IA Talks Drawing and Magic with John Hendrix

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“If you treat your sketchbook like a playground, it will turn into a treasure map.”

That one quote from Drawing is Magic pretty much sums up John Hendrix’s approach to sketching. In fact it also perfectly explains the experience of even LOOKING at the pages of his sketchbooks. Pure uninhibited fun and inspiration seem to be the motivation behind putting ink to paper, at least from an outsider’s perspective.

That’s why we reached out to John to find out more about his new book, Drawing is Magic, in which he encourages the reader (no, the participant) to take up pen and paper and join him on the adventure that is sketching.

ILLUSTRATION AGE: Like many of our fellow illustrators, I have long been a fan of your sketchbook drawings (most notably your sketching in church). Could you begin by telling us a little about your connection with your sketchbook?

10410886_10100482126236982_3668387019115577362_nJOHN HENDRIX: Thanks for the kind words about the sketchbook drawings.
My sketchbook is my starting place for thinking about drawing because it was the vital part of how I found my visual voice. As I was searching for my visual “style” as an illustrator, what I realized is that when I lived in my sketchbook I never worried about the contrivances of a style, I was just drawing. This turned my sketchbook into a kind of trusty compass. In fact, I still use it this way. I’ll make things in the pages of my sketchbook that I can’t seem to extract onto my illustration commissions. There is a kind of ‘magic’ that lives in the sketchbook for me. So, I’ve stopped trying to replicate it and just enjoy it for what it is.

IA: What was the motivation behind taking your passion for drawing and turning into Drawing is Magic?

JH: This project comes from a course I’ve taught to my senior illustrators for almost 10 years, which is based on the stuff I’ve learned in my sketchbook as an illustrator, artist and person. I gave a lecture at Society of Illustrators in 2013 called “How to Find Your Visual Voice” that my art director Chad Beckerman saw and he really encouraged me to make this into a book proposal.


One of many Drawings in Church by John Hendrix

My sketchbook is my starting place for thinking about drawing because it was the vital part of how I found my visual voice.

ILLUSTRATION AGE: If if were totally up to you, what would be the ideal experience a reader would have with Drawing is Magic?

JH: As I mentioned earlier, I feel that young artists can benefit, just as I did using a sketchbook, when we can proactively focus on enjoyment in art making. There is a weird thing that happens as we grow older as self proclaimed artists. We stop having fun. As a kid you draw without any thought to enjoying it. Enjoying it is assumed! Then we get to art school and learn there is a right way and wrong way to make images. And of course, we all need academic training. We must all learn how to craft light, space, composition, form, line and shape. But, then after that, we have to be trained to learn to play again. Academic drawing values accuracy, but a sketchbook values enjoyment. The enjoyment is essential if you want to make that is the truest to who you are as an artist and as a person. To quote myself from this book, “If you treat your sketchbook as a playground, it will turn into a treasure map!”


Drawing is Magic event at the Society of Illustrators


Illustrator Brian Rea has some fun with this prompt to illustrate fortune cookie fortunes from Drawing Is Magic

IA: You invited many other illustrators to participate in some of the activities in the book and shared them publicly. How did it feel to see some of your peers creating and having fun with it?

JH: I was very nervous to ask folks to participate in this, but the response was wonderful. There were so many eager and kind responses, in both words and images! It was also such a thrill to see my heroes draw on these projects themselves. I was never worried about the concept of this project until I asked my peers to try it! A few of them even commented that the exercises excited them in new ways, and they actually had fun. Mission accomplished. Sam Bosma’s actually felt like the “right answer” and it is hard to think about how anyone could do that page differently.


Illustrator Sam Bosma runs wild with some pages of Drawing is Magic

Academic drawing values accuracy, but a sketchbook values enjoyment.

IA: What has been your experience with the launch of Drawing is Magic? Would you have done anything differently? Were there any surprises?

JH: I imagined the audience of the book to be high school artists, but I’ve been surprised by how young kids are really enjoying the projects too. On my mini book release tour, I’ve met a bunch of 7-9 year olds who love the book. That is really great and not what I expected. I did a reading with some kids last week where most of the audience was 3 and under. Ok, that was too young. But we still had fun scribbling.


Thanks so much to John Hendrix for taking the time to share his thoughts on Drawing and Magic. Be sure to get your copy of Drawing is Magic here and kiss your artistic block goodbye.

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Categories: Books

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7 Comments on “IA Talks Drawing and Magic with John Hendrix”

  1. May 14, 2015 at 10:02 am #


  2. mwfreshh24
    May 14, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    I should give this technique a try

  3. May 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Thanks, nice piece.

  4. jamiepeeps
    May 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    Got my copy, now I gotta sharpen my pencil. Let the magic begin!

  5. May 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm #


  6. May 24, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    wow thank you so much for this inspiration :)

  7. July 15, 2015 at 4:24 am #

    just loved it :) It’s inspiring.

    Check out some of my recent illustrations about yoga https://www.behance.net/shuklagarima


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