John Ruskin had once said, “To draw the leaf, is to know the forest.” For generations this has been
the practice of architects on their sojourns throughout Europe and the world;
sketchbook in hand, recording buildings, details and landscapes – recording
practice has been relinquished over time to the camera, and now even the
handier mobile phone. One can race through cities, villages and fields
snapping shots without ever loosing step. We can even share it with our friends instantly, or immediately post it on our wall – our modern day
documentary of our exciting lives. But do we see what we are shooting? I mean,
do we really see?
So why a sketchbook? Who has the time? I often find that going through these thousands of digital images I’m not only uncertain of the time and
place the image was taken, but why I even took the picture to begin
with. My sketchbook is different; with my sketchbook I’m not so much
documenting an image, but I am actually stopping time. When I
sketch, I absorb the moment; not only the detail, but the way the light
strikes the object, the texture of the object, the coolness of its
shadow. I feel the space about the object, the sound, the smell, the hum
of life, the silence. Often, a quick watercolor was done with water
from the canal at my feet, or a street fountain that quenched my thirst,
or sometimes it’s actually the coffee that woke me up. Technique and
artistry isn’t the point. The point is the sketch – it’s the moment.
Then, when the sketchbook goes back on the shelf, among the other sketchbooks of my life, I am left with the places. They are now a part
my experience; it is now a part of who I am. I no longer have to get out
my sketchbook to remember, they can be recalled at any time or be
revealed in my work at any moment.
So although my camera is a vital instrument, I always carry my sketchbook while traveling. That way, I can always really know where I’ve been.
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