sketchbook   sketchbook


Saturday, 1st November 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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Inspired by Danny Gregory's new book (see Thursday) I'm making a point of sketching everyday objects. They don't come more everyday than my desktop, which I don't remember ever drawing before. I make a point of leaving everything exactly as it is at the moment I decide to draw it; I don't want to start artfully arranging it as a still life.

Like the figures on the supertram the other day I trust to chance to provide the most natural-looking arrangement.

Only the mug on the CD coffee mat at the corner of the table disappears as it was time for another cup of tea anyway.


When I was a graphic design student in Leeds in the early 1970s all the equipment that I now have on my desk was spread over three floors of a dreary concrete block that overlooked the ring-road. Now I've got all that:

  • typography
  • repro
  • photocopying
  • colour printing

right here on my desktop - and a view over the wood and meadow instead of a concrete canyon.

In my art college days setting a few lines of type meant half a day in the typography workshop hand-setting the text (in reverse, mirror-fashion of course), leading it and proofing it. For other jobs I might invest in a sheet of Letraset: those rub-off sheets of lettering that I found so fiddly to use. I'd browse through the Letraset catalogue thinking of the possibilities of all the wonderful typefaces they had on offer.

I learnt a lot about letterforms by tracing typefaces from the catalogue when my meagre grant wouldn't run to a sheet of Letraset for a particular job.


desktopThere's stuff I couldn't then have imagined such as having Encyclopaedia Britannica and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary available to me at the click of a mouse, instead of a trip downstairs to the college library - plus all the possibilities of the internet.

In the drawing my current small sketchbook lies to the right of the monitor and that's my scanner to the left. I feel that at last technology has caught up with my sketchbook technique!


I'm keen to reduce repetitive strain so I use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard; I taught myself to touch-type using Mavis Beacon and I find the ergonomic shape more comfortable, especially since I have shaky hands and long fingers that tend to trip me up when I'm working on a normal keyboard.

The foreshortening made the keyboard a tricky subject to draw.

Those are gel wrist rests in front of it. I'm not sure how effective they are but I thought I'd give them a go.

I keep the wall behind the computer plain white. I've thought about having a big pinboard there with roughs of my latest book and postcards from friends on it but I prefer a feeling of calm when I work. Well I try to create a feeling of calm as I work but it doesn't always turn out that way.



I used a Rotring Sketch Pen with a fine nib for the drawing but I felt the mass of lines of the jumble of objects needed some further explanation so I used a brush pen to thicken some of the lines to suggest shadow.

I know Ruskin frowned on this illustrator's trick of thickened line to suggest form. Line (outline that is) doesn't exist in nature and Ruskin urged his students to be consistent and correct, not 'expressive' and slick. next page

Richard Bell

sketchbook   sketchbook