everyone should sketch: how to get started.

‘everyone should sketch: how to get started.’ is the fifth installment of a six part series of posts for a project titled: ‘Say Something’ as a part of my Writing & Research class I am taking as a part of my graduate studies in the interior design program at University of Central Oklahoma. The series explores the importance of drawing and hand graphics within the realm of design – its relevance and how why it should still maintain its place as a foundational skill-set in designers in a predominantly digital world.

When people are asked if they possess any creative tendencies, the most common response seems to be: “No, I don’t draw”. The ability to draw always appears to be most closely associated with artistic ability. True, that a seemingly large portion of artists have an innate ability to draw. However, one does not need to know how to draw in order to draw.

The truth is, everyone should sketch, doodle, train their eye to really see things. And to sketch, is to be creative, regardless of ones’ ability to draw. It is often thought that illustrators or artists are the only people who get any sort of use out of this tool. But, it is useful to everyone, in every profession, in every facet of life. As mentioned in previous posts in this series, it’s all about bolstering the ‘hand to mind’ connection that allows us to see ideas in a more comprehensive manner.

Although sketching is for everyone, some may find themselves wondering where to start. How does one become confident with a skill they feel they don’t possess. This article will alleviate those concerns with a step by step process on how to get started.

step 1: Materials are important. Paper, pencils, and pens are important in determining the success of the sketch. These materials do not need to cost a fortune. They are available in a range of prices. Although there are some differences in quality, according to what one is willing to spend, most of them are similar and will perform accordingly. First, choose a paper.  Although you can sketch on almost anything, it is recommended that you purchase a sketchbook. These books are generally constructed with paper of better quality than that of a printer. The paper has a ‘tooth’ that holds pencil better than uncoated paper. Next, select pencils. Drawing pencils are different from mechanical pencils. They are made a in a range of hardnesses. Pencils with an “H” label are the hardest, and pencils with “F” are the softest. However, there are a range of pencils in between the two hardnesses. “F” pencils are great for creating dark hues, and deep value. While “H” pencils are great for sketching outlines and other types of fine lines. A good mid-level pencil is the “HB”. It seems to be the best of both worlds – able to draw finer lines, as well as create deep hues.

step 2: Find a subject. Before you begin to sketch “in the field”, it is good to practice some basic techniques with a still life composition. The key to creating depth in a drawing is being able to shade objects in a range of light and dark tones. Creating these tones can be difficult if the light source is not dramatic. For example, it may be difficult for a beginner to replicate objects in the light of a cloudy day – it is hard to distinguish shadows. The darkest tones often have to be embellished. To remedy this, take to drawing an object under the glow of a bright light. An adjustable desk lamp, table lamp, or flashlight will do. Choose an object to feature in your still life. A cube shape or a piece of fruit is always a good choice. Position the light over the object, finding an angle that lights the still life to your liking.

step3: Now it is time to begin sketching. The tendency with most people is to hold the brush with firm pressure, creating dark lines. These lines are often hard to erase, which can muddy a drawing. The key is to draw very, very light – almost barely touching pencil to paper. As you begin to distinguish your outline, you can then apply heavier pressure, or use softer pencil to add value and shading. Pro-tip: draw so lightly you don’t need to erase. One of the most common mistakes for novice sketch artists is to erase undesired lines. People want clean drawings – but what can happen is that by erasing, the artist often repeats the same undesired stroke multiple times, over and over again. If you can see the line, you are more likely to correct it, and keep the line you want. Continue to add details with darker pencils. Get creative with your pencil strokes! The texture of the strokes add character to the object. This video shows a more detailed explanation of how to execute this process.

step 4: Repeat, constantly! It is recommended that your practice step 3 several times before venturing out into the field to sketch environments. Try different objects, with different surfaces to test your skills. Experiment with various types of pencils to practice creating a scale of values – from light to dark. Also, sketch objects illuminated with various degrees of light. Constant repetition is the key to boosting confidence in drawing. Once you possess more confidence, you’ll enjoy drawing more, and hopefully indulge in it more often.

step 5: Draw something – anything – every day. Once you fill several pages of your sketch book with different objects, graduate to environments. These can be interior or exterior. Experiment with drawing what you see. A good way to ensure practice is to keep your sketch book with you at all times. When you get the opportunity, create a quick drawing. To echo step 4, practice truly does make perfect.

In general, training your eye to see objects in proportion comes with a fair amount of practice. Beyond drawing lightly and purchasing the right materials, it is important not to be too hard on oneself as you learn. Relax, be loose, make confident strokes and drawing proficiency will be a skill you can utilize throughout your life. From sketching out a home improvement project to illustrating a big idea in a meeting, drawing is a life skill that will serve you faithfully throughout life.

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