Sketching: The shorthand communication of Artists.

Several years ago in high school, as I sat in English literature class listening to my instructor talk about writers, and how they made it an art form to jot down bits of information quickly using shorthand writing, I was instinctively sketching the entire classroom. After the class ended, I analyzed the sketch and discovered all the actions that really took place in that moment in time, and how in the blink of an eye scatterbrained boys who simply wanted to get on to the next class forgot them. My sketchbook told a story.

In later years, I came to understand the importance of sketching. Similarly to how writers use shorthand writing to document quickly, artists use sketching to the same effect. Not only is it a form of documentation, but to the artist it is an intimate language that communicates more than just what is rendered- it also communicates who the artist is, and what better words to hear from an artist than “go ahead, take a look,” as he/she willingly allows you to enter their mind through their sketches.

DELACROIX_Eugene_Aspasia_sketch

Aspasia (sketch) by Eugene Delacroix.

 Artists like Eugene Delacroix filled numerous sketchbooks with drawings and journal entries, and even said: ” Perhaps the sketch of a work is so pleasing because everyone can finish it as he chooses,” and how right he is! For when one peers into that window of the artist’s mind through the sketchbook, one gets to somehow be apart of that creation, without actually being apart of it. Delacroix further said: ” The artist does not spoil the picture by finishing it, for in abandoning the vagueness of the sketch he shows more of his personality by revealing the range but also the limitations of his talent.” This leads me to say, it is important to develop your sketching ability.

DELACROIX_Eugene_Study_for_the_war_coffer_1833_37

Study of War: 1833-37 by Eugene Delacroix.

INCREASE YOUR ABILITY

Try not to worry about the subjects you draw at first. Just draw, focusing on expression and capturing the essence of the subject quickly. Do so through practice, and even the willingness to make it your own art form. Make sketching fun. Treat it like a pastime, rather than a chore or task. Just like how writers use shorthand, which is oftentimes very personal, use sketching as your personal shorthand to record visions, or translate your opinions, as many artists have throughout history.

TYPES OF SKETCHBOOKS

There are so many different types of sketchbooks out there on the market these days, you only need to browse through the aisle of say a Hobby Lobby to see the ever growing types, sizes and styles to choose from. But consider these three factors when purchasing a sketchbook:

  • Shape: Portrait (vertical with horizontal binding), landscape (horizontal with vertical binding) and square. There are a great many variety in these, and the sizes will vary as well.
  • Binding: Stitched (hardbound or softbound), spiral bound, or tape-bound. Artists who keep illustrated sketchbooks oftentimes prefer the hardbound sketchbooks, primarily for comfort, but these can be tricky, for writing/ drawing close to the binding can pose a problem because it isn’t flat. Spiral and tape-bound are far more common. These are more flexible, and oftentimes are perforated as well, so the artist can remove pages easily if needs be.
  • Paper: Paper type and quality can never be underestimated or overstated, for it can dramatically affect what the artist creates. A great many selection of sketchbooks containing acid free, recycled or speciality papers are on the market today. If you sketch in soft mediums, and smudging is a pet peeve, I recommend sketchbooks that have glassine interleaves between the sheet. Most sketchbooks are intended for mixed media, but if you work in water media, use sketchbooks with heavier papers, such as watercolor paper that can handle the saturation. If you desire heavy, high-quality drawing paper with tooth, try sketchbooks with hot pressed watercolor paper.

Get hooked on it. Develop a habit of sketching. Use the process to channel your creative side, warm you up and get you loose, even if no one ever sees them.

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