Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sketch Everything! Part 2

This is part two of a series about sketchbooks. Part one can be found here

The sketchbook page shown above has three different sketches. One is a trompe l'oeil of an antique fishing lure. One evening I got out the colored pencils, placed the lure on a white sheet of paper and drew what I saw. It was done for practice.

The other sketches on the sheet are simple line studies done on a different day. On that day, the leaves were being drawn in a backyard in Pennsylvania when a bumblebee suddenly landed on one of the leaves close to me. I was a little concerned about possibly being stung by such a large bee, but then I began to notice unusual things about it. Bumblebees look for flowers, but this "bumblebee" had parked itself on the face of a a leaf and then didn't move - something I don't think bumblebees can do. Closer inspection showed it didn't have a bumblebee's face, but a head more like that of a fly. Overall, it looked like a bumblebee but acted like a fly. I dubbed it "Bumblefly." It stayed put long enough to have it's portrait done. That's it on the lower left quarter of the sketchbook page shown above.

There are a lot of color studies in some of my sketchbooks, done to see what happens when this color is mixed with that color. Here's a small sample (this one in colored pencil) next to quick sketches of honeysuckle blossoms:

Written notes find their way into my sketchbooks, too. Here's just two of several pages of notes taken during a painting workshop:

Quick studies of people who don't know they're being sketched is a way of strengthening people drawing skills without always having to hire a model. It also catches people in natural, unposed attitudes. The next sketchbook page shows quick gesture studies of children playing in a park:

It's important not to draw attention while sketching (pun not intended, but I like it anyway). People are often flattered to learn they've been sketched, and sometimes after the fact I might show them the finished sketch. However, to keep the gestures natural it's important that they don't know they're being sketched. Adults are less likely than children to notice someone is sketching them. One day I went to a local park, sat down on a picnic bench and began sketching children playing nearby. I'd scratched off only a few gesture studies when one of the kids suddenly shouted, "Hey, that guy is drawing!" The next thing I knew I was surrounded by children wanting to see what I was drawing. So much for that! My cover was blown. I quickly showed them the sketches, excused myself and retreated.

On the other hand, sketching pictographs found in a red rock alcove in Canyonlands didn't attract any attention - at least, none that I could see:

Sometimes I'll just doodle in my sketchbook. Doodles can be a useful way of exploring design and other ideas:

One of the most important uses for sketchbooks is planning out finished works. The image below shows a series of thumbnail sketches done in preparation for a finished painting. These "notans" were used to help work out the design for the finished painting. The painting sold in an exhibit and unfortunately I didn't get a photo before it went out the door, but the design I used was the one in the middle of the bottom row (seen on it's side):


Scott Ruthven said...

James, great posts on sketchbooks. Like you, I use sketchbooks for a variety of things. I keep one book devoted to summarizing books I read about artists or painting and also for writing down the palettes of artists...this has become such a valuable book to me.

James Gunter said...

Thanks, Scott. Your use of a sketchbook dedicated to notes about art books and palettes is a great idea. That would make it easier to find your notes later! I have sketchbooks everywhere, so I usually just grab the most convenient one to make notes. Then later, I have to go through stacks of sketchbooks to find where the heck I put those notes!