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May 12, 2008

Why Sketch?

[From the Drawing Board of Nick Abadzis]

A cartoonist friend of mine once told me about another cartoonist friend of his who sneered at the idea of spending time doing life drawing. This isn’t from the horse’s mouth, you understand, so it could be a wind-up, as I have difficulty imagining a cartoonist who would be boring enough not to like sketching or drawing from life. My friend reckoned this guy would rather use the time to plan a story or ink some pencils and while I understand the motivating force of beating the clock (creating comics is such a labor-intensive art) I think it’s just as important sometimes to bug out and do a bit of doodling, or sketching from life.


Sketching is like play -- it exercises certain creative muscles that would otherwise either atrophy or snap from overwork. It’s important. It frees up the mechanism in your brain that usually stays focused and produces tight drawings as part of a comics narrative, and I think it’s wise to allow it some downtime, so to speak. Otherwise, you run the risk of going stale.


Indeed, for me personally, there’s little that’s more pleasurable than sitting out on a summer’s day for a couple of hours, sitting in a park or somewhere and catching a few likenesses of the passing people. You never know what you might see, or what it might inspire. I have a whole sketchblog (http://nickabadzis.my-expressions.com/) that’s more or less devoted to sketches of people that I do while traveling on the London tube or bus service. Those sketches are a valuable source of potential character types to mine later.


Often, sketching generates story ideas -- most of my sketchbooks are filled with little notes and reminders, germs of stories to be retrieved later in the studio and worked into something larger. Sometimes, it also takes your mind off a storytelling problem and when you come back to work, the solution to that problem miraculously pops into your head. It’s quite meditative like that – one’s subconscious seems to appreciate the downtime too. Above all, it sharpens your sense of observation and contributes to an overall looseness that you just can’t manufacture.


The best advice I could ever give is not to take any, just follow your own heart -- but if there’s one piece of wisdom that’s worth imparting, if you want to be an artist or writer of any kind, keep a sketchbook or notebook.

Here are a few great blogs that I admire that contain a lot of the artists’ sketches, preliminary drawings and doodles. Or just plain wonderful drawing:







Betcha anything Sorel does warm-up sketches though. You can't get that lovely looseness without a bit of "firing it up".

And Mike, you blog instead of sketch! Everyone has ways of warming up, I guess. As for the busybodies, if someone asks to see a drawing, I just show 'em! I have to say though, Londoners seem much less inclined to do that than, say New Yorkers. I've done a lot of drawing in both cities and New Yorkers definitely like to see what you're up to.

I remember reading an interview with Ed Sorel and when he was asked if he sketched or doodled, he said he never put pen to paper unless there was a purchase order!

Some great sketches here, Nick. I really enjoyed your prose about why sketching is important. Since I've become a full-time cartoonist, I rarely sketch any more. Just not interested. And I used to do it all the time!

What do you do when busybodies come over and want to talk to you and see what you're sketching???

I agree so much, when I'm on a project everything focus towards that project, so having a little time to just stuff about in a sketch book, can release things that i may never have time to draw otherwise.

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