21 Sep 2009

Page from Grayson Perry's sketchbook.

It was intriguing to see bits of The Prince's Drawing School in Saturday's "Guide to drawing" which came with the Guardian... we hired the space to them for the photoshoot (proceeds go to the Young Artists Programme for deserving children)-- they were a great team to work with. The supplement included an essay by Grayson Perry who has been a speaker at the School, and who waxes eloquent about drawing...

Grayson Perry
The Guardian, Saturday 19 September 2009

Until we can insert a USB into our ear and download our thoughts, drawing remains the best way of getting visual information on to the page. I draw as a collagist, juxtaposing images and styles of mark-making from many sources. The world I draw is the interior landscape of my own personal obsessions and of cultures I have absorbed and adapted, from Latvian folk art to Japanese screens. I lasso thoughts with a pen. I draw a stave church or someone from Hello! magazine not because I want to replicate how they look, but because of the meaning they bring to the work.

For me, drawing manifests itself in two distinct ways: in the urgency of a doodle, or the obsessive labour of intricate detail. In the middle of the night I awake adrenalised by thoughts of a forthcoming project. Images spin and meld in the golden half-light of my imagination. This is the time when the shy creatures that are my ideas creep out into the clearing of my consciousness. It is at this moment that I click on the bedside light and fumble for my glasses and a pen and paper and scribble a sketch.

It may only be a few lines of automatic writing, a cipher containing the gist of the inspiration. This done I can flop back into sleep. This moment - when an idea first pops its head above the parapet - is crucial to its survival. I have noticed over the years that even though I will go on to redraw and refine the initial idea, more often than not I will plump for something that closely resembles that initial doodle. These doodles are the nearest I come to making elegant gestures.

The other sort of drawing that means a lot to me is obsessive, large, detailed. As a child, I drew to create an escape hatch into imaginary worlds where I had control. This childhood template of creativity still works for me. I embark on a journey across the page (starting in the top left-hand corner so I don't smudge my work) and see where it will take me.

I enjoy getting lost in the labour of a marathon drawing. Once I have committed myself to a theme and structure, I snuggle into the comforting drudgery of copying out every detail of elaborate costumes, machines or buildings. I surround myself with stacks of source material: books, magazines, a computer. I am keenly aware of the limits of my imagination. I steal patterns, mimic styles, weld heads from 1960s photographs on to bodies from 18th-century prints.

I can draw like this till my hand aches but I have never regarded myself as one of life's natural born draughtsmen. A successful drawing for me is usually achieved by a war of attrition rather than a coup de grace.