An ode to the humble sketch

December 27, 2022

This is how it all began with my art: sketching. Since my childhood it runs like a river through my artistic activities. Researching a new subject always involves sketching. Sometimes of a single feature, sometimes to try out several points of view. It always gives me joy to bring out the charcoal pencils.

When I start an artwork with a solid sketch, there is a better chance of a successful paint result. No guarantee though, because I am very good at messing it up with paint 🙂 Painting in colour is such a different animal to me and sometimes it hunts me down and kills the canvas… Truly! Let me insert an appropriate sketch to illustrate that last sentence…

The hunter, 2022, 5″ – 7″, charcoal and acrylic pen

The biggest attraction of the ‘humble sketch’ to me is that it helps me stay loose. Just draw. See the world in shades of grey, never mind colour. They say that all skill needs training and maintenance. Sketches is what does that for me.

Unknown woman, 2022, 5″ – 7″, charcoal

The above picture was based on a random photo reference, that attracted me mainly because of the lighting. It may some day make it to a canvas, if only because it will have to be a black canvas. But for now I just had a lot of fun capturing the powerful features of the native African female.

The hand model (unfinished), 7″-10″, 2018, pencil

One of my great teachers in live-drawing class always cautioned his students: when you are drawing from life, your eyes should be on that person 90 percent of the time. You look at your paper as well, of course, but that should just be with quick glances. The more you look at your sketch, the bigger the chance that you will get lost in your drawing and change things that do not need changing. Or doubt yourself or feel unsure that you captured it in just the right way. Best to trust that you hands are able to transfer to paper what your eyes see. Don’t think. The brain is not invited in these sessions. So true.

I usually do my doodling in the evenings. It is such a stimulating thing to do and so much less deadening to the senses than hanging in front of the television. I admit that I do regularly snap a quick picture of a scene in a movie that my husband is watching. A lot of cinematic shots are really appealing to me. Or I may have some other inspiration saved to my phone. I just draw and when I feel like I am done, I close the book. The next day, I am always curious to open it to the most recent sketch. Because I never know what I will find. Sometimes I find real surprises. Like this one, based on a quick shot of a child peeping over the edge of a table…

The curious girl, 2022, , 5″ – 8″. Charcoal with water and acrylic pen

I think that ‘the humble sketch’ is vastly underestimated in art shows. I would love to see a whole room with sketches in multiple stages of completion, by different artists. My roots are in pencil and charcoal and even now that I am working more with colour and paint, this foundation in sketching still is a tremendous help in establishing shapes and colour values.

I will show some more in this blog in future. I don’t always have a painting going on my easels, but I am always sketching… I hope you enjoy it!