Monday, October 12, 2015


A few pages selected from sketchbooks to conclude the posting of some of my old drawings. They were all drawn quickly from life, although those of the Falklands debate were done while watching TV programmes. The process which sometimes moves brain, eye, hand, pencil (or pen, brush etc.) to work harmoniously together in response to a visual/emotional stimulus is something of a mystery. Skill acquired by long training and regular practice doesn't necessarily account for it and it can't be willed - it either happens or it doesn't.

If anyone recognises the face of that famous musician whose name I can't remember, please let me know - he was a violinist and somewhat hunchbacked. I met Shyam Singha only once during a talk he gave at a centre in Hampstead where I was working. Bob Cobbing was a friend and a well-known performer and writer of Concrete poetry.


Roderick Robinson said...

A.N.Wilson did an excellent programme on BBC4, yesterday or the day before, called Larkinland. About Phillip Larkin, not surprisingly.

He was allowed access to PL's notebooks and pointed out - with wonder - the evolution of some of the poems: crossings out, additions, whole stanzas deleted. I don't suppose real poets use the computer for just this reason; they find these wiggley routes routes instructive after the event (and - if they are really well-known - it helps up the ante when they sell their MSs to American universities).

However since I'm not a real poet, just one still carrying L-plates, I do use the computer for the same reason I use it for prose: the ease with which changes can be made, leaving the following form of the text nice and clear for subsequent reading, re-reading and correction. My earlier mistakes and assumptions are of no interest to me; I have no inclination to display what I consider to be imperfect versions of what I wanted to say - any more than I would want to go to Tesco without my trousers.

Pictures are different. Drawings can be complete in themselves or a staging post towards something more complete. Or they can be graphic reminders of people and/or events, an elbow-jog that doesn't need to be finished. My father, a businessman, attended many public occasions and made sketches for yet another reason: he found drawing more interesting than listening to boring speeches.

As a clodhopper when it comes to doing the graphic arts (though not without opinions on the subject; you wouldn't expect anything else) I frequently find sketches fresher, even more revealing about an artist's talent, than the finished thing. Plus there's the no-doubt-crass-thought that they represent two bangs for the same buck.

I'm fascinated that you sketch while watching TV. As you say the skills involved are not entirely understood, but are you simultaneously able to follow the arguments? But then the question may be otiose; profundity is frequently in short supply on telly, one result of limiting what people say to no more than a minute or so. Your sketches may be the most pround outcome of that session of Question Time.

Just one further comment; I know that sketching may involve more than one go at the line needed and that use of an eraser would be considered alien (too time-consuming anyway). But would you agree that the "best" (a hopelessly subjective qualifier) sketches are those with fewest lines?

There's an echo with the hunchbacked violinist but I can't call him up. Memory, alas.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Robbie:,"..I'm not a real poet, just one still carrying L-plates" Could be a great T-shirt motif?

I didn't hear the Larkin programme but maybe it can still be played back on iPlayer - will have a look.
I agree about sketches. In my case they're never preparations for something more finished but ends in themselves. I don't do the TV sketching often and if I do, it doesn't always produce results as good as the above. There has to be a state of total attention combined with fear (of not succeeding) plus certainty of succeeding plus nonchalance that it doesn't matter anyway. So yes, I can follow the arguments on Question Time etc. whilst drawing because they're entering some other area of the brain.
No eraser was involved: I was using a ballpoint pen in most of those and yes, I do prefer drawing with fewer lines. But in all the above (especially the TV ones) I was keeping the pen moving on the paper to try and catch an expression before it vanished.

Do you have your father's sketches? If so, why not post some on your blog?

Ellena said...

I did not need to read Kissinger's name. The others I don't know.
I have always been envies of people who have this particular talent of yours, Natalie.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Ellena, you can capture moments with words - that's a great talent.

Roderick Robinson said...

My Dad's sketches. Here's the story; please pay attention. After divorcing my mother and having his second wife (a whipper-in with the Airedale Beagles) die on him, my father - facing the horror of cooking for himself - married a barmaid. He came down to London and asked my permission to do this. When I asked him why, he mumbled it would affect my inheritance. I told him quite frankly I wasn't a character in a Jane Austen novel.

Quite quickly his new wife fell out with me and my two brothers. I didn't give a hoot. But I wasn't exactly charmed when, during his terminal illness, she didn't stick to her side of the bargain and look after him. There is a happy (financial) end to all this but to go into detail would be to gloat.

If any sketches still exist they might as well be in Uttar Pradesh. QED.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Sir, I'm paying attention! The story is very sad, though you may no longer see it that way.
I don't know what a whipper-in is or, for that matter, the Airedale Beagles. A dog-breeding club? Never mind.