Corban Wilkin: Illustrator


Keeping a Sketchbook
March 1, 2019, 10:47
Filed under: drawing, drawing theory, illustration, sketchbook | Tags: , , , , ,

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Whenever there’s an event featuring a graphic artist of any kind and they end up fielding questions from the public, there are certain questions that always get asked, and probably the one you hear the most is:

“What would be your advice for someone who wants to be an illustrator?”

This question is usually posed by a starry-eyed youngster, perhaps even a small child, just dying to know that one, closely-guarded secret that will cause them to become a successful graphic artist.

Of course there are no secrets. Or if there are, I don’t know them. But there is a specific answer most people give to this question, and it’s a very good answer. I was recently lucky enough to attend the Harry Potter Book Night to hear illustrators Jim Kay and Chris Riddell in a panel discussion about their work, and Riddell, inbetween his usual bouts of very fast and impressive live drawing fun, was asked this classic question, and gave the classic answer.

The answer to this question is always, “Keep a sketchbook.”

That’s it. Usually followed by the suggestion to keep it with you at all times and draw anything at all, as much as possible.

And if you want to become good at drawing and figure out how to world looks and how to capture as much as possible with lines on a page, then there really is no better advice. The more you draw, the easier it becomes. But as simple and effective as this advice is, it can be very difficult to follow.

A little while ago I went through an intense period of sketchbook drawing for a few months. I’d filled two thick books and was in to my third before it fizzled out again. This is normal for me. I go through heavy periods of sketching, and then I leave it for a while. Basically it’s because doing it properly is so time-consuming.

Doing one-minute doodles of people on the bus is fine, but if you want to get stuck in and seek out and draw big, full, unique scenes from life, you have to commit to sitting there for a good long time. I tend to spend around an hour on drawings like the ones you see here. So when I do it, I have to commit to it, and go out and spend entire days working on this stuff. It takes a lot of energy.

My point being, I suppose, that if you take the perennial advice of keeping a sketchbook (and we all should), don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish off a thick book of fully-detailed, unique and exciting drawings every month. This stuff is hard, it takes time and patience, and the only way I’ve found to do it properly is to take a good, long look at the world in front of me and settle down into it as patiently and openly as possible.


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