I used to draw all the time as a kid. Doodling and sketching, drawing and painting. I used to love to get arty, inspired by Tony Hart and 'The Gallery' - first on Vision On and later on Take Hart. Pencils, crayons, felt tips, poster paint, brushes, plasticene, PVA...
And then, for some reason, as I grew older and gained responsibilities I just sort of stopped.
My wife draws and paints quite a lot; the kids are always making things, drawing and generally being crafty. The house is filled with pictures and pens, sketchbooks and scribbles, and yet I never really found the time to pick up a pencil myself.
Until a holiday to Cornwall in the Spring, and a trip to Penzance, where we spent about an hour and a few quid in The Works. We stocked up on a couple of new sketch pads for the girls, a set of pastels for Julia, and an A5 sketchbook for me. It had been a hard term at work and I was feeling very much in need of rest and relaxation. Julia suggested I do some art with her and the kids to take my mind off things. So I did. I really enjoyed it. So much so that we went back into Penzance a few days later and I bought myself some watercolour pencils, a set of graphite sketching pencils, a canvas pencil roll, a set of paint brushes, and a small art bin to keep everything in.
Now, none of my sketches or daubs are likely to find themselves a place at The Royal Academy, and David Hockney needn't lose any sleep, but I am pleased with the efforts I made. Not for any artistic merit they may or may not possess but for the process of change that I underwent whist re-discovering the pleasure of just making marks on paper.
On my return to work I mentioned my newly rekindled affair with art to my colleague (I share an office with an artist with a specialism in painting) and she was very encouraging. Another of my colleagues, this time a sculptor, said I should keep up the habit of drawing as and when I could, "It'll do you good" she said. At the end of the Summer term she made me a gift of a sketchbook and told me to fill it up over the summer holiday. I packed the sketchbook and my roll of pencils, and took them on holiday to Wales. Again, my wife was eager for us to draw and paint as a family. Our daughters enjoyed filling their scrapbooks with cut out pictures, drawings, leaflets, tickets and photos of the holiday. And I loved it!
Any of you reading this, especially those who are artistic, will shake your heads at this next paragraph in a 'he's stating the bleeding obvious' kind of way, but those few days where I had the time, the inclination, and the opportunity to draw were a revelation. Drawing made me look at things in a different way. I noticed shape, line, texture, space, proportion and detail much more acutely. I became more observant, and whilst I was drawing I was not thinking about work...
I have tried a number of new media - pastels, pen and ink, wet on wet painting - since the holiday, and I have noticed that I have become much freer in my mark making. At first I was timid, almost not daring to besmirch the paper. Now I am much happier to commit to an idea and go for it, and not worry that it has to be right. These things have seeped into my everyday life too. I don't feel as though everything has to be right, I am more inclined to take a risk or two. I'm not afraid to make my mark.
There was an article in The Guardian on the 7th of October 2013 written by the BBC journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Marr, in which he described how drawing had helped him in his recovery from a stroke. I read it with interest and it confirmed what, as a creative person, I knew all along; art of any kind is a powerful thing.
So, if you haven't picked up a pencil or paintbrush in years, or you think that you can't be creative with a crayon, think again. Give it a go. You'll enjoy it and you might find out something about yourself along the way.