Drawing books

I’ve just completed 8 books of drawings, over 110 pages each. Why? Well, I draw all day every day; it’s a full time job and I do it so much that after a time the drawings come out of me in almost a trance state. For the first time now, I intended to capture all the results by working in books. All of my life I have rejected any form of packed paper or sketch books, and I usually worked on separate sheets of paper. By working in books, this change allowed me to see my drawings in context.

For an artist like me, who produces almost 20 drawings a day on average, it’s rarely that I get to look in the bottom of the pile at what I have produced a week before. Working in books allowed me constant access to my work, which entitled me to precisely pin down both my multiple styles of drawing, and the obsessive subjects which always appear in my work.

So I have involved myself in a highly exhausting routine of daily drawing (more than 750 drawings over 2 months) and by doing that, I was able to focus and concentrate my subjects and lose all unnecessary details, as well as understanding both the emotional triggers behind it and their significance to me.

At the outset, I made a few conscious decisions:

  1. use only brushes (enforced a connection between drawing and painting) ;
  2. use books rather than separate sheets;
  3. give up conscious ideas about subject and proposal

It is immersive work, about 1 book per week to exclusion of all other work. I was drawing when I didn’t feel like it, drawing when I was tired, bored etc. Gradually I noticed that there were changes developing in my drawings.

I wanted to find a way of working though the reality of my being an Egyptian artist now working as a British artist. This is also important because I have always been interested in the question of how to move away from the Aristotelian observational and idealised approach to drawing in figurative drawing. With these drawing books I think I have attained a new understanding about my draughtsmanship through exhaustive repetition (of the act of drawing), a process which is something more associated to “Eastern” thought – yet I have managed to apply it to my work.

In Egypt there is this practice called Zar; it’s very ancient and underground; it involves creating a trance state. In my drawings I exhausted myself in drawing like you do in the zar. When the zar subject suddenly sits up and screams he is healed, and so it’s the same with the books; I suddenly finished them and found I had my work.

I’m still doing the books.


About nazirtanbouli

British-Egyptian artist Nazir Tanbouli works in drawing, painting, book art and mural. He is based in London.
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