We carvers are fortunate to have the opportunity to both conceive a design and execute it with nothing more than a chunk of wood and a few sharp tools, and it’s a thrill when the idea becomes a reality before our eyes. I find that sketching helps the design process, forcing me to work through some of the practical elements of an idea by taking it out of my mind and onto the page. I also think that drawing in general, anything, helps to develop our design intuition, beckoning us to look closely and notice things that we may otherwise overlook.
I’ve been reading a book recommended to me by David Berman of Trustworth Studios: By Chance I Did Rove by Norman Jewson. In it, Jewson recollects his formative experience of hiking through the Cotswolds with a donkey and a sketchbook; the sketchbook proving more reliable than the donkey. He describes many memorable encounters, including his first with Arts and Crafts icon Ernest Gimson who went on to teach and employ the young architect and designer.
Intermixed with fond recollections of a place and a way of life that would soon be changed forever by the turmoil of the First World War are lessons learned from Gimson, including this one about sketching and design:
“…so at Gimson’s suggestion I picked and brought with me a different wild flower each day and made a drawing of it. This was part of his training of me in design and I soon found how differently one must look at a flower, or any other natural object, for this purpose. At first my drawings were as realistic as I could make them, with the accidental peculiarities of leaf and flower of the sprig I had brought with me, but he soon taught me to note only its special characteristics, making a simplified analysis of the basic peculiarities of the plant and then adapting this to a pattern suitable for modelled plaster, wood-carving or needlework as the case might be.”
Jewson himself was capable of executing the design, including those that called for wood carving. If I ever find myself in the Cotswolds, I’d like to find a donkey, rove a bit and possibly check out Norman Jewson’s sketchbooks. It seems that they have one here.
Here is a link to a previous post about the value of reference sketching.