Towards the end of last month I noticed with relief that I’d started ‘seeing’ again. Stress does many things, some of which you don’t realise until they pass. One of those things, for me, has been the blurring of my ability to ‘see’. For an illustrator I think it’s one of the things that draws you to the profession. You notice things visually – the shapes and colours of things, designs, lines, postures – and want to try and communicate those things by drawing, painting, or any kind of mark-making. This has become blunted for me over the past few months. Thankfully, on a recent walk I suddenly realised it was back, the ‘seeing’ and the urge to draw again.
I recently ordered a book which arrived today. David Gentleman ‘My Town – An Artist’s Life in London’. It’s marvellous. An emotional, ravishing treat for an illustrator who has recently moved away from there (funnily enough, his parents were Scottish painters who emigrated to London from Glasgow). Full of a lifetime of looking and drawing in London, it’s a record of Gentleman’s work from the 1950s right up to 2019. In the introduction he writes, “The book is also about drawing, and what the process of drawing brings out of me. … I’ve come to feel that noticing things, looking more intently at them and understanding them better is key to what drawing means. It has always made places more interesting, and made me feel more alive.”
It’s just the right book for me, at just the right time.
Images from ‘My Town – An Artist’s Life in London’, by David Gentleman (Particular Books, 2020). The Charing Cross artworks are London Underground platform murals; a regular lookout for me as a child travelling by tube to Chinatown – “Come on, we’re getting off next stop!”.