May 12, 2008
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: :01 Stop: Watch

[From the Drawing Board of Nick Abadzis]

A cartoonist friend of mine once told me about another
cartoonist friend of his who sneered at the idea of spending time doing life
drawing. This isn’t from the horse’s mouth, you understand, so it could be a
wind-up, as I have difficulty imagining a cartoonist who would be boring enough
not to like sketching or drawing from life. My friend reckoned this guy would
rather use the time to plan a story or ink some pencils and while I understand
the motivating force of beating the clock (creating comics is such a labor-intensive
art) I think it’s just as important sometimes to bug out and do a bit of
doodling, or sketching from life.


Sketching is like play — it exercises certain creative
muscles that would otherwise either atrophy or snap from overwork. It’s
important. It frees up the mechanism in your brain that usually stays focused
and produces tight drawings as part of a comics narrative, and I think it’s
wise to allow it some downtime, so to speak. Otherwise, you run the risk of
going stale.


Indeed, for me personally, there’s little that’s more
pleasurable than sitting out on a summer’s day for a couple of hours, sitting
in a park or somewhere and catching a few likenesses of the passing people. You
never know what you might see, or what it might inspire. I have a whole
sketchblog (
that’s more or less devoted to sketches of people that I do while traveling on
the London tube
or bus service. Those sketches are a valuable source of potential character
types to mine later.


Often, sketching generates story ideas — most of my
sketchbooks are filled with little notes and reminders, germs of stories to be
retrieved later in the studio and worked into something larger. Sometimes, it
also takes your mind off a storytelling problem and when you come back to work,
the solution to that problem miraculously pops into your head. It’s quite
meditative like that – one’s subconscious seems to appreciate the downtime too.
Above all, it sharpens your sense of observation and contributes to an overall
looseness that you just can’t manufacture.


The best advice I could ever give is not to take any, just
follow your own heart — but if there’s one piece of wisdom that’s worth
imparting, if you want to be an artist or writer of any kind, keep a sketchbook
or notebook.

Here are a few great blogs that I admire that contain a lot
of the artists’ sketches, preliminary drawings and doodles. Or just plain
wonderful drawing:

4 Comments on “ Why Sketch? ”

  • Luke Pickett | May 12th, 2008 1:51 am

    I agree so much, when I’m on a project everything focus towards that project, so having a little time to just stuff about in a sketch book, can release things that i may never have time to draw otherwise.

  • Mike Lynch | May 13th, 2008 8:25 am

    I remember reading an interview with Ed Sorel and when he was asked if he sketched or doodled, he said he never put pen to paper unless there was a purchase order!
    Some great sketches here, Nick. I really enjoyed your prose about why sketching is important. Since I’ve become a full-time cartoonist, I rarely sketch any more. Just not interested. And I used to do it all the time!
    What do you do when busybodies come over and want to talk to you and see what you’re sketching???

  • Nick Abadzis | May 15th, 2008 5:37 am

    Betcha anything Sorel does warm-up sketches though. You can’t get that lovely looseness without a bit of “firing it up”.
    And Mike, you blog instead of sketch! Everyone has ways of warming up, I guess. As for the busybodies, if someone asks to see a drawing, I just show ’em! I have to say though, Londoners seem much less inclined to do that than, say New Yorkers. I’ve done a lot of drawing in both cities and New Yorkers definitely like to see what you’re up to.

  • Logo Design | August 29th, 2011 4:37 am

    Word was that Eno had U2 use those decks when they created “Achtung Baby”—the result being a great album. Eno is an interesting guy…cool to see him mentioned here!

Your Comments are Welcome!