Drawing Notes

Some sketchbook drawings of an olive tree in the Standard Designs mansion’s Mediterranean Garden (situated just next to the Ezra Pound memorial bird bath).

Olive tree drawing by Simon James of Standard Designs Ltd.

These drawings are in Conté crayon (a B grade), which is my preferred medium for quick sketching - it can provide everything from whispy greys to intense strong black lines, and it’s ideal for the more dramatic end of things. As ever when I sit down to draw something, the first drawing fixes a kind of map of the subject with as much detail as I can stomach. Knowing when to stop with this first drawing is key, both for avoiding boredom in the viewer and more specifically the artist, and also for preventing overloading the image with too much useless information. I’m trying to get what the subject is about more than what it is.

Olive tree drawing by Simon James of Standard Designs Ltd.

The second drawing is quicker, uses more space on the page and is starting to pare away at the subject leaving only what’s truly interesting to me - the stocky branch that goes up then immediately to the right as it comes off the trunk, the spindliness of the branches, the leaves being only at the ends of the branches, but also with a sense of how even though it’s winter and there’s not a lot of foliage, there are enough branches to make the tree a pretty busy subject. This second drawing is getting more towards what I would want from a drawing, but it’s not quite there yet.

Olive tree drawing by Simon James of Standard Designs Ltd.

The third and final drawing gets it. There’s an overall shape. There’s points of interest (usually where something changes in some way, a change of direction, shape or mass). There’s a feeling of the sparse-yet-complex thing I mentioned above. And there’s a feeling of the tree having some mass and presence in space, in three dimensions. This is the drawing style I’ve used since right at the start of my art education in the mid-1800s. It’s not exactly a shorthand - shorthand’s intention is to record all sounds uttered, and this isn’t that. But it’s a précis. It does its job and doesn’t outstay its welcome.