Yesterday, I shared a page of sketches and photos of the objects that inspired those sketches. I asked you to weigh in on differences you noticed between the photos and sketches? What do you think is useful about the sketches? What are your thoughts on taking photos vs. sketching?
On sketching as an artistic process:
Rhonda H. said: This process was so useful. Training your eye to pare down a shape, a line, an essence. Not erasing! Discovering new shapes and patterns to use in your work. The items you chose to draw were unrelated, but now you've given them a new community in which to "live". Your spread reminded me of what Matisse might have done in preparation for one of his paper cut pieces.
Tara said: I also believe that once you [sketch it] you are making it more of your own versus just copying someone else's work. I can see a place for both sources of collection.
Deborah said: By sketching with just a pen, you can focus on the line and shapes you’re seeing and not be distracted by color or other elements. I winder if that will make it easier to apply those ideas to your own art in original ways.
Janet said: i find it useful to know that in a short period of time you could create a library of images to use in the future and that it was an opportunity to get some hand eye coordination drawing exercises in. conditions and materials do not have to be perfect.
Candace said: Drawing from another artist's work sort of allows you to get inside their head... to see an object from their perspective... so much more than just from a photo. Neat idea. I wonder how this would change you if one did this over a long period of time or routinely.
Kathy L. said: I remember in my freshman year at college (in Boston!) going to a museum (probably MFA!) and drawing a prehistoric animal/fish for one of the science classes. It was very intimidating. I was NOT an art major!! I think what the professor was trying to get us to do was to focus on the object and really SEE it. When you draw you really have to SEE the object you are drawing. When taking a picture, you don’t. And how many of us really study all the pictures we take once we get home??
Glenda said: I love this process of sketching in addition to photographs. I especially like how you made notes on each of your sketch subjects. This process became a study more than just wandering and snapping pictures. You thoughtfully chose each subject. For some of the items you drew a portion of the object that caught your eye.
Sherry said: Julie, while I enjoy your sketches and they work for you, I find taking photos allow me to study what I am looking at. I need more time to observe what I am seeing. As my observational skills become better maybe this will change.
Here are my thoughts:
I don't think one method of recording is superior to the other. When discussing sketching vs. photography at the museum it’s a little bit like comparing apples to oranges. They’re different things and they serve different purposes.
For me, photography is the quickest way to record what I saw that day.
- I try to take faraway photos, preferably with people in them, to record scale and overall effect.
- Then I take some detail shots to remember paint strokes, shadowing, and the kind of details you’re unlikely to notice unless you see the artwork in person.
- The photographs I take are usually for online sharing. I rarely reference them at a later date.
- The process of choosing what to photograph and being conscious of scale/details can be a process of observation. It makes me aware of what I like, what I’m drawn to, how things have been put together, what translates in a photo and what doesn’t, and so on.
- The process of editing the photos I take (for the blog or Instagram) is another chance to observe the artwork, the curation of the exhibit, and so on.
When it comes to sketching, that’s all about putting the artwork I see through the filter of my hand and making more acute observations.
- By drawing what I see, I am automatically taking something somebody else made and putting it through a “Julie filter.” My sketches are always going to look like me. Unless you are a photorealistic sketcher – personally I find that kind of artwork impressive but devoid of the artist’s voice – your sketches are naturally created with a particular look.
- Years ago, I attended at a talk with the iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser. During that talk he said: “You never really see something until you draw it.” Over the years, I have discovered this to be 100% true. Every time I have to draw something I realize something I might not have otherwise. Many of you pointed out the notes that I make to myself about the drawings. Those are things I wouldn’t have observed/realized if I hadn’t tried to sketch the object.
- The sketches I create are usually meant as a study/observation guide for myself. I’m not creating finished artwork. I’m just trying to learn about what I’m seeing.
- The process of choosing what to draw is even more dramatically curated than when photographing objects. Most of the time, I’m narrowing my choice to a portion of an overall composition or object.
- The process of sketching has given me respect for artwork that I had previously dismissed as simplistic or “not my thing.” In trying to recreate that artwork, I’ve realized how carefully it was structured or how complex it actually is.
Like I said, I don’t think that one is better than the other. I think they serve different purposes. For me, photographs are a much more concrete record of what I saw. Sketches are more a personal interpretation of what I saw. For me (and I keep saying that because I think the process and the choices are personal), if I'm going to create artwork based on these museum visits, I think it's better to work from sketches instead of photographs. It feels less like copying and more like interpreting. But, I'm happy for you to disagree!
I am delighted to continue the conversation! Please leave your thoughts in the comments section!
And before I go, some thoughts on sketching in public: Trust me, I get it. The fear is real. I have freaked out about being caught sketching about a million times. The only way past it is to do that thing that scares you. There is no easy route. The more you do it. The easier it becomes. I promise!
Elaine said: For those who are afraid to sketch in public - do it, people are too busy looking at the exhibits to look at what you are doing.
Also so true!!! Don't be scared, my friends. Be brave and be bad at it and it's all okay.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. I will be teaching a two-day Urban Sketching class on April 28 & 29 at my home in the Boston Metro West Area, from 10am-6pm both days. We will explore the basics of sketching -- in pencil, in pen, and with watercolors. We will work from objects as well as -- eeek -- out in public. If you're intimidated by drawing in public, don't know where to begin, or think you can't draw, this is the class for you.
- Saturday (section 1): Basic Drawing, Basic Watercolor
- Saturday (section 2): Drawing Field Trip
- Saturday (section 3): Wrap Up
- Sunday (section 1): Lettering, Shadowing, Composition
- Sunday (section 2): Drawing Field Trip
- Sunday (section 3): Wrap Up
- Mechanical Pencil
- White Eraser
- Permanent Black Pen
- piece of 6x6 watercolor paper
- Optional: Non-waterproof pen, favorite paint brushes & container for water, folding stool or chair, gel pens
Class is $275 and is strictly limited to 14 students. If you're coming from out of town, there are lots of hotels within easy driving distance. Exact address provided upon registration.
Sign Up Now: