Gareth ColesThe Voluntary Arts team are a curious bunch - aside from our day jobs, we each have a different creative outlet that enriches our lives and contributes greatly to our sense of self, from dancing and bookbinding to singing and embroidery.

In the latest of these staff spotlights, we ask a few questions of Voluntary Arts Wales Director, Gareth Coles to find out why he loves his daily dose of drawing.


When did you first get into drawing/sketching?

My parents tell me that I was born with a pencil in my hand, but I'm sure this can't be true. Surely the midwife who delivered me would have remarked on it? But I was always interested in drawing - never painting - when I was a child.

Somewhere along the way of studying art at University I lost the passion for drawing: lost it as a hobby, something I did just for fun, just for me. But a few years ago, drawing came back looking for me, and we're now very happy together. I draw daily, even if it's just 5 minutes in the morning before work.

What do you enjoy drawing and why?

I studied medieval art and architecture, and have retained a fondness for drawing buildings: in particular Gothic ruins. Out of necessity I often use source photos, but I try to get out and draw from life whenever I can.

Rekindling my passion for drawing was about focusing on the activity, not the finished product. Drawing as a verb, rather than a noun. Of course it's satisfying if you produce something you feel you can share without suffering acute embarrassment, but I enjoy the process of looking, of concentrating, of really studying something, and then of making marks on paper. I find it completely immersive and (almost) always feel refreshed after drawing.

St Lythans by Gareth Coles

What types of pencils/inks do you prefer to use and why?

I adore using Indian Ink. Diluted, you get a beautiful range of warm greys, but used neat, Indian Ink has a deep sheen, a patina like bronze.

Have you ever had your drawings published or exhibited?

I had a solo show in West Wales last year, and took part in a group exhibition in an old priory this year. The subjects for my drawings are often churches and castles, so it was a privilege to show my drawings there.

Gareth Coles exhibition in Ewenny

Which of your drawings are you most proud of and why?

I usually say the latest one, and that lasts until the one I do tomorrow.

Have you got any useful tips for others out there who are keen on drawing?

Drawing is an extremely accessible artform: you don't need to invest a lot to start. Virginia Woolf said you need a room of your own for writing, but for drawing you just need a small space. If you can designate a spot where all your materials are ready, then when you have 5 minutes to spare, you can use them productively.

It's also good to have a small sketchbook and pencil case packed ready for travelling. In mine I have a pencil, an eraser, a couple of black pens, and a water brush filled with diluted ink. This covers pretty much all scenarios.

See more of Gareth's drawings on Instagram


October is also the month of The Big Draw, celebrating all kinds of drawing each year. See their website for more tips, events and themes for activities.