Our last Sunday in Florence and it was time to gather the student sketchbooks. This was the first time we’d seen the collected works of the Drawing on Florence students – 2017 edition. And speaking of editions, this post is dedicated to Kristin, whose sketchbook was an amazingly detailed – and fun! – illustrated journal of her adventures in Renaissance art and architecture. For those of you who are familiar with Michelle Cooper’s Visual Journaling approach, you’ll see below a similarly wide-ranging eye for everything Kristin could fit on a page or two, including notes and mementos pasted on the pages.
Kristin’s sketch journal is just a sample of the awesome work our students produced while on our journey. It’s notable, though, for suggesting a method of practice that justifies our continuing to teach and promote drawing practice.
This is one of my favorite pages from later in our trip: a three-day record of visits to the Medici chapel and Basilica di San Lorenzo, the Ferragamo Museum, Accademia, and San Marco convent. It represents a range of approaches, moments, and ideas.
By making notes, the sketches also record moments in time. Including John’s sandwich moment (…seriously, an army travels on its stomach). Anyone who’s taken the time to draw while traveling knows how memorable each drawing can be – how one sketch can capture more than a folder full of digital photos and selfies; if only in the imagination of the one doing the drawing. A sketchbook is personal, and I believe that our students discovered that it wasn’t all about making pretty pictures.
Sure, starting a drawing reminds us of our inadequacies. We’re never fully satisfied with our skill. But if you want to get better at drawing, JUST DRAW! And it was a familiar sight to see Kristin hunched over her notebook, not just drawing but making notes; intensely focused, drawing with intent and attention.
In upcoming posts that summarize the trip, I’ll show work from other students that’s impressive in its own way: creative, artistic, beautiful, skillful drawings that show how much the students’ work improved in three weeks. Some was incredible from the start.
What’s impressive is that Kristin’s sketchbook shows an interest in the ideas behind what Kristin observed, not just the visual details. In a digitally infused design practice, you have to ask: “Why draw?” If computer graphics can approximate reality and photos document our world with abandon – remember film cameras? – is there any reason that design students should learn to draw?
I think this journal goes to show the kind of drawing and sketchbook practices design instructors, employers and even clients would benefit from seeing. We don’t need to reproduce the world we see in lifelike drawings. We need to record the world as we see it – as we come to understand it in a personal way; to represent the ideas that come up as we pay attention to what we look at while drawing. This is an important step in being able to represent what we imagine while envisioning things that have yet to be built.
Here’s the full journal montage. Brava, Kristin!