Book Diary Special – ‘A Short Book About Drawing’ by Andrew Marr

Tuesday 28th January – Wednesday 29th January

It’s not an original statement to say that the very best books are ones which change the reader in some small way. I think that, despite its brevity, this book has the attributes to do just that.

The idea of this Book Diary is for me to review the books I read. Throughout, I have laboured under the impression that it is therefore about the books. However, I am now beginning to realise that that idea is overly simplistic, naive and wrong. What I’m actually writing about is not the book, but my reaction to it, and so the Book Diary is as much about me as the books themselves. Despite this, I try not to post overtly personal stuff on the blog. However, at the moment I am having a long, hard think about my work. I changed jobs and industries last summer into a role I thought was closer to what I really wanted to be doing. Eight months later and I’m increasingly of the opinion that it was the right decision to change, but the wrong direction to take.

Perhaps it is because of this feeling that the book feels strangely appropriate. Early on, Andrew Marr talks of the fact that we need to create things as people to feel properly fulfilled. He cites the example of Matthew Crawford, a political philosopher in America who also works part-time repairing motorcycles. Following hard on the heels of a very similar conversation with a good friend, currently experiencing the same doubts about her job, this struck a chord when six months or so ago it probably wouldn’t have done.

And so, here I am, entering my fourth paragraph without really talking about the book at all. It is short (I read it in inside 36 hours) but it isn’t lacking. The illustrations, all provided by Mr. Marr himself, are very good and fit the book better than if it contained examples of other artists. It keeps the book more personal, smaller scale. He also refrains from trying to tell the reader what to draw, or how. Merely that drawing is fun; it’s good for us; that at the beginning everyone is bad (and some don’t get much better) because it is a skill that takes time, effort and dedication; and that it is its own reward. All of this I agree with – I enjoyed art at school and one of my biggest regrets is that I gave it up after my GCSEs because I didn’t like the amount of prep work required to do A-level art.

Andrew Marr writes very well and is an open and honest narrator. At times he disagrees with the expert with whom he is discussing drawing, but he never allows his opinion to become the dominant one or dismisses what anyone else says. I found his passion for drawing and his conviction that it was a therapeutic though demanding occupation inspiring.

As a result, the book has changed me for the better, I hope. I am now resolved to spend more of my time drawing as a pastime. Less time wasted on watching the same old DVDs, or playing various versions of Football Manager over and over again and more time actually creating something tangible. Some sketches may never see the light of day again but hopefully I will emerge from each one a marginally better drawer than I went in.

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