Sketching On The Run

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment so I couldn’t go to the museum to sketch. This, however, didn’t prevent me from sketching, but it did force me to mentally shift gears a bit.

I’m a sketcher who enjoys sketching precisely, or I try to achieve some precision in my sketches. I like my sketches to reflect what I’m sketching, without a lot of loose and/or restated lines, casual approach to outline, etc. Depending on your view this is a good or bad thing and I’m not here to defend my approach; it’s just how my brain works. In point of fact, I’d like to do both loose and precise sketching but as a relatively new sketcher, sketching slowly fits my limited ability to truly ‘see’ and depict what I see.

Anyways, yesterday I got to the doctor’s office (he works out of a clinic) and I had to wait. Those of us waiting sit, while others stand in a short line, waiting to tell the receptionist about their own appointments. There’s not much to sketch, at least that sits still for any period of time.

There is, however, a 20-30 second period of time where each of the patients is standing in front of the receptionist and I had a clear view of them. So, I took out my S&B 4×6 sketchbook, my Pilot Prera, and I started quick sketching the people as they took their turn at the receptionist’s window. I did several of them before the doctor, all too soon, called my name. It was fun.

2013_01-10DocOfficeQuick1This is what those 30 second sketches look like. Not much to speak of but satisfying in some strange way. The second sketch is one in which I spent an extra 30 seconds, after the patient had left, adding some rough shading and darkening some outlines. More fun.

I should add that I’ve been critical of the many books and drawing courses that advocate students begin sketching by doing ‘gesture sketches’, which these most certainly are.  A year ago, as a new sketcher, there is no way I could have done even these crude sketches in this short time frame.  If you’re a newbie sketcher you know what I mean.  Thus, while this was/is fun, I remain skeptical that it’s where you want to start as a sketcher.

I’m reminded of something my buddy Yvan has said to me several times.  “You must draw slowly before you can draw quickly.”  I think he’s right and the how-to-draw books could learn much from Yvan.  I still can’t draw people well, whether I draw slowly or quickly.  But because I’ve drawn a bunch of them slowly, and because I’ve studied (watched a lot) people, I’ve got a better idea of what I’ve got to capture when I’ve only got a few seconds to do so.

I have to say that I had a lot of fun in those few minutes in the doctor’s office and I hope I can improve my abilities to capture people quickly.  I still like my slow, and I do mean REALLY slow, sketching approach, but sketching quickly is fun too.  I feel there’s room for both in my life.   What do you think about quick sketching?

Cheers — Larry


9 thoughts on “Sketching On The Run

  1. From all the years at work the concept of being “clear, concise and valid” was engrained so much into me I believe it’s now part of my DNA. Quick sketching breaks all three since my outcome on a quick sketch is not always clear, far from being concise and could be off the valid part too. So doing quick sketches takes me way out of my comfort zone but I love it because it also makes me feel like a rebel.

  2. …Jude, you’ve sized it up pretty well with the ‘clear, concise and valid’ triad. And when I step outside of that I often start struggling with actually drawing what I’m seeing instead of symbols of the subject. But as I improve on that score, I like the fun of my pen jumping all over the paper, scrawling something that may actually look like something. Sometimes it doesn’t 🙂

    Cheers — Larry

  3. These are great gestural sketches, Larry! And I applaud you for going against your natural tendencies. I think each type of sketching — slow and precise, fast and spontaneous — teaches different skills, so they’re both good practice. One thing I find helpful when doing this type of gestural sketch is using a big marker pen or brush tip pen. Since there’s no way to be precise with a brush pen, it forces you to capture the stance instead of the details. Keep one in your bag for the next doc appointment! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the idea, Tina. It’s a good one except for my personal bias against felt/nylon pens of any kind. I don’t like the feel of them or the results I’ve seen from even good artists when they use them, and I certainly don’t qualify as a good artist. It’s a personal thing. Also, I’m a fountain pen addict so I’m sort of hung by my own petard, if you will. I must use fountain pens when sketching 🙂

    The one exception I’d make to the above is the Pentel brush pen, which is an actual, cartridge-fed brush. I LOVE the variable line that comes from that brush pen. Harder to control than other brush pens, though, and that’s why I’ve yet to master it. I need to spend more time with it and someday…

    Cheers — Larry

    • I love the Pentel brush pen (and the very similar Kuretake Fountain Brush Pen, filled with Platinum Carbon cartridges), too! And gestural sketches are a great way to spend time with it… it’s very conducive to looseness, which gestural sketches demand.

  5. I think you’re right about the Kuretake, though I’ve never owned one. I think I’m going to experiment with some of the things you’re doing. I just got samples of Diamine Twilight and Diamine Gray. I want to try those, maybe using a Tombow marker for shading as you have done.

    BTW, for anyone reading this and wondering what I’m talking about, head to Tina’s blog, She’s got lots of great ideas for creating people sketches.

    Cheers — Larry

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