“Ever since I first saw reproductions of works of art - and this goes back to my earliest childhood, to my earliest memories-I felt an immediate desire to ‘copy’ all those that I liked best, and, this delight in copying has never really again left me.”
“It’s about finding that moment and getting it down.”
Rebecca Hellard’s parents introduced her to a spiral notebook. She was nurtured by her mother to draw and drew cartoons with her dad. These drawing sessions were part of her family time and her sketching foundation.
It was in college she established her current sketchbook process. Interested in the figure, she would learn from the masters. “I would look at reproductions. Analyze the line work and take apart the image.” She was self-driven in college in maintaining a sketchbook and still is. During those years she would gather quick impressions. “I would take my brother to work. His shift would be just 2 hours long so I’d wait for him. I used the time to people watch. Looking around and noticing that person has an interesting profile or that one has an interesting shape to their hair. I was training my eye.”
Rebecca continues to carry a sketchbook and ebony pencil with her daily. “It’s a means to getting something down.” Like many contemporary artists, she maintains a full-time job along-side her studio practice. When the day is too long, the sketchbook offers the space to make in. Similar to Iain Machell, she sees the “sketchbook’s purpose is to keep me in the headspace of being in the studio without being in the studio. It keeps those parts of my brain working when I’m not able to be there.” Its portability allows her to maintain consistency and a fluidity in her making.
She keeps 4 different books: day to day, watercolor, topic specific, and technical drawing. All serve her painting practice by generating ideas and solving problems. In addition, she reaches back into her previous books asking, “What was I interested in at this point in time? What have I abandoned and can I find solutions?” As a result of these periodic reviews, they catapult something from the past forward. In addition, the pages show the preliminary drawings for works in process. “If I become lost or unclear, I have the sketchbook to tether me.”
We were discussing Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks. How sketchbooks don’t need to be formal. One of their important functions is to capture and hold onto an idea. “It’s fascinating to see other artist’s sketchbooks and see a snapshot of their brain as well their starts, stops, and history.” While the visual notes, at times, might not look like anything, the notation is important enough. Similar to writing in a journal, the effort to put them on paper deems them significant.
Each of the books, pages, sketches, and lines are in service of nurturing her eye, ideas, and her paintings. She sees them “as planting the seeds to be cultivated later.”