Monday, 28 August 2017

The Illustrator's Busman's Holiday : Garry Parsons

Among the things I enjoy seeing posted on Twitter are illustrator’s roughs for the projects they are working on. I’ve always been curious to know how other illustrators develop their work because everyone’s process of working is unique. These initial character sketches and pencil outlines sometimes give you a hint of that process and would have mostly gone unseen in the days before social media.

Recently my attention has been drawn to posts that have included observational drawings, city scenes or landscapes and even life drawing, all of which appear separate from work projects and made out of studio time. These drawings are often accompanied by a text or a title alluding to the illustrator being on holiday, travelling or simply having a few minutes to spare in a coffee shop or killing time on a station platform. Some of these drawings are superb!

Hannah Warren - Montenegro Sketch book and "Black Lake"

I have always drawn (well ever since I can remember anyway) and when I visit schools today I often tell the children that I have been practicing my pencil skills since I was first born. (I draw a baby version of myself to illustrate this). So when I studied painting at art college it wasn’t a challenge for me when the tutors encouraged the students to carry a sketchbook with them at all times because I already did and still do today. So, when I’m travelling or going on holiday, my bags always include drawing equipment and sketchbooks, which appear before swimming trunks and passports on my packing list.

Garry Parsons - El Turbón, Spain

On a recent trip to Somerset with my seven-year-old son, we stopped on a hillside, got a blanket out of the car and sketched the landscape together. My son confidently explained to me that there was “no imagination needed” because it’s all there, right in front of you – the hills, the farm, the trees and cattle – and “you don’t have to make it up!” 

Garry Parsons - Kilve Beach, Somerset.                                             Guy Parker-Rees - Sussex Downs

He was right, of course, in some ways. Drawing on a hillside, there are no deadlines, art directors, editors, sales team or authors to consider. No one was going to suggest I use a different colour or change the eyes on the cows from circles to dots.  What there is, though, is a quiet joy in just sitting and drawing what you see, especially on a warm evening in a beautiful place with another artist, even if they are just seven. But, despite having carried a sketchbook with me most of my life and always feeling the urge to sit and draw, this was the first time I’d really considered what it was that actually compels me to do it. And it’s a curious question to ponder.  I can come up with many different answers, most of them valid in some way or other, but what it really comes down to is feeling a sense of ease through drawing what you see. It’s like a necessary nourishment that’s unique and personal.

Garry Parsons - Santa Cruz de la Serós and Luz-Saint-Sauveur.

So after my son’s encouraged revelation I made a mental note each time I spotted a landscape or holiday sketch posted by an illustrator on Twitter to ask them the same question, what is it that motivates them to continue drawing “out of studio hours” when probably, like me, they spend most of their day drawing anyway.
Guy Parker-Rees told me: “I love drawing and painting landscapes when I have the time and I go life drawing every week. Life drawing is the very best way of keeping that loose connection between eye and hand. I love the freedom to let go and experiment when doing my own work. No brief, no deadline, just enjoying the process. I'm sure it always feeds back into my illustration work: it's a way of trying things out, maybe using different media or techniques.
I think it's important to keep experimenting with different ways of working in order to keep your style fresh and to make sure it keeps growing and evolving.”

Guy Parker-Rees - 20 minute life drawing

And the dexterous Hannah Warren told me:
I draw to relax and to think and to observe and to remember. Drawing for yourself is very different and private and many things just stay in the number of small sketchbooks. It's good to have something that’s just for you. Some things though, are used as a basis for commissioned work, like an interesting person walking their dog, someone smoking on a wall, a couple having an argument. I like to look a lot at body language and how people just go about their lives. My work has so many people in it because that’s what I’m most interested in. As for drawing “on holiday” this is again to record a new place.”

Hannah Warren - Sketch

I’ve seen some beautiful work worthy of high praise from many other illustrators too, Adam Stower and Thomas Docherty to name a couple. Wonderful artists with acutely refined drawing skills, the depth of which just might have been concealed within the confines of picture book characters or a commercially designed illustration job but glimpsed in these “out of studio” works.
So if you enjoy a good drawing, these are well worth looking out for on your Twitter feed!
Garry Parsons - Roda de Isábena
But now I’m left wondering if authors do this too? Do they sit on the beach on holiday in Minehead conjuring poetry, psalms or haiku just for pleasure? I’m curious!


Guy Parker-Rees is the award-winning illustrator of Giraffes Can't Dance which has sold over 215,000 copies. He is extensively published by Orchard, Walker and Little Tiger. Visit Guy's website HERE and follow him on twitter @Guyguyyug 

Hannah Warren is an illustrator and bike lady who lives and works in South London and has recently worked for The New York Times and The Sunday Telegraph as well as in publishing. Hannah's work has also been animated for broadcast. Visit Hannah's website HERE and follow her on Twitter @_hannah_warren_ 

Garry Parsons is an award winning illustrator of children's books including the best selling picture book "The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas" by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter. Visit Garry's website HERE and follow him on Twitter @ICanDrawDinos


Jonathan Emmett said...

A great post Garry. I used to take a sketch book with me on holiday in my student days, but not any more. Perhaps I should take it up again. And – to answer your final question – I don't write on holiday, but now my kids are older, perhaps that will change too.

Chitra Soundar said...

Hi Garry, I am in awe of illustrators all the time because I can't draw at all. I love process too - both artists and writers. Thank you for posting this.

Now answering your question on writers - Yes I carry a notebook everywhere too and write little thoughts, snippets of words, phrases, stories. I was in Spain last week and ended up writing half a story, two short poems and a load of ideas.

But mostly when I see scenery, I am more interested in it as a novice photographer. I think it takes months before the visit, the trip seeps into become words.

Andrew Preston said...

Love those sketches.

Pippa Goodhart said...

Yup, I almost can't NOT write notes down of ideas or word combinations when I'm not officially working. I'd love to dare to try little bits of drawing, not to be shared at all, but haven't yet, at 58, recovered from getting the message from adults when I was a child that I 'couldn't' draw. I love your pictures.

Garry Parsons said...

I'm liking the idea of a writer's "sketchbook" Chitra, and that the urge to write is still there when you are away on holiday. I'm still enjoying wondering what drives the creative process! Thank you for your comments.

Garry Parsons said...

Thanks Jonathan. Yes, always carry a sketchbook!

Garry Parsons said...

Thank you, and well worth looking at Adam Stower and Thomas Docherty too. And what I love about Guy's sketches are how familiar the feel of them is to his picture books.

Garry Parsons said...

I love that you can't help but write stuff down Pippa.
Do try some drawing though, why not, no need to show anyone!

Paeony Lewis said...

Adored your blog post, Garry. I'm a novice in art and the times I've gone out and about with a sketch book have slightly freaked me out because I hate people staring and trying to see what I'm drawing and I don't want to show them if they ask - I'm pathetic! However, writing is less obvious, and when I'm out I'll note down ideas and wordings that resonate, especially for poetry, and although I used to have a tiny notebooks, nowadays the phrases are often saved to my phone, along with a photo.

Garry Parsons said...

Thank you Paeony. I think I've become hardened to people looking over my shoulder at what I'm drawing through all the school visits and events I've drawn publicly at. But still, these drawings are more personal so an unexpected audience can be off putting.
I have tried drawing using apps on my phone but I'm going to leave that to Hockney!