Page 15. How to Sketch (continued)


The position of the sun will be different by the time you finish your sketch, so you should decide whether to add shadows in the beginning or the end of the sketch. If you like the lighting as it appears in the beginning of your sketch session, quickly indicate it in your trial sketch so you will have a reference later. Sometimes the sky is so overcast that there are no real shadows at all. Then you have the freedom to make your own.

Adding text

Some sketchers like to add text to their sketches, especially if they are using a hardbound sketchbook such as a Moleskine. You can write in a messy cursive style for a journal feeling or try for more of a book feeling with calligraphy. There are many books on penmanship out there if you want to bring your own handwriting up a notch. Here are a few links to penmanship pages.

These notes were jotted very quickly -- and sloppily -- with both brush and pen and were intended for my eyes only (so why did I put them here where everybody in the world could see them?).

Challenges and failures

All artists experience failure sometimes, maybe most of the time. Remember the last time you made a sketch that just didn't turn out well? I bet you were not looking forward to making your next sketch. Maybe you were so discouraged, you were ready to put away your sketchbook for good. But the last time you made a successful sketch, I bet you felt energy and exhilaration and could not wait to sketch again.

Guess what? Many of my sketches come out terrible. Sometimes most of my sketches come out terrible. That's why I have such a large pile of sketchbooks on page one. I won't show you those rotten sketches, and you don't have to show me yours. Maybe I should show them to you so you will feel better about your art. Nah, I just can't...

Failure can come from choosing a subject beyond your present ability (or level of perseverance) or it may come from trying a new style. Success often comes when you choose subjects you know you can handle, in a style which has proved successful in the past.

Staying in the safe zone can keep you excited about sketching and will get more praise for your work, which will in turn keep the hobby healthy and alive.

When your sketch fails, it could mean you have discovered your limit, like bumping into a guard rail in the fog. Some limits can be overcome, and maybe some can't, but it's a good thing to encounter them so you can know yourself better. You will be better armed to challenge those limits when you are feeling up to it. Success can come after failure, but repeated failures can also leave you discouraged and kill your enthusiasm for sketching.

Many successful artists will admit (if they are honest) that there are subjects and styles which they find difficult, and therefore avoid. There's nothing wrong with that if your goal is to be a good artist who finds satisfaction in producing art.

So, do we back away from failure and stay in the safe zone, or charge into failure to force ourselves to grow? I would say that both options are good ones, depending on how you feel at the moment. Are you discouraged? Can you handle another drubbing, or do you need a positive art experience in order to salvage your self esteem? Sometimes it's best to just tear out the failures from your sketchbook and return to the safe road for a while. Sometimes it's best to confront that limitation. If you are up to the challenge, try to analyze where your sketch went wrong. Try the sketch again and see if you can do a better job. If you walk over the same field enough times a path will form.

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