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Sketching for a living

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

Drawing may be art, but it's such a useful tool in everyday life, it almost feels too functional to be termed art. It's a utility, but never a chore.

I recently archived a set of A5 Moleskines that have defined the last ten years of my design career; there’s no better record of the moments past than a book of live sketches that defined that moment, sometimes mundane, sometimes significant, these sketches all mean something to me and our clients.

The power of sketching cannot be overrated. Perfected over years of live visualising for the Lewis family at River Island, drawing intuitive visual solutions for a paying audience has become a bit of a thing. Particularly with more stressed members of any client team, watching your ‘instructions’ form before your eyes can make a design meeting the highlight of your week. You can leap ahead within any brief if you can describe your conceptual approach with a felt tip pen and an A3 pad.

I teach occasionally and always stress the power of the pen. Before we all turn to the Mac, we need to explore ideas and concepts in real time, where the actual motion of making a line is a time spent thinking where the next line might go. In today's design education system there is a real danger that technical proficiency might replace ideas. Visualising skills cloak a lack of imagination. I’ve often stated that if any student could get through 3 or 4 years of training without the use of a computer I’d mark them high and employ them quickly, unfortunately contemporary studies don’t allow for such expression.

Career progress can hinge on your ability to pass on advice and instruction later in life; as you progress, your technical illustrating skills may be curtailed through time pressure, so simple, quick, informative drawings become your voice. Your chance to tell others what to do, how to enhance their output.

Drawing for a living is only part of it, drawing for fun is the joy. From life or imagination it keeps you going. I have an A4 hardback book, bought in Tokyo, filled with 48 pages of furniture design ideas, drawn on the 10 hour flight back to Heathrow. I guess in-flight entertainment wasn’t as entertaining back then.

David Dalziel, November 2020.

Puglia Villa, 2018

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