Archive Sketchbooks (part 3)

Following on from my previous two posts showing some of my old sketches and doodles (where you can see Part 1 and Part 2 here), I thought I would go back to show how I became interested in Art and Philosophy and creativity and what my earliest inspirations were.

Away with the fairies…

I got into art as one of my ‘main things’ when I was a teenager. Although I was quite a ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ sort of person, I did seem to show some sort of aptitude for drawing – at least, that’s what my teachers seemed to tell me. I liked things to be neat. I liked detail and precision. I valued accuracy. I remember that’s how I thought about art and drawing when I was aged about 7 to 15.

But art isn’t just technical drawing, is it? It’s about being ‘somewhere else’ – away with the fairies – isn’t it? Well, I lived in fantasy-land aged about 14. I was obsessed with everything romantic and other-worldly.
These are just pencil sketch copies I made from the Flower Fairies book [Cicely Mary Barker]:

But copies are all good and well…

One of my other first main inspirations was the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. When I was growing up I remember we had several watercolour prints and decorative items by Charles Rennie Mackintosh around the house. Our house was full of Mondrian books and Art Deco design books and scary stories about Vincent Van Gogh cutting his ear off.

I liked straight lines. But I also liked the swirling, decorative, stylised patterns and prints of plants and flowers – they intrigued me with their complexity and detail. I liked their intricacy and calm considered-ness. But most of all I think I admired their uniqueness in style – they were highly stylised and creatively one-off. I was also drawn to the typography!

A couple of works from the man himself:


Early Philosophy

One day at school doing some research I found a particularly interesting quote from Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Instantly – I was captivated. It struck an immediate chord with me. I had to write it down. I went to the library in my lunch break and hurriedly copied it down, word for word, in my favourite purple pen at the time, and actually, to this day I still have it! Here it is:


This means a lot to me. It is, to me, about the very essence of being an artist, or an ‘original’ – the need to be unique, heartfelt, passion-filled, sufficiently creatively original; a one-off; your own person.

Early Line Drawings

Here is one of the earliest things I was made to draw at big school.
I remember the year. It was 1991. I was terrified. I was silent and totally unsure how to draw from (still) life. Up until this point I drew everything, like a child, from memory, out of my head. Here we go:


Later on, experiments in line and wash before I designed and produced my first ever Christmas cards!

Going Abstract

Aged 14-15. I seem to recall I was very drawn to straight lines and simple geometric shapes at this time. I decided to experiment and ‘push the boundaries’ a bit with simplicity and symbolism. It was also a bit about philosophy.



‘The Flower’:
This was an abstraction of the idea of a flower (plant) in as simple a way as I could find possible. The petals are open upwards and cup-like, implying beauty and sexuality. The stem is vertical providing structure, strength and status. The leaves are horizontal and on the ground, functional, fundamentally life-giving but unpretty. The plant has roots, otherwise it would be dead.


‘Flowers and Leaves’:


‘Reach Tall’:


‘The Perfect Circle Does Not Exist’ – exploring themes of perfection and idealism:



This allegorical sketch, entitled – ‘Life’:
I clearly had some mental issues! (*well I was only 15.) It explores themes of bedroomisation and not having answers.


Coloured Heart in Black‘:
It goes off the page. I liked its compositional asymmetry and it was supposed to symbolise that love is always ‘off the page’ a bit.


And, using up the paint… a quick brush sketch of a photograph of my brother as a baby.


Looking back, I thought about everything in a highly symbolized way. Even from the earliest I can remember, I was always drawn to thinking about abstract ideas and concepts.

To be honest, I have no idea what much of any of this means any more, because I prefer to explore ideas through words rather than through paint these days.
But it was fun to look back and see what I thought about back then!

Join me here again soon for more of my stuff.



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