One of my past inspirations has been an old sketchbook, a gift from my godmother. It catalogues scenes from a Tour taken in the 1870s, and the artist visits the south of France, the Alps and Switzerland. The unknown artist seems to be an amateur enthusiast, and some of the pictures, for me, really capture a sense of time and place.
Here’s a little excerpt, which shows the Antibes/Cannes area. I love the blues and terracottas, and the way they have squeezed six small images onto the pages to conserve paper. The stock in the sketchbook itself is a warm buff, so highlights have been picked out in opaque white. The details of the scenes are tiny, done with a very small brush or a nib pen with ink.
This little portfolio has prompted me to take a small set of watercolours on holiday. Although it can be difficult to get the time to sit down and spend some good time just looking, I’ve found it very rewarding (even if the pictures often don’t work out as I hope) because it fixes a scene in detail in my memory in a way that photographs just can’t achieve. I only have to look at the sketch to vividly recall the weather, the sounds and the general ambience of a day. Drawing really is a powerful thing.