Are You Sure You Don’t Have Time?

If you hang out in sketching circles, it’s very common to hear “I just haven’t had the time to draw.”  I can never understand that, and dedicated sketchers will know what I mean when I say, “do you really think I buy that excuse?  I don’t.”  Now if you really don’t want to sketch, then don’t do it.  But don’t kid yourself into thinking you don’t have time.  There is nothing easier to fit into a hectic schedule than sketching.

How can I be so sure?  Well, everyone has 24 hours in a day.  We all need to eat, sleep and to varying degrees, work.  I know that some work a lot.  Ok, that means you have less time than I do but ‘no time’?  There’s not one ‘couple minutes’ in your day when you could sketch?

Let me give you a couple examples of finding sketching time even when no time is set aside for sketching.  I’ll start with my baseball passion.  From April until October I burn up a couple hours a night watching the Blue Jays beat opposing teams.  It’s a sickness, but I’ve got to do it.  Others might watch hockey, football, cooking shows, or the latest dramatic series.  People watch movies too.  Here are the last couple pages from the sketchbook that I use when I do watch TV.


Some faces on TV


Some play with a ballpoint pen


quick details from memory


just some scribbles while watching baseball






Our lives are always  what military guys refer to as ‘hurry up and wait.’  We rush to appointments and then sit around waiting for them to begin.  I was in that situation just yesterday.  I had to sign papers at my bank but I arrived at the bank 15 minutes before they opened.  So, I walked down the street and popped into a small place and ordered a cup of coffee.  While drinking coffee I drew these and got back to the bank by opening time.  Are you sure you don’t have time to draw?

Quick sketches while waiting for bank to open

Quick sketches while waiting for bank to open


Quicker Sketching Search – Part Two

My last post presented an example of one of the experiments I did in my quest for a quicker sketching style.  Sometimes I think I’m just not seasoned enough as a sketcher to be searching for different styles but I also wonder whether such a search is the best way to become a seasoned sketcher.

Because it’s been raining, I’ve used the time to think about and try out some different styles and I thought I’d share a few of those experiments, which will surely amuse you.   Pratfalls are always popular.  Maybe you’ll get some ideas, even if they’re “I’d never do that” ideas.

This one was closest to my current style.  The differences are that I did it quicker, with no organization.  I think it suffers from too many restated, ill-defined lines.  S&B (9x6), Pilot Falcon

This one was closest to my current style. The differences are that I did it quicker, with no organization. I think it suffers from too many restated, ill-defined lines. S&B (9×6), Pilot Falcon

2015-04-22steepleSometimes I think about using a washable ink with watercolor on top.  Two things limit me with this approach.  First, I don’t have much understanding of watercolors.  More important, however, is that I don’t like the unpredictability of washable inks.  Call me crazy but I’m not one to enjoy the so-called “happy accidents”.  But here’s an attempt using Lamy black ink and some perylene green watercolor.  It was done quickly on a scrap of watercolor paper.

The results are reasonable but as I mentioned, I’m not a happy accident kind of guy so its fuzzy nature just doesn’t do it for me.

Pilot Metropolitan with Lamy black and a bit of Kuretake brush pen.

Pilot Metropolitan with Lamy black and a bit of Kuretake brush pen.

Marc Taro Holmes has blessed us with a recent series of blog posts on how to loosen up your approach and drawing hand.  This is one of a bunch of loose, almost scribbly sketches I’ve done as a result of those posts.  I was working on a large sheet of paper and doing a bunch of these smallish sketches and this one shows two of them, one drawn on top of the other.

I confess that this sort of thing is a struggle for me as when I start getting loose like this my brain tends to go to sleep and silly little things like angles and proportions start to go haywire.  If I can re-engage my brain while making marks like this, I think I could come to like it – a lot.

I went sketching one rainy day and ended up quick-sketching some people.  Here are a couple experiments.  Both were done in a 4×6 sketchbook.  The one on the left was done with a Platinum Carbon pen and PCB ink.  The ones on the right were done with a Kuretake brush pen.  I still struggle with control with this pen but it’s fun trying to sketch people with very few lines.










2015-04-26acroballOne evening I decided to do a sketch with a Pilot Acroball ballpoint pen.  I sometimes like ballpoint because I can get nice half-tones with them.  But for a hard-line, illustration sketch, I didn’t like it at all.  I couldn’t get good line consistency (lack of tooth in paper contributed) and so I think the result suffered.  Interesting experience but I doubt that I’ll repeat it.

2015-04-20streetlightI was waiting for a lunch date and decided to do a quick, loose interpretation of this light pole while I waited.  This was a lot of fun.  It felt similar to the loose line drawings I’d been doing but I did think about proportions before I started, marking where the various components were along the axis.  The result is far from perfect but a proper depiction of this piece of city paraphenalia and it didn’t rely upon any happy accidents.

I’ll continue doing my slower, detailed illustrations, but my quest for a style that would suit shorter time frames has only just begun.  It’s fun to try different approaches but thank goodness I’m not too wrapped up in the results.  What style(s) do you prefer in your own sketching and why?



The Willingness To Learn


“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” ― Albert Einstein

It’s said that we old folks don’t learn as quickly as young kids.  Our brains are pretty firmly wired, it’s said, while kid brains are just gathering steam when it comes to wiring.  Whether that’s true or not is above my pay grade.

What I do know is that a kid’s willingness to learn, and to be thrilled by the activity, is boundless.  Watch any kid learning to walk.  How many adults in the same situation, after having fallen a gazillion times without moving three feet, would say “It’s too hard” and sat down on the floor, asking for the TV remote.

I’m writing this because I just witnessed the cutest example of a child’s joy from learning.  A tiny tot, probably no more than a couple years old, was walking along the sidewalk.  She proudly made her way along, expending a great deal of energy to maintain her position ahead of mom.  You could tell she was working hard.  Heck, her poor legs were soooo short.

She got to a place where the sidewalk had been cracked and lifted by a large tree root.  Her side of the sidewalk was three to four inches below where she needed to go.  Undaunted, she carefully put her left foot on the higher level and stepped up to the higher level.  Then she stopped.  I guess she was thinking because the next thing she did was jump.

That’s right.  Standing in place she just jumped up, coming down in exactly the same place.  She took a step and jumped again.  Another second of pause and this time, apparently realizing she needed to do something more than just jump upward, she took a step and leaped up and forward.  When she came down she immediately looked up at her mother with a big smile on her face.  Next time she’d be ready for the cracks in the road.  She needed no class, no teacher.  All she needed was desire and a bit of persistence.

I think this is how we learn art, or should.  We’ve got to jump, then jump again.  Are you jumping?

What Is Art, Anyway?

I’ve been fond of saying that “I’m not an artist; I just draw stuff.”  Almost as regularly someone tells me that I am an artist and they can’t understand why I say that.

The basis for my comment is more a defense mechanism than anything else.  I’ve tired of having so-called ‘art’ people, who can’t draw and don’t feel that artists need be able to do so, try to ‘advise’ me about my sketching.  It’s not that I don’t want to learn – I do.  I’m constantly reading, listening, learning.  By my calculation, in another 20-30 years, I may begin to figure it all out.  Until then I’ll just keep trying.

But I’m not interested in people telling me that I need to “loosen up” and “just let go.”  I often wonder if Rembrandt, Durer, Homer, etc. were told they needed to “loosen up.”

What I see going on in the art world is, in a word, nonsense.  It’s become a world of ‘how weird can you get’ rather than ‘can you create something beautiful.’  The art industry has been great at marketing the idea that if I don’t understand piles of garbage being labelled as art, there’s something wrong with me.  And then this video came along and I just HAD to share it.

The Variety That Comes From Sketching

If I did a statistical analysis of the my sketching subjects, it would be clear that I’m a building portrait kind of guy.  I just love ’em and enjoy going out, finding them, and sketching them.  In fact, being out in the city, sitting on a stool as people walk by, is a major part of what I enjoy about it.  I’ve never been much for sketching from photos and this is probably why.

This little guy was hanging out over a path I was walking on in the park.  He was actually moving quite quickly, for him, but I had time to do this quick sketch.

This little guy was hanging out over a path I was walking on in the park. He was actually moving quite quickly, for him, but I had time to do this quick sketch.

I guess it’s true for most people, regardless of how or what kind of art they do; we all have a preferred subject type, whether it is flowers, landscapes, boats, or still lifes.  But sketching provides something that other forms do not – the ability to sketch something quickly.  This translates into sketchers drawing a much wider variety of things than an artist who must set up an easel and has a mindset of hanging the result on a wall.


I was out for a long walk and sat down in a park. Something suggested that I sketch this basketball hoop that was sitting idle. Definitely a ‘no big deal’ sketch. Took less than ten minutes but it was ten minutes of fun.

We sketchers are happy with these quick sketches, often of subjects that no other group would ever do.  We proudly show off our sketch of a garbage can, a fire hydrant or maybe even a dead fish.  Why our brains work that way I do not know but I do know that our ability to do this without devoting a lot of time to it is the reason we do it so regularly.

They're repaving a street near my house and I thought this small roller was unique.

They’re repaving a street near my house and I thought this small roller was unique.

This occurred to me as I was looking at the last few sketches I did in my little Moleskine watercolor book (3×5).  Excepting the roller, which took me twenty minutes or so, these sketches were done very quickly, with no particular goal in mind other than to be sketching.  All were fun.

I went birding on a 'too windy' day and ended up huddled behind a tree.  Did this sketch of a fungus.

I went birding on a ‘too windy’ day and ended up huddled behind a tree. Did this sketch of a fungus.