Page 12. How to Sketch (continued)

You can spend a great afternoon picking out potential subjects, and sketching them quickly in a pocket sketchbook. Since these are done so rapidly with very little time invested, you may find yourself willing to tackle subjects that you would normally pass up, especially if your sketchbook and watercolor set are small enough to keep in your pocket where they can be whipped out in no time.

These sketches are fun to do. You can finish a scribbled pencil sketch and color it in a matter of minutes, before the thrill of sketching starts to fade and before your legs get tired if you are standing. You may produce several pages of these quick lively sketches before you find a subject that you want to pursue in a more detailed sketch. Even if you never came across a subject you felt you wanted to pursue further, you will still have all those great sketches, not to mention the fun you had in making them.

The two sketches above and the one below are some of the quick pocket size sketches I made while wandering around Asakusa in Tokyo. Each took only a few minutes, and only one of these led to a more comprehensive sketch, but I had a great time, not to mention a sketchbook full of interesting color sketches (even if some of them are beyond comprehension to anyone but me!).

When I have been fortunate enough to free up an afternoon for sketching, this is the approach I often take, walking through a part of town, and stopping to quickly scribble (pencil and watercolor) in my pocket sketchbook anything I sense could make a half interesting sketch, keeping open to the possibility of staying to make a more comprehensive sketch if the subject calls out to me.

You may look at these rough exploratory sketches and think, "That's it! That's the kind of sketch I want to produce, no need to get any more fancy than that!" Great for you! These are fun to do, take only a few minutes, and don't take a big chunk out of your emotions if they don't work out. And they are very interesting to look at. These quick sketches could very well be the final product of your sketch hobby. They are so gratifying!

Let's face it; life is short and there's so much to see that it's hard to stay in one place for very long (sometimes life feels like a family vacation where everybody is compelled to keep moving). If producing a sketch becomes a big production requiring lots of time, then it won't happen very often -- it almost becomes a chore rather than that creative thrill you were hoping for. You want to get around and see all there is to see and yet you want to have fun sketching. You can balance these two by keeping a small sketchbook, a pencil and maybe a small set of watercolors with a waterbrush in your pocket.

The Wako building in Ginza. 5 X 7 inch sketchbook, done with a square lead pencil and watercolors with a waterbrush.

The sketch above is of the Wako building in the heart of Ginza, a famous Tokyo landmark well loved by photographers and sketchers. It is also located in a very crowded bustling part of town. I was very interested in walking around and exploring Ginza like a tourist for the umpteenth time (I'm more or less in permanent tourist mode although I've lived in Tokyo since 1987). But the shadows captured my attention, and I did want to record this scene in my sketchbook. The Wako building is intimidating, and some people would probably resort to taking a photo to sketch from later, but I stood with my back to a wall, out of the way of the flow of people and made this quick sketch in about 10 minutes or less, stopping to talk to a few strangers who stopped to watch and talk. It's fun to scribble famous landmarks so irreverently, denying them the respect they demand. After the sketch I went back to exploring Ginza. Like most of Tokyo it is constantly changing, and there is always something new to discover.

Worthy goal: Just fill the sketchbook!

If you make it your goal to fill your sketchbook with this type of quick carefree sketch, you will more willing to open your sketchbook and dive right in -- even if the subject is not ideal. After you start, you may find yourself thinking, hey, this subject wasn't such a dumb idea after all!"

Some subjects such as this Kakigori (Japanese snow cone) appear too boring to sketch -- until you actually sketch them. This was done very quickly (my daughter wanted to eat it before it melted) in a cheap pocket sketchbook with 0.5 mechanical pencil and watercolors.

You will also be more willing to open your sketchbook even when there is only a little time to sketch. And the result will be a sketchbook full of sketches, many of them very nice sketches, too! Strive for quantity, and quality will also come (but maybe not in every sketch).

This is probably the only way you will be able to get any sketching done when you are on a family trip. It was the motivation behind my kaki-gori sketch; I just wanted to fill the page with something, anything.

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