How to Draw (Sketch)
Rough Spontaneous Sketching
There are those who feel they can't draw a straight line to save their lives. Others think they have no talent for art at all. Well, I'm here to tell you that anyone can draw. Just follow along with me, and you'll be drawing in no time.
First, allow me to clarify the title of this article, that is, the supposed difference between drawing and sketching. When artists talk about sketches, they are usually referring to the rough, loose and experimental images they create while trying to develop the look of a finished piece. Many times, the finished piece is a drawing; sometimes it's a painting or a sculpture or a mural or a collage or a construction. Likewise, architects may produce final construction drawings for a building, only after throwing away many preliminary sketches. Sketching is actually a fairly modern term. Historically, painters and muralists had always referred to their preliminary or rough concept sketches as cartoons (derived from the same French word that gives us carton, something composed of the same cheap paperboard cartoons were usually drawn on). Cartoons at times became patterns or stencils for final art. And a cartoon that exaggerates, satirizes or lampoons a subject is often called a caricature. But whether you are trying to produce a sketch, a drawing, a cartoon or a caricature, you're still doing just one thing: trying to produce a useful or enjoyable image, employing only your hand and a simple utensil. Mankind has been doing that for eons; it's about time you got started.
Begin with any old writing utensil you can find, and any old surface you feel like drawing on. Early man used bits of clay and singed wood as utensils and a wall of rock as a surface; you're sure to find something. And it doesn't really matter how sophisticated your utensil and surface are, only what you do with them. I created the picture of Mickey leading off this article using only rough scrap paper and the 16 colors of a kid's crayon box. Use whatever utensil or surface is ready at hand and inexpensive. That way you won't get hung up about wasting precious supplies on your not-so-precious early efforts. Over the years, I have completed fine drawings in pencil, crayon, chalk, finger-paint, roller-ball pen, felt-tipped marker, charcoal, watercolors, oils, fabric paint, molded clay, even carefully arranged colored beads — you name it; anything works. Experiment with what you have on hand, then try something new when you can. You can always move up to better quality artist's materials and supplies as you improve.
Sometimes 'Messy' Works Best
Stay Loose & Limber
Next, get loose. Don't go choking your pen or pencil, crayon or marker, as you might when you write. Writing makes use of the fine movement of the fingers and thumb relative to one another (or not-so-fine movement, as the case may be; just check out your last handwritten prescription!). But drawing and sketching often require a lover's touch: a loose yet supple, tender grasp of the art-making object. Act like you care about your drawing implement, and you expect great things from it. That will take some of the tension and anxiety out of your hand and arm (and, by transference, your brain). Rather than moving your digits relative to one another, keep them all in a relaxed, comfortable position, and use the easy, gentle movements of your hand and arm to circumscribe arcs and swooshes and circles. Pretend you are gently stirring soup, until you develop a fluid hand movement. I drew the happy chef above from a series of loopy swirls, as if I had just stirred six adjacent cups of hot cocoa. You will find ellipses, circles and fluid waves come much easier and look more realistic if you remain relaxed.
Sketch While Observing to Capture Life
Sketch Anything (and Everything)
Try to sketch or draw everything you see, no matter how mundane. I have sketchbooks full of pictures of doorknobs, bookshelves, dirty dishes, keyholes, railings, shoes, and every other conceivable bit of household clutter. I also happened to create the above sketch of a squirrel while glancing out the back window one morning. I began the sketch as the little critter posed as shown, but of course he soon ran off. Continuing to watch him and other squirrels intermittently throughout the morning, I was able observe further details to complete the drawing. Don't be put off by the quality of what you first produce; it's a beginner's sketch, after all. If you need a precise and accurate and fully recognizable image, take a photo. If you want something that captures a bit of your personality and emotion and particular vision, do a sketch or drawing. In fact, do many sketches and drawings — you'll eventually see some that are quite good. (To get over feeling badly about your initial attempts, you might also go online or visit the library to see what passes for the greatest drawings of someone as renowned as, oh, say Picasso. Hey, at least your initial drawing of your cousin has one eye on each side of the nose!) And, draw, draw, draw, then draw some more. I began drawing horses at age 3 or 4, and they looked it; they more closely resembled the offspring of a camel and a bicycle. But after drawing horses for a little over 40 years, I was actually starting to generate realistic-looking ones. Like the Rockin' Horse pictured below (though I admit that's not a very realistic-looking Appaloosa hide).
WONE 97.5's Rockin' Horse
Copy (Pay Homage)
Learn from the masters. Online or at your nearest library, there are literally thousands of sources of drawings by others, renowned artists, professionals and amateurs alike. Find someone whose work you appreciate, and practice copying the kinds of sketches, drawings or paintings you admire. Note how artists may choose to draw some lines, while leaving others out. Shading and cross-hatching may be used to intensify an image or add depth and shape. Line quality may become delicate and fine to illustrate lace, or bold and broken to indicate heavy timber. The artist may select an unusual pose or perspective to add drama or focus to his art. Almost every beginner's class in drawing or painting includes time spent copying and learning from the best works of others. Only by duplicating their efforts — the line quality, the tone, the form, the layout, the proportion, the intensity, the emotion — can you become truly facile at drawing, and thereby able to imbue your own drawings with some of those same qualities. Create practice pages within a sketchbook, where you can try out different styles and techniques of drawing to see what works best for you, or gives the most satisfying results. Pictured below is a sample practice page on which I was experimenting with rendering different types of trees and shrubs (all with only a black felt-tip pen).
Felt-Tip Pen + Paper = Art
Refine Your Own Style
As you develop a facility for the loose and easy sketch, you'll find that it you can apply or adapt it quite readily to diagrams, maps, posters, newsletters or other more precise or exacting compositions. Often your sketching style will bring with it a personality and flair. Illustrated below is my sketch diagram of a proposed monument sign for a large mixed-use development. Here the 'sketchiness' of the drawing makes it more visually appealing and comprehensible to the average viewer, yet the image contains sufficient detailed information and technical precision to be a fair representation of a future reality.
As you become more and more comfortable (and skilled), you will find you can experiment with lots of different media and a variety of drawing styles. Mess around with markers on newsprint. Create with chalk on your driveway or sidewalk. Fool around with fabric paints on gifts or household items. Pick your favorite pencil and do your pet's portrait. You'll be able to integrate drawing, sketching and an enjoyable creative flair into just about any aspect of your life.
And, above all, make it fun!
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