Sketching is an integral part of all my painting. I sketch everywhere I go and often spend time in my studio simply drawing. My preference is a soft 2B or 4B 9mm graphite pencil but I am comfortable with almost any drawing medium. I spent several summers travelling using only a fine tip Uni-ball Pen and enjoyed the discipline of line drawing vs. value drawing with graphite.
I strongly believe that every painting should begin with some thought and effort in composition, value study, visual editing, and an understanding of what light is doing. It is equally important to recognize where your focus will be when you begin the drawing. Generally, I will do several thumbnail sketches studying overall values since this will determine the success of a painting more than anything else. I have learned that a series of small thumbnails sketches prior to painting is as effective as a more detailed full sketchbook page drawing. In fact, for me, a thumbnail sketch is a better study of what a painting should or could be because it is quick to do, easy to execute, and with the simple act of squinting, can give you a very critical view of what you might hope to achieve in the painting that follows.
The sketches you see in this section of my website are all on a 5” x 8” Clipper Sketch Pad. Each sketch was done as a study that preceded a watercolor painting, and with few exceptions, was done on-site while travelling. They represent the process I go through prior to every painting I attempt. I may do three or four sketches before a painting and occasionally paint from the sketch in my studio. I use photos for color study only and depend much more on my drawing if working in the studio.
- You may find, as I have, that your sketches have a spirit and spontaneity that is hard to achieve in painting. I have learned that after doing several sketch studies, I am ready to proceed with the watercolor painting, and that I have to discipline myself not to over draw on the watercolor paper. In fact, I am now just realizing the importance of sketching on watercolor paper, prior to painting, with the same carefree, loose, and gestured strokes that I use in the sketchbook. My experience as an architect has kept me conscious of details and aware of accurate and “believable perspective.” This is a bother as well as an asset because, try as I might, I cannot disengage with the architectural experience of practice or teaching design and graphic design that I spent so much of my life in.
- I have developed a simple process of teaching perspective and integrating a simple methodology of perspective sketching in all my drawing. The method I use and teach gives even beginning drawers a foundation to think and see “in perspective” and allows the drawer to get into the spirit of place very quickly. At least the fear of having to “construct perspective” is mitigated and makes starting the drawing easier. When you study my sketches, try to find the perspective rays, which are never erased, and are the structure that the sketch is built on. (There’s that architect again.)
- Values are a range of lights and darks that take you through a drawing or painting. They allow you to tell the story you want to tell more clearly. Knowing what value sketching can do and how to handle values is actually quite easy using a soft graphite pencil. Value washes, or controlled scribbles to some, are quick and easy to apply. With some practice, you will be able to control the levels of deep dark tone by applying more pressure and, in time, control the halftones or levels of gray as one would control a music CD with the volume dial. You will even learn and appreciate where not to draw. I suggest a lightly textured sketchbook paper, soft graphite between 2B and 4B, and definitely a spray fixative application after each sketch. Avoid using erasures and celebrate the “restatements” that are made during the drawing process.
- Use your sketching to determine what your focal point is and where you want the viewer’s eye to start. Even in a small thumbnail sketch you can resolve how you will create movement into and through the painting. Ask yourself why you chose the subject and be sure that the most important aspect of that decision is clearly expressed in the sketch and that the “subject of your interest” is the focus of your drawing. Very often, introducing several details will reinforce the focal point but you have to be cautious of too many details and multiple focal points. I have to keep reminding myself of this since it is a limitation in my paintings that often does not occur in the original sketch studies
I encourage you to enjoy the process of sketching and develop a workable and effective technique of your own. Through sketching you will develop the confidence that a study drawing, prior to painting, will improve the final results in your painting. Some of the sketches you find in this gallery have watercolor paintings exhibited as well. Take some time and try to match up sketch and painting and see if you better understand the value of sketching prior to painting. I am sure you will.
For some of you who are not painters, I hope you enjoy the sketches for the statement they make on their own. I have experimented with enlarging even the smallest thumbnail sketch into images 15 to 20 times the original and find that they are both interesting on their own and a wonderful opportunity for multimedia experimentation. You will see some of these in the gallery eventually.