The earliest surviving pencil sketch by Brangwyn is dated 1882. Over 60 years later Brangwyn was still producing drawings, including over 150 book illustrations.
Drawing was a compulsion for Brangwyn – endless sketches on the backs of envelopes, letterheads and scraps of paper (in fact anything that came to hand) attest to this.Brangwyn experimented with mixed media, often combining any of the following ‚Äî pencil, crayon, chalk, charcoal, pastel, pen and ink and brush and ink. The drawings were made on a variety of different coloured papers.
Although he had no formal training few 20th-century British artists rivalled his technical excellence ‚Äî in this respect he might be compared to Augustus John and William Orpen. Brangwyn obviously enjoyed the process of sketching, hence the volume of work, sometimes drawing the same subject time and again with only small variations, and would return to particular images for inspiration years later, making dating of completed works somewhat difficult. His figure studies and images of plants and animals, carried out in soft pencil, chalk, pastel or mixed media, dis-play a confidence of line which rarely required change. Brangwyn felt that sketches show the most intimate side of an artist’s career … [studies] are usually the best thing an artist does.’
In common with many artists and writers, Brangwyn enjoyed the voy¬≠age of discovery far more than reaching port, the intellectual journey, the studies and cartoons, more than the signature added to a completed painting. He explained this view to a reporter in 1933 :The ideas right at the back of my mind ‚Äî ideas impossible to express in words ‚Äî are dawning into shape. The painting is only secondary; it’s the thinking and planning ‚Äî the endless seeking for satisfaction with your work that really counts.’
It is in the drawings … that the key to Brangwyn’s greatness is to be found.’ TW Earp, Brangwyn Art at Academy’