Basic 101: Class 21
Before I start, our guest Subbie for this two-week session will be CJ. She was recently off on a jaunt and had the opportunity to do some “on the fly” sketching. She will be showing us how she approaches the subject of sketching. What attracts her to the subject and how she decides what is the best composition for her. Lets all take the time to look, listen and learn. CJ—thank you for doing this. The 101ers and I appreciate you and your willingness to share your time and your talents.
To sketch is to create a memo to you for later reference. It is a moment caught between your pencil and the paper and a time that you will later—one-day—one-month—one-year want to relive.
Artists and non-artists have been sketching since the dawn of time. Non-artists doodle and become great statesmen and write great books like Profiles in Courage while artists doodle and splash a masterpiece single handedly across someone’s church ceiling.
Rex Harrison complains to Charlton Heston “When will you be finished” and Charlton Heston retorts “When it is finished!” With a sketch, the drawing is finished but not finished—it can stand alone as its own tome to the mind and talent of its creator or it can morph at the hands of the artist into something more detailed, something less evanescent and certainly into a work far more substantial.
Sketching is a signpost on the road ahead of your own zone. A moment caught like a mosquito suspended in amber.
Welcome to the sketching edition of Basic 101. Try to enjoy this section, as you will never find a more relaxing way to spend your time. You can sketch quickly or you can work methodically. Make your own pace and space your own time. After all, the moment that you are creating is yours.
What do you need to sketch? Well, that is entirely up to you. I hope that you will take the time in this class to explore various ways to handle a sketch. Here are some suggested materials and assorted this and thats:
1. Graphite Pencils—they are easy to get. Gosh, everybody everywhere has a pencil. I prefer to work with a 2b but that, again, is entirely up to you.
2. Charcoal Sticks—I don’t sketch in charcoal because I don’t like the sometimes potential mess that I can make with these. If you DO choose charcoal, make sure that you get a mixed box so that you can apply a little variety to your paper.
3. Conte’—You can get this in both pencil and in sticks. It is certainly a happy mix between graphite and pencil.
4. Pastel Pencils—you can get these in pencil form as well, which I think are more ideally suited for sketch but I know a lot of people who use the sticks.
5. Colored Pencils—these are clean and portable and you can also get them in “Stix” which are excellent for broad sketching.
6. Water Color Pencils—these are excellent for sketching as well.
You can draw solid sketches or you can create beautiful translucent washes.
7. Pens—I use Micron pens for most of my sketching. They are water fast and archival so you can mix them comfortable from colored washes using watercolor or watercolor pencil.
8. A sketchbook—I preferred a spiral bound time but this is totally up to you.
9. An eraser—I carry a kneaded eraser and a firmer eraser.
10 A craft knife or a sharpener for sharpening your pencils.
11. Fixative—to keep your sketched masterpiece from smudging…
12. Clips if you are not working in a book. Some people do sketch with loose paper.
13. Tortillions, cloths or your favorite smudgely tool.
14. Sandpaper—for sharpening your tortillions or your pencils.
15. Easel—if you are not working from a sketchbook, it is a good idea to take along an easel.
16. A small stool if you remember.
17. A viewfinder or a stick used for measuring distances
18. A bag. Get a bag. You’re going to need one.
The key to sketching a moment is to quickly decide what is going to be the best composition. The best way to accomplish this feat while out in the field is with a view finder. A viewfinder is simple to take a stiff piece of cardboard and cut out and make two “L” shaped strips that you can put together in a frame. When you look through this type of viewfinder you will see that you can move the two “L” shapes around until you can find the picture that you want. This is sort of like cropping.
Whenever you start to sketch, look for a focal point. This is the point of interest for your sketch. Try to keep the focal point off center. Your composition should lead the viewer to the point of interest.
By using strong dramatic contrasts (lights against darks) you can emphasize the importance of your focal point. For example, draw detailed tree in the foreground with a silhouetted building in background. Sketching is an excellent way to practice value quick value studies.
Here are some good compositional tips:
1. Don’t center your focal point—this creates a stagnant, uninteresting picture.
2. Watch the corners and edges—placing your focal points in these areas will lead the view AWAY from you focal point and away from the picture.
3. When you have “like objects”, vary the sizes to create interest. Otherwise you will have bookends and, again, another uninteresting sketch.
4. Don’t butt the objects together. Go for something more interesting. For example, try overlapping the images.
Here are some general sketching tips:
1. Work loosely—do NOT worry about detail.
2. Work broadly—work from your elbow as much as possible and not from your wrist. It will show in your drawings.
3. Keep your sketches quick and short. Try to just go for the moment. Later come back and see if you can add detail based upon your “notes”.
Sketching is a relatively simple thing—you are already doing it or have done it. I have included some of my sketches here for you to see. They are varied in approach and complexity. I don’t normally show my sketches to anyone because most of them are straight out of my head—musings—vents of the imagination—a cold scoop of ice cream on a daydream cone. Some are a combination of reality and imagination. I sketched my privacy fence at my house for later use in some drawing and there are sketches that are plans for larger works later one. Enjoy.