After working in my studio all day, I felt the need to draw some natural history; Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits were the last visitors to the bird-feeders.

I’VE BEEN filling the drawers of my new plan chest today, half of them filled with artwork going back to my college days, so it’s full of memories. I’m filling the top drawers with art materials, sketchbooks and drawing boards so that I’ll never have an excuse not to get started on fresh artwork. Just open the drawers and I’ll have everything that I need.

So after my bird sketches from today here’s a brief dip in the bottom drawer, going back to my days at Batley School of Art, round about the autumn of 1967 when I was 16.

Signs of the Times

I can see the influence of some of the graphics styles of the day – as seen in the pages of the glossy international journal of graphic design of the day, Graphis. There’s also more than a nod towards Bernard Buffet, the popular French artist, who I’d briefly come across in Look & Learn, the children’s educational magazine.

The wobbly detail and fine pen in this black and white version of the same subject are more recognisably in my style. Technical pens were beyond the budget of most foundation students so I used ruling pen for this drawing. Road signs were responding to the changes in graphic design of the 60s with more readable sans serif fonts in upper and lower case replacing block capitals and symbols replacing the longer written instructions – such as ‘NO THROUGH ROAD FOR MOTOR VEHICLES’.

I like this illustration which is based on a sketch made in our kitchen at home. One of the pleasures of art school was the luxury of a session once a week to work when you had time to work up a rather messy and probably badly drawn sketch into something that looked presentable. For a number of my classmates, graphics was a favourite subject.

The class was taken by Colin West, our graphic design tutor who had recently qualified at Leeds. I went on to take graphic design at Leeds and I think that the opportunity to draw was one of the deciding factors.

The fine art department at Leeds had a growing reputation at the time for ‘happenings’, performance and whacky surrealist sculpture, the first stirrings of conceptual art perhaps, but I realised that I wouldn’t have got much encouragement to draw if I’d opted to go there.

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