Sketching Alone In A Garden

I went to a large garden the other day.  It was overcast but warm and windless and the garden was nearly deserted.  I wandered around and finally decided to draw a scene that included an arbor that bordered one side of a central area in the garden.  I thought I’d show you the steps I took in drawing it.  The sketch was done as a two-page spread in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9) sketchbook.

pencil scaffolding for drawingI laid out all of the objects in the scenes, most represented only by an irregular, but properly proportioned blob, but it’s during this stage that I get all my proportion thinking accomplished.  This solves two problems for me.  First, it’s too easy to start concentrating on details if I start with pen and then proportions take a back seat until it’s too late.  Doing this in pencil mentally separates it from “drawing” for me.  The second thing is that when I do pick up my pen, I no longer have to think about sizes of the objects relative to one another.  I know they will fit into their blobs and so I can really have fun while drawing.

ink stage of the drawingOne could say that this is actually two steps.  I drew everything with a Namiki Falcon and DeAtramentis Document Black ink and then I added some darks with a Kuretake #13 brush pen.  If the darks are a second step, it’s a step I don’t do well with.  If it’s not a separate step, I still don’t do well with it.  I just don’t ‘get’ where I should put the darks and/or what marks work best to depict darks I see in the real world.  But in the end, this is what the ink drawing looks like.

FinishedI’m really at a loss when it comes to watercolor techniques.  I can mix colors but I really have no clue what to do with them once they’re mixed (grin).  Nevertheless, this is what the sketch looked like when I was done.

I don’t always work this way.  Sometimes I skip the pencil stage and try to do the proportion/perspective stuff while drawing with ink.  I know the internet is fond of saying that ‘direct-to-ink’ is what real men do and that it’s faster.  While I think that nonsense, in my experience, it takes me longer to do a drawing like this when I skip the pencil step than when I include it.  Note, however, no erasers were abused in the creation of this drawing until the end of the ink stage when I run a kneaded eraser over the entire drawing to remove all the ‘blobs’ of the pencil sketch.

finished drawing

10 thoughts on “Sketching Alone In A Garden

    • My “process” is variable and I think I like it that way, but with social media failing us when it comes to actual communication, maybe I need to show more of this stuff. — Larry

  1. Thanks for taking us through your process! I have favoured the direct-ink approach, but lately have begun to draw perspective help-lines in pencil first. It prevents the worst wonkiness…

    • My thoughts are that one should use what you need to capture what you want. I often draw direct-ink. I don’t even carry a regular eraser with me. But the idea that axioms like “Never eraser” and “Never use a pencil” are not only silly, their basis is more a reflection of some macho internet dogma than anything that borders on good advice (grin). I use what I need to get what I want.

      I agree that some pencil layout will eliminate a lot of wonkiness. It will prevent you from running out of room on your paper too. But, for me, the real value is to know that the proportions are right when I start drawing. It allows me to draw more quickly and to have more fun when I do it because I don’t have to think about whether the tree is higher or lower than the one next to it while I’m drawing it. — Larry

  2. Seeing the drawing steps one by one is very good for beginners like me, thank you for your efforts!

    • When I started trying to draw two things were different from now. First, there weren’t as many books available about sketching and social media was a place where people went to DISCUSS making art. These days we’re blessed with some fantastic sketching books, particularly “on location” sketching books and I highly recommend them to you. Social media, however, as devolved into a stream of sketches, posted by their creators, with no comment and no discussion comes from them. How could there be. When I came to drawing the Artist’s Journal Workshop group on Facebook had fewer than 2000 members. I learned a tremendous amount by asking questions and following discussions in that group. These days, there are nearly 20,000 members, and while the sketches being posted are beautiful, nobody can keep up with even looking at them, let alone commenting on them. But there is information available about drawing on the internet. Lots of it. You just need to spend some time with Google searches to find it. That said, I should do more to show, as best I can, what works for me. — Larry

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your processes and thinking. No one else I’ve found on the Web does this so well and generously. I really appreciate it and learn important stuff.
    I don’t know how you might apply it to sketching…my drawing teacher taught me to draw/smudge in the darks and then add light (by erasing). Just something to mull over.

    • Thanks, Donna. It’s funny, but social media advocates once said that blogs were dead because there was so much more information available via social media. That may have been the case, for a while, but it’s certainly not true anymore. People post their sketches on social media but discussion of art methods doesn’t happen any longer. But there is a lot of information on blogs. You just have to find them. And books….there are so many new and REALLY good books coming out that it’s hard to keep up with them

      As for smudging. Among pencil artists there debate over whether smudging is good or bad but I’m not a pencil guy. Understand, what I presented isn’t drawing with pencil. It’s organizing with pencil. In fact, one of the reasons I use the pencil is that when it’s in my hand my brain knows that it’s NOT drawing – it’s organizing. When I pick up my pen it knows that it’s time to draw. So, no smudging for me as I don’t want to push the graphite into the paper. I use a very hard pencil and very light lines to do the organizational stuff I do with pencil. — Larry

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