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Faces #1

Ask anyone who has been to a degree show and they will agree: as stunning as the final pieces are, sketchbooks are the real artistic gold. They’re where ideas are formed, experiments are tested and concepts are developed and discarded. They’re free and messy and exciting and honest and uninhibited by likes or algorithms – and that’s what makes them so bloody interesting. But we hardly get to see them.

On a regular scroll through the internet you are far more likely to see the polished final pieces than the messy, imperfect ideas that precede them. I’m guilty of this myself: not wanting to mess up my Instagram grid with anything that might not look nice. But there’s an underlying concern that accompanies my hesitation: I don’t want to show work that might be considered bad.

I try to be fairly honest online – hashtag authentic and all that. But as an illustrator the truth is I’m still working out and improving my style, and that’s not something I’m prepared to muss up my grid with (I am a designer after all, we like things to be neat and coherent!)

So in an effort to be more honest and just a wee bit braver I’m going to share the inner workings of my sketchbooks, starting with Faces.

I started this book about a year ago, drawing and painting faces from reference and experimenting with techniques, in an effort to develop a style. Some are “good” and some are “bad”. I’m using quotation marks very purposefully here, because what may be good or bad to me might not be the same for you (what is good and bad in this context anyway?)

My theory is that by putting the “bad” stuff out there, I’ll become desensitised to the underlying fear of being discovered as a fraud (i.e. someone who can’t draw and should have their implements confiscated). Clearly this has threads to Imposter Syndrome, which I will no doubt delve into in a future post!

It’s also an act of solidarity with my fellow creatives, mainly the ones who fear they started too late or who will never discover their style. It’s a common sight on popular illustrators’ channels: streams of comments from aspiring artists, all asking how and when they will find their style, despairing at their lack of talent. This could be because we’re used to only seeing perfected final pieces. We don’t see the discarded trials and first attempts. We’re not always privy to the piles of sketchbooks, where these successful illustrators no doubt filled with hours of endless fun and experiments and practice, practice, practice.

We’ve all got to be bad before we can be good. It would be arrogant to expect otherwise.

Over a series of posts I’ll share a handful of pages, without exclusion, no matter how much they make me cringe. This accountability will hopefully inspire me to make (and practice) more so I can keep the series running. And hopefully, after a while I’ll be able to look back over a solid body of work and see improvement.

So without further ado, I present the first three pages of Faces:

I almost didn’t include this one because the proportions are SO out of whack (and it’s got everything but a face). But that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

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