Sketching For Sketching’s Sake

I’ve always preferred paint to pencil. With paint, I feel that I have more freedom. I can put down my wash—a first indication of the image to emerge—with little commitment. By building layer upon layer, I continue to make decisions throughout the entire painting process. In contrast, the fine tip of the pencil can feel intimidating. If I put down these lines now, can I change my mind later?

While painting relies, to a certain extent, on the skills of drawing, the role of preliminary sketching has remained optional or, at best, secondary to my painting practice. As I’ve described in a previous post, I usually begin a painting by looking through my reference photos and outlining a composition directly onto my canvas.

Sometimes, sketch(es) have acted as intermediary steps – between reference photographs and the painting. This has proven useful, as I already abstract from a photograph and make choices before touching the canvas. Sketching is especially useful when I am working large scale and want to try out compositions on a smaller piece of paper first. I used this method for my painting, “Red Ochre Sculptural Trees”. Here below are a few preliminary sketches made based on a series of reference photographs:

The completed painting took on a life of its own, but the sketches were the steppingstone I needed for this larger work. For all my sketches, I have been using a small set of pencil crayons from Faber-Castell, which have great colour range.

I recently moved (temporarily) to the U.S. This is an opportunity to take in new surroundings and perhaps explore new materials. During these early days, I’m getting adjusted to a new place. For me, this is not the time to start a large-scale painting. Instead, I’ve found that sketching is a quick and easy way to record my impressions of my new surroundings.

These sketches may be useful for future paintings, but this is not their purpose. At this point, I am sketching for sketching’s sake and enjoying the practice. I’m recording what I see and keeping my skills sharp. I am having fun playing with colour and shape in a different way: immediate and smaller scale.

Sketch of a tree in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.

I’m getting more comfortable with the fine tip of a pencil these days. There have been some moments of frustration when, for example, I’ve committed a line to paper that seems to determine my next move; at least more definitively than my marks with paint. But I pivot and see what else can be done. In getting stuck, I try to be creative in how I might get unstuck. Once again, painting, or in this case sketching, teaches me life skills: patience, flexibility, that any view can be interesting, and that a little sketch – a moment of curious looking – can be an end in itself.

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1 thought on “Sketching For Sketching’s Sake

  1. […] other day, I was making a quick sketch of the maple tree outside of my window. Recently I’ve been sketching more. With pencil crayons in hand, I was getting the impression of this large tree down on paper. […]

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