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Sketching

beach sketch

It is difficult to over-emphasise how important it is to get into the habit of sketching. You need to do sketches wherever and whenever you have the opportunity. So take a small spiral bound sketch book around with you all the time. It only needs to be small – just 7” by 5” will do – just large enough to be able to do something meaningful , but not too large to make you feel self conscious when you are using it. One or two pencils are all that you will need as well, or if they are not available use a pen. One of my favourites is a water soluble pencil, so I can dampen my finger or a piece of tissue paper (use a brush later) to create smoother tones on the paper.

What are the advantages of sketching?

The most important training that you are giving yourself is in observation, and translating what you see into lines and tones on the paper. In a sketch there is no need to be perfectly accurate, so you have a greater freedom of expression and it is not important if you make what you consider to be mistakes. What you observe is important. Look for the lines and shapes of what is in front of you, slowly tracing their outlines as you copy their shapes onto the paper. Try to be bold, and just draw the outlines at first without looking too frequently at the paper.

When you have some lines on the page, half close you eyes and look for the blocks of light and dark tone, then begin to block them in using either shading or using a softer, darker pencil. Use a 5 step tonal scale, or simplify even further and just use white, black and grey.

The speed is good training.

Try to do your sketches quite quickly – just a quick outline, and tonal values – so that you record sufficient information to be able to reproduce the drawing in more detail if you need to later, but avoid the temptation to turn every sketch into a work of art.

Drawing quickly is also good training for future subjects that may not stay still for long. If you want to draw animals or children in future, then drawing quickly will certainly come in handy. However, if all you want to do in future is to draw from photographs, it may not be so important.

Getting a basic shape from moving subjects is good brain training too. You have to observe, then draw, knowing that you subject will have moved when you look back. This teaches you to take in more of the scene at one glance which can be useful.

Have fun with sketches

The best times to do sketching are when you can relax, so whenever I go to the beach, I take a sketch book and do a few drawings. If you are waiting for someone in a town centre and can sit down for a few minutes, pick up you pencil and look around you for inspiration. Just look at the people walking around with shopping bags, looking in windows, or sitting on a bench. They all make great subjects.

As you gain confidence, you may decide to try other media, so get out a pen instead and do some pen drawings instead. They have to be more precise, but they can help to develop your hand-eye coordination because there is no going back once you make a mark with a pen.

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