’s not likely to move much, or take a cigarette break. But a photograph is after all, a flat 2D image made by a machine in a split nanosecond and If I were to copy one, while I might improve my shading technique, I would miss out on the exciting, physical reality of the “live” experience.
This kind of spontaneous on-the-spot drawing responds to and gathers up mood, light and feeling. It also picks up the intensity of the artist, which is revealed in the nature and pressure of the marks. But most of all it clearly illustrates, for better or worse, the quality of the live, encounter through a connecting dialogue between artist and musician.
In my own case, I have been drawing people live, since I was ten usually as a distraction in difficult social situations. However, the passive portrait set-up where a person sits still and gets bored while you stare at them, can be a burden that I don’t have with performing musicians, especially jazz players. Once they are in their zone, they barely know I am there and their passion for the music is observable in pose and expression.
Since then I have never looked back and am now completely addicted, but years of supporting a sketchbook in one hand and tensely clutching drawing materials in the other for often hours at a time has taken a toll on my body so that I now have to look for a chair or lean on something. This has compromised my freedom to work, so when I happened upon a picture of a new art bag by Etchr, designed especially for urban sketchers, a small frisson of hope fanned a desire to try it out.
When the bag arrived, I felt the kind of new shoes excitement that I haven’t felt about an art product for ages. Aesthetically it satisfies all my artist sensibilities and I knew I would be happy to be seen out with it. The specific design feature that caught my attention was the diagonal shoulder strap, that cleverly takes the weight off your sketchbook and leaves hands free to concentrate on your drawing. The bag absorbed all my gear as easily as onboard tools on a vacuum cleaner and I set off to the Margate Jazz Club, an informal, group of long standing that meet at the Lifeboat pub in Margate every Monday.
The first thing I noticed was that not having to hold or clutch anything prevented physical tension building up and I seemed to get into my drawing quicker than usual. Soon my mark-making synched with the beat as the jazz players riffed off each other and their music began to merge into a satisfying fusion. As I concentrated on tracking the movements of the trumpet player, whose whole body was caught up in his playing, I was so intent on catching his pose, that I found myself gravity-leaning, a la Michael Jackson. That’s when the magic happened, that rare thing when my pencil hand feels as though it’s on automatic pilot and all I have to do is sit back let the line create itself.
There is nothing quite like coming home from a long session of live drawing, when all the elements have come together to create a drawing that you are happy with. Having the right gear, so that you are comfortable and have everything to hand is essential, and if you have been thinking about getting out and about and responding to the world around you with live drawing, this clever bag will go a long way towards making that happen.
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About the Author
Ruth Geldard is an established artist, based in England. Her work covers various mediums and subjects and can be seen here www.ruthgeldard.com and you can follow her blog https://ruthgeldard.wordpress.com/ Twitter @RuthRandom or Instagram.