Recording your Life through Art

The value of visually recording your experiences

Throughout my life, I've recorded my experiences by maintaining a sketchbook or creating works of art at that time. It's such a powerful, positive, helpful process. What is created is both an expression of yourself and the subject you are capturing. Because of the level of effort you have to put in - you are physically involved in making marks on the paper - this seems to create a more direct imprint on your brain and memory. It is important to note that the standard of the sketches or art work does not need to be of a high standard! Rather you should work quickly to capture what you are seeing, to create a visual and emotional history which can immediately transport you back to that time and place and the feelings you had.

Sketches of Spoonbills

Personal first-hand record

It is so beautiful to look back to the artwork generated by an emotional period or from a visually arresting place once visited. One example of this are the spoonbills I drew while we were on our month-long honeymoon travelling in Mexico.  One very special day, we paddled out by canoe to the middle of a laguna which was full of bird life, including these amazing spoonbills. My sketchbooks took on even greater importance,  when, at the end of our honeymoon, our camera was stolen. It means we still have what I drew as a first-hand record of everything we saw.  Filling a sketchbook or creating art to process what you are seeing and how you are feeling acts as a direct, emotive record of that time.

Portrait of daughter as baby


Pinpoint a moment in time

Creating artwork directly related to a particular life stage you are going through pinpoints that moment in time with such clarity.  You will be able to make observations you will be unable to recall or appreciate at a later stage. Look at this sketch I did of my daughter Estelle  when she must have only been about 5 months old. When I look at this sketch, I remember her fuzzy fluffy hair, her chubby little legs, and the fact that she had a slight eye squint when she was very young.  She also had the sweetest, gummy smile. Even though at that time I was absolutely exhausted, I remember having this overwhelming drive to draw Estelle, over and over again. Although I did not consciously recognise this at the time, I realise now that I wanted to imprint  these moments and experiences in other ways, not just through memories are photographs, as the time when your child is a baby is so fleeting, yet so special.

Max, Patterdale Terrier


Capturing the ordinary

When we first got our Patterdale Terrier Max, I went through a similar pattern:  I had this urge to record the experience and emotions of having a dog visually. I was so extremely amused by being the owner of a dog who is both such a loyal, patient pet, especially with our daughter;  yet he behaves so badly when it comes to postmen, cats and his many dog enemies. Here he is demonstrating the various ways in which he like to destroy things.  I'm so glad I drew this comic book not long after we got him - now he is such an integral part of our everyday life, I can't ’see’  these behaviours as clearly as I once did. There is value in visually recording your observations of ordinary life when you feel compelled to do so, as you will not always be able to feel or see things in that way.

Spider Monkey

Capturing the extraordinary

In my mid twenties,  I was fortunate enough to spend 6 months living in the rainforests of Ecuador. I filled sketchbook after sketchbook with what I saw. When I came back, I transformed these sketches into other works of art such as linocuts and a comic book. Now, when I flick through my sketchbooks and pieces of art I produced, I feel a sense of wonder.  It's hard to believe that I was the one recording these sights - and yet these sketchbooks are definitive proof that it was indeed me that sat in this alien environment. The sketchbooks evoke a sense of pride at the bravery of my younger self who undertook these explorations. Although I have some photos of this time, I derive much more pleasure from looking through my sketches and artwork as they connect me more directly with this time and environment.

What about you?  Do you creatively record your life in some way?  And if you do, what do you think the benefits are?

Back to blog