The Cave of Chauvet. Image via The Ministry of Culture and Communication, France
Two Things: 1) I like to sketch, 2) I’m not very good at drawing
I have heard it said that people like what they are good at. If this were true, then I shouldn’t enjoy the movement of pencil over paper, but I do, I really do. So what gives?
Sketching is indiscriminate. It doesn’t care if you are good or bad or that all you have to sketch on is the backside of a recycled essay on Kumashiro’s anti-oppressive pedagogy.
Sketching begs you to be bad. It wants you to be quick and messy. Sketching says: “Make mistakes, I dare you!” “Go ahead use that crumpled newspaper,” and most menacingly “I laugh in the face of your eraser.”
Sketching is frivolous. There is no finished project or end goal and because of this, sketching is a chance to play with composition, movement, texture, expression and light, without anxiety. A sketch can’t be wrong; it’s just between you and the paper. Best of all, when you do like what you’ve sketched, it can become the blueprint for a shirt you want to design, or a chair you want to build, or the large canvas landscape you’d love to paint. Or maybe the sketch becomes the art itself.
Vincent Van Gogh, Study of Six Hands. Image via Codart
Most importantly, sketching allows for anyone and everyone to include creativity into their life daily. It can literally only take up a minute of your day to sketch something.
Whether you are a novice sketcher or an old hand, here are some nuggets of wisdom to help get your pencil to paper (or pen to napkin, or charcoal to notebook, or conté to…you get the picture)
- 1. Pick your poison:
I like to use a pencil and any available paper. I like a pencil because if I don’t like something I can just draw over top of it with more pressure. Other writing implements that work great for sketching are charcoal and conté. I recommend keeping a notebook with you so that you can use it like a visual journal, especially if you commit to sketching on a regular basis.
2. Ditch the eraser
Sketching should be dirty and your pencil should continue flowing. Don’t worry about making mistakes. let the pencil move like a stream of consciousness. If you don’t like the curve of a particular line, then just draw over it.
3. Time Yourself
Try capturing a movement or a moment within a set time limit. This is a good way to capture action or mood or the whole picture without getting too boggled up with the tiny details. For example, give yourself four minutes to sketch kids playing ball. OR give yourself four minutes to sketch something with as much detail as you can. Setting time limits helps eliminate the urge to erase or become focused on minutiae.
4. Don’t Look Down
Have a crack at blind contour drawing. While your sketching, try and get the contours of the subject on the paper without breaking your gaze with the subject…Just draw the edges of what you are looking at without looking down.
5. Sketch on the Go
If you carry pencil and paper around with you, then you can try sketching in all sorts of locations with all kinds of subjects. Here are some ideas:
People on Public Transit
Dogs in the park
Sculptures in museums
Flowers in a garden
Food at restaurants
Nudes at the Gladstone (sorry, this one’s Toronto based, but I highly recommend it. It’s drop-in and uninstructed!)
What are your tips? Do you have any great places to sit down and sketch?