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.

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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.

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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.

The Irony of our time.

Isn’t it ironic that everything we do these days revolve around digital media, or more technically, algorithms? Over the past decade there has been more and more intense debate as to what direction the world is headed. Is it headed to artificial intelligence at our beckon and call like in I-Robot, or simply outright destruction because we can’t seem to stop going down the slippery slope of technological advancement? In my illustration, I raise these questions, because as a millennial, I find that not only is everything easier to obtain and create, but I also realize that some aesthetics are being lost, and at a very rapid rate.

The Irony of our time

The Irony of our time. 

As an artist, and one who enjoys the fine arts, especially the traditional painting styles where the artist has a connection with his materials – paint, brush and solvent, I often wonder if those aesthetics will become something of the past one day. The beauty one can create based on his natural born talent, without the use of a mathematical calculation behind a screen is something that is tremendously special. Nowadays, that beauty in creativity is somewhat lost, for the challenge of finding and developing that innate talent is substituted by the help of technology. Yes, the graphic arts are engaging, exciting and colorful, but there is a sense of being out of touch, especially in comparison to the traditional fine arts. That is the greatest disparity I identify between the digital age, and the age we are being ushered out of since the invention of print media.

Certain things that we have grown up with and experienced as children – story books, comics, magazines and the like, will they become obsolete in a decade or two? Will we be looking at issues of National Geographic and The New York Times as antiques that should be preserved? Many in the print media industry have faced this very issue, where there is a consensus that print media is dying, in so much that some companies have left the business entirely to become solely digital. The essence of a collector’s item will be lost, for everything is on a screen and can just be wiped away with a click. I think about this when it comes to my art. Will the emergence of digital art mean the death of fine art? Where will the real beauty lie?

I often wonder what changes will affect the arts, and artists in another twenty, thirty, or forty years. When I consider that many artists do not get the deserved recognition for their talent until they are considerably older in their careers, say thirty years after they have begun; what then will it be like for artists in the future considering that technology is dominating every aspect of artistic creativity? What of the traditional aesthetics we learn of from the masters of the Renaissance and Baroque period?

The relevance of these points cannot be understated, for we see the changes around us every day if we are aware. Following some of the assertions of the avant-garde artists, a big part of my job as an artist is to keep you socially aware, whether it be through my two dimensional compositions and the messages contained in them, or through my thoughts put forth in writing. Your engagement is priceless, because art is never just about the artist, but more about the message we convey – and for me, the traditional aesthetic beauty that aids the message.

Portrait of St. Leo (Usain St.Leo Bolt).

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Who is the fastest man in the world, do you know? If you are into sports, especially track and field this question is easy to answer: Usain Bolt. When I say his name it brings chills and goosebumps to me. Why, you may ask? It’s not only because he is the greatest sprinter in the world, and its not only because he has broken his own world records multiple times either. It’s because he has transcended the term “track and field icon”, and the fact that he is Jamaican makes it even sweeter. Usain St. Leo Bolt is not only the fastest man in the world currently, he has been so for quite a long time now, and will possibly stay that way for decades to come, possibly forever.

Usain is one of us. When I say that I mean, he is one of us Jamaican boys, having dreams of being like the sports icons we admired growing up, or one of the many people who have made a positive and permanent mark in this world, like Marcus Garvey did, and Bob Marley. Growing up in Jamaica and running around barefooted, playing football (soccer) outside with the other children in the neighborhood…just being rowdy island boys is the norm, and to think that Usain came from such humble beginning, to now being one of the biggest names in the entire world, words cant really describe the feeling it gives. When he shattered arguably the most iconic of all records, which he set a few years before at the IAAF World Championships, clocking 9.69 seconds in the 100m sprint and claiming the gold medal, a new identity took shape- a new identity for not only him, but for us as Jamaicans- for us as Jamaican men.

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Coming back in 2009 and outdoing what he did a few years before to clock a blistering 9.58 seconds, which to most was the most unbelievable thing they ever witnessed in their professional career, and in reality, ever, Bolt set in stone his mark on this world, and a mark for Jamaicans everywhere. A standard was set. A standard that makes Jamaicans everywhere walk with their heads high, flags high, and voices send out. For this small country, no bigger than Colorado to feel like it is the biggest country in the entire world, with the proudest and most patriotic people in the entire world, it causes chills and goosebumps. This is why I wanted to show my appreciation for him by doing this portrait. In this portrait, I aimed at capturing his intensity in profile and also this silent charisma, that plays well with his bravado.
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On the easel today.

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Today, I will be continuing work on my newest painting. If you read my post “The great game” you will see that this painting is from that sketch. I decided to create this painting because of the meaning of the composition. I believe that everyone can relate to this piece one way or another. Some elements are going to be changed. I always leave the window open for new fresh ideas to flow, but the initial idea will stay the same. I’m excited about it. Keep up with my blog, more art to come in 2016.

The great game of life.

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Life is like a game of chess sometimes, and we are only pieces being controlled by an unseen hand; a hand that we all know is there, but still question it presence. Some say time governs all things, while some believe in something more personable…someone. God. Either way, this world and the happenings therein is all controlled chaos, and wonderful at that. There is some level of solace in the thought that there is something greater in this life, but a slight ere of trepidation not knowing for sure what really controls things.

Being mere movable pieces in this great game, we all play a game of hide and seek. One day we are the seekers, curious, full of wants and needs, hopes and dreams; looking for something to believe in, someone to comfort our wondering minds. Another day, we are the ones hiding. We hide things about ourselves that trouble us; things that we wish to conceal and have only our soul to be privy to.

All we have is time in this great game. Time can change all things- time can heal. In time we stop searching and even hiding. Then and only then we become the ones controlling the game we had been only movable pieces in.