Thursday, February 6, 2014

Extreme Sketching Inspires

There is no doubt that drawing practice improves painting practice. I admire artists who have a daily sketching practice, so much so that I have pretended to cultivate that discipline on a somewhat regular basis ;)

But alas, I have been either too lazy or undisciplined. So here I am, publicly stating that this will change! Because, you know, humiliation in the form of publicly failed goals is a great motivator. At least I hope so.

Just in case that doesn't work for you, here's another motivator: watch the PBS documentary, The Ghost Army. It tells the story of a secret WWII army unit comprised primarily of artists! Their mission was to deceive the enemy into believing there were major troop deployments where there actually were none, to distract from the real location of allied forces. It was quite amazing and very successful. You can read more here, or better yet, rent the film.

How does this inspire a sketching habit, you ask? Well these artists were not only at war but they were intentionally diverting enemy fire... to themselves! And yet, during whatever "down time" they might have had, they were constantly drawing - an extreme sketching group of dedicated art buddies. (BTW, Bill Blass was part of the group. Things worked out pretty much OK for his fashion/art career.)

So, seriously, if they could draw during a war, what kind of excuse in my life could prevent me from sketching? Nada. I do have to remind myself that sketching doesn't necessarily mean creating a finished drawing. It's simply observing and putting those observations on paper. Practice transforming 3D objects to 2D drawings is what matters. That, and fine-tuning the art of seeing.

Here is tonight's very quick sketch of Violet. Not a drawing, but a good lesson in observation and impressions because about 2 minutes into this, she just got up and left. She hasn't quite bought into the importance of sketching, but that's ok, we're working on it.


  1. Agree, drawing (for most artists) is a foundation for being good at other things. Plus, drawing itself is a wonderful medium. It's not always as appreciated or highly valued as painting, etc, but I love sketches and loved the insight into the artist that it provides. There is nothing quite like sketching from life to really learn the subject matter, either. I see many technically nice paintings, as far as shading, etc, where details are "off" because the artist worked only from photos and didn't really know the subject. The argument is where else can you find a lion or a Tibetan Temple but in photos...but the consequence is that if you haven't seen those things, and preferably sketched them or at least took your own photos, there are "holes" in the artist's knowledge of them that show in the finished piece. Not saying people should only paint what they know intimately, but I am saying that it shows in the artwork whether they know the subject well. Even in abstracted work, and cartoony stuff, it's a 'feel' that is evident from personally having seen it, and usually, sketched it.

  2. Yes, spending time drawing helps you get to know the subject. It's the best way to get better. Drawing has always been a favorite artistic activity for me but I never made the commitment to a daily sketching habit. Not sure I can commit to drawing every single day, but several times a week is a good goal.
    Outside of abstraction, my feeling is no amount of paint can make up for a bad drawing!


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