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Drawing magazine’s latest issue is devoted to the beauty of sketchbooks: It explores how to sketch a wide range of subjects and utilize sketchbooks in a variety of ways. Here we present five pieces of advice shared by our featured artists; to read their full lessons and see much more of their work, purchase or download the issue. To see a complete list of articles, click here. You can also subscribe to Drawing here.
1. Don’t overthink your sketchbook drawings.
One of the chief virtues of a sketchbook is the opportunity it affords for working fast, according to Seattle artist Gary Faigin. “It’s not truly a sketchbook, I think, if the drawings are too good,” he says. “It means you’ve been working too hard on it. You have to fail most of the time. If you’re being careful, you’re not going to get the benefit of working fast, experimenting and getting your first idea on the paper.” [–Austin R. Williams, “Sketchbook Insider.” To see more from this feature, including advice from several artists about how to sketch efficiently and creatively, click here.]
2. When you’re buying a sketchbook, remember that it’s all about the paper.
The papers used in sketchbooks vary greatly in their color, thickness and texture, among other factors. Before purchasing a new sketchbook you want to determine whether the paper will suit your needs. Read the manufacturer’s description carefully, then open up the book and feel the paper yourself. Check both sides of a sheet—they may feel different. [–Sherry Camhy, “Material World: Sketchbooks Then and Now”]
3. Before sketching on-site, make a plan.
If there is a particular site you want to capture, be aware of the time of day, direction of the sun and angle of the shadows, and know in advance where you will be able to perch. [–Cleveland Morris, “The Joys of Travel Sketching”]
4. The transition from light to dark is affected by a surface’s rate of curvature.
An important consideration impacting how gradations appear on a surface is the rate of curvature—how rapidly a surface curves. The more flat or shallow a form’s surface, the “slower” it curves and the more gradual its tonal gradations will be. The more steep or pronounced its surface, the “faster” it curves and the more abrupt its tonal gradations. The Illustration below features slow, medium and fast curves alongside their corresponding tonal gradations. Note that the slower surfaces have more halftones. On faster curves the halftones contract, and tones shift more abruptly from light to shadow. [–Jon deMartin, “Drawing Fundamentals: Lines That Speak Volumes”]
5. Practice “speed sketching” to improve your abilities to draw from life and capture the essence of your subjects.
Make many very fast drawings of the same subject. First do a bunch of sketches of just the outlines of the forms. Then go back through them and quickly lay in rough slabs of tones. Don’t worry about staying inside the lines—speed sketching is not about precise drawing. [–Margaret Davidson, “First Marks: Speed Sketching”]