Dave Buonaguidi AKA Real Hackney Dave has an approach to his sketchbook practice that we haven’t seen in this series so far, in that it exists independently of his main screenprinting practice, as a project unto itself. If you’ve ever wandered though Hackney Downs studios in East London, you may recognise yourself below… unless perhaps you were in a hurry. Here, Dave talks us through his ‘Speed Portraits’ sketchbooks.
Dave Buonaguidi AKA Real Hackney Dave Talks Us Through His Sketchbook Practice: Speed Portraits
Like a lot of artists, I spend quite a lot of time on the computer, designing stuff, playing with different techniques and stuff, and trying to get some idea what the finished piece might look like, and even though everything I produce is analogue at the end of the day, I get really excited about the opportunity to go back to old techniques and re-engage.
My creative process is broken into three key moments:
Thinking about stuff I want to make.
Preparing to make that stuff.
Actually making that stuff.
Thinking and inspiration. This is a crazy and wild process. Being hit in the brain by a new exciting idea, often when you should be thinking of other projects and finishing your VAT return. It is a period punctuated by the terrible lows of self doubt and huge highs of narcissistic excitement.
Once you have committed to trying to bring that idea to life, you have to knuckle down and work out how to do it, beautifully, perfectly and cost effectively, and then of course to the final hurdle: making the finished article.
During the preparation and making periods of my day, I have moments when I need to wait for things to happen. I wait for chemicals to strip the stencils, I expose screens and I wait for screens to dry after cleaning and washing out stencils, and that means I have lots of time to kill.
Last year I finished both Netflix and Prime Video so I decided to use my down time to do something a bit more constructive than watching ‘Real Housewives of The Gorbals’. In February, I was in Jackson’s, doing my thing, looking at nice things, spending vast sums of money and on a shelf near the till I saw some cute grey sketchbooks and bought a couple with a view to start a fun project I had been thinking about called ‘Speed Portraits’.
I love drawing faces and making caricatures of people, and I also like watching people without them knowing. Nothing creepy. I just like people watching.
So, I sit at my desk and watch people move past my studio window, and then attempt to draw them in the few seconds it took them to walk or cycle past.
Each of these drawings take between 5 and 10 seconds, and that means I have to move really fast, often doing the drawing, not looking at the paper, just trying to take in as much visual information as possible.
There is a lot of passing trade outside my place, so sometimes I would end up doing twenty drawings each time I did a session, which meant I would have to gallop down to Jackson’s and buy even more pads.
The pads are lush. They are a lovely size with beautiful thick cartridge paper and this dynamic adds to the process, because each page is precious. But I don’t let it get to me, I don’t do preliminary sketches or tear out pages if I don’t like the drawing, I just let them happen and that’s very liberating. Some portraits are really good and actually look like the person, others are terrible, but I don’t care, because by the time I have finished one, the moment is over and I turn to a new fresh page and I’m starting the next drawing. It’s a full seven second commitment!
In March, I started drawing people’s dogs too. I found it more challenging trying to capture the personality of a dog in seven seconds and just a few lines, but the more I did it the better I became at spotting the characteristic in the behaviour that I wanted to bring to the front.
I then add words to the sketches as a title or descriptor, and they are the words I would use if I hadn’t done a drawing but I was trying to explain what I had just seen to someone who wasn’t there.
Happy Looking Bloke With a Plaster on His Neck. The drawing is of a bloke with a plaster on his neck.
Smoking a Fag Like a Low Rent Ant Middleton is indeed a bloke who looks like Ant Middleton smoking a fag.
The pictures are not enough. I need the words to help me as I am drawing, to verify what I have drawn, if that makes sense.
It’s been a really interesting process, because it has made me more instinctive and less precious. I have lost the urge to correct anything that doesn’t look right or isn’t exactly perfect, they just are what they are. Five to ten second moments in time on paper. 5B pencil on paper. Like out of focus photographs. Captured thoughts. Distant remembered images. They have a strange life to them, and I really like going through them.
I had a couple of interesting moments, when I sketched people walking past and then saw them passing later in the day and got them to pose next to their sketches, one bloke even recognised his wife and bought it off me.
I am thinking of publishing a small book of them, or doing live sketches at fairs, but I would be worried that someone wouldn’t like one and I’d get in trouble.
At the end of the day, what’s most interesting for me is that they are analogue, they live in the real world, not on a pinterest wall, or my instagram, you can actually pick the books up and hold them in your hands and actually look at them, which is a strange feeling and that is old school analogue fun right there.
About Dave Buonaguidi AKA Real Hackney Dave
I came to screenprinting pretty late in life and have now become totally possessed by it. Anytime that I’m not in the studio printing, you will find me trawling around auction sites and flea markets looking for interesting found images and ephemera that I can try and print onto. In a past life, I spent over 35 years working in advertising, so I print onto things I find and use the techniques of mass communication and propaganda to create evocative pieces that connect in an emotive and humorous way.
I work with found images and materials, experimenting with the practice of screenprinting to push the boundaries of what it is and can be. I have printed onto copper plates, I’ve printed with pheromones, sprinkles, glitter and gold leaf. My work aims to cause a reaction in the viewer, the juxtaposition of familiar images with overlaid text or a smattering of controversy or the odd swear word to accentuate. I love to use the techniques of mass communication and advertising, pairing with found imagery and objects and assertive text that challenges the viewer.