top of page

The art of sketching

The art of sketching.I believe it is useful to decide what your aims are with sketching. Obviously, it should be for personal pleasure and satisfaction but this can be achieved in different ways.Having the skill to reproduce images that you like. Copying pictures or styles effectively. Many kids start off this way and it is a very good system for learning techniques that you can make work.Recording events in a journal or diary. It is the act of making a quick sketch at a particular moment that matters more than the perfection of the result. This is the category that nearly all my sketching fits into, pinning the event in my memory by spending a short period of time concentrating on ‘seeing’ what is in front of me.Achieving an expression of the feelings and emotions of a time and place in a single composition. Traditional ART. “All artists bear the imprint of their time, but the great artists are those in whom this is most profoundly marked” – Matisse.Creating from your own imagination new worlds or dramas, making them come alive in a visual form. Illustrating a story perhaps.The medium you use is up to you, but of course, some don’t lend themselves to speed or portability. Though I have used watercolours, acrylics and oils I gain most pleasure and satisfaction from pen (brush) and ink. Partly of course because my main use is to illustrate my travel journals. There is an immediacy and a discipline in using ink that I relish. You must ‘see’ the relationships, scales and tones between objects because once you start drawing there is no going back. A very different technique from pencil where one can spend time getting things right on the page, comparing, erasing, redrawing. I must admit that on a complicated or large sketch, a landscape, for instance, I might use a few pencil lines to define the extents, to make sure everything fits in (nothing worse than starting a building and then running out of space). The Japanese and Chinese were early masters of brush and ink. For a good reason, calligraphy was seen as an art form, brush technique of great importance to the whole visual impact of a page of writing. I learnt a lot from studying Hokusai in particular because he has immense skill at using the fewest possible number of lines to create complex characterisations and landscapes.My book ‘Writing Your Adventure’ has a section about sketching;-“Sometimes textured or woven paper can add to the impression the sketch makes, overall though I favour plain white. It must not be too glossy and the paper not absorbent enough. On the other hand, some watercolour papers are too absorbent and the ink ‘bleeds’. The paper needs to be reasonably thick or the ink will go right through. In fact, I often leave the back of a page with a drawing on blank as the bright light of the scanner can pick up marks on the other side. Wire-comb bound books are nice because they will open out right out on a single page, but the wire coil can get squidged and bent when packed tight, and with some the page doesn’t lie completely flat on the scanner. The best book I’ve got at the moment is a stitched binding that does open totally flat. Generally speaking, I find a rectangular format more flexible than square; landscape for landscape and portrait for portrait.If you find pencil your preferred medium, then your choices of paper may differ. Whether pencil or ink, the principles are much the same. I favour ink for its immediacy and easy solidity. Soft pencil also smudges quite easily which can be used to good effect, but it will probably then need ‘fixing’. This can be done with a matt hair spray if you don’t have proper fixative. Make sure you spray from a reasonable distance so you don’t get any areas over-wet.I have a set (was my fathers) of Rotring Art pens with have various nibs and I frequently have brown or green ink in one or other. This allows more colours and tones than you can get from a composite black ink (black,blue,grey). I also sometimes use aquarelle pencils to add some colour, they take a little bit of practice to get the best from them, using the flat of the pencil for shading that you want to be even after light washing with a wet brush. The watercolour effect can work well with ink.”In the field, I generally just lick my finger and smudge the ink, there is a drawback though in that one ends up with a black smudge on the fingertip and the end of your tongue. Wine, tea or coffee that is on the tab

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page