While on the British Society of Master Glass Painters two-day conference last week I managed to make 14 studies of windows, from Medieval glass to a beautiful contemporary window by Derek Hunt. Visiting five churches a day by coach and listening to expert speakers could have been exhausting, but I found it relaxing and invigorating and could have done with a bit longer in each venue.

I put this down to my focus and absorption while I was sketching. I worked quickly, once I had selected the detail I wanted to study. As I drew I noticed things that I could easily have overlooked. The choice of coloured glass and the lead lines began to make more sense, and I observed the glowing window change as the light shifted. Not surprisingly, after making our dragon window, I saw dragons everywhere. St George, St Margaret and the Archangel Michael all sported the beasts. I took particular delight in seeing how the artist had depicted the ferocity of the mythical creatures. I wondered why they are found universally. Did ancient fossils inspire them? What do they represent in us, or nature that we battle with?

The process of sketching quietens my mind and allows such musings to take place. It helps me to absorb the artist’s work in a way that nourishes my own practice. I wrote the Guest Editorial for the Journal of Stained Glass this year all about how I began sketching and included a ‘how to’ guide for beginners. Copies are available on the Shop page and I can even sign them if you would like. Here is a short exert:

Mindfulness is all the rage now. Forget colouring books. Sketching is a perfect way to focus and calm the mind while learning from the Masters. During the BSMGP touring conferences I am usually the only one drawing. I can’t count how many times have people told me “Oh, you are clever! I can’t draw at all.” Well, actually, if you can write your name then you can draw. So I challenge you to have a go next time you are in front of a stained glass window or an artwork.

For the real stained glass obsessive I would recommend joining the British Society of Master Glass Painters and then you will receive a free copy of the Journal. Professionals, amateurs, Conservators, Historians and stained glass geeks share their knowledge and love of our wonderful art form. Their new website is under construction and will be worth a look at the end of the year.