Friday, August 26, 2016

Pages from a Sketchbook 2

When I start to think about a new painting, one of the things I often do is review my sketchbooks.

Sketchbooks didn't interest me when I began to make paintings. Instead it seemed important to look at things intensely and paint them. Drawing seemed like a wasted step. It seemed too time-consuming because time for art was at a premium. Besides, my very first training was in technical drawing, where accuracy and detail and finish are critical. So no doubt that beginning influenced my view of sketching for a long time. Drawings and sketches both had to have a fairly high degree of finish. Quick sketching went against all of my training. And most of the time I wanted to do a painting, not a finished drawing, of whatever subject was at hand. And sketching seemed decidedly inferior to actual careful drawing. Sketches seemed too incomplete, too "scribbly," to ever be useful. Encouragement from teachers to "fill your sketchbooks" fell on my deaf ears. For years, the most sketching I did was to doodle during meetings that bored me.

Gradually though, sketching has become an essential part of my work. For me, sketching is a way of  visual thinking, a way of organizing things--values, shapes, movement, color, and so on. And sketchbooks are records of visual experiences too. The old advice to always carry a sketchbook and a few pencils is important. Even if you don't use them constantly, as you should, the opportunity is there. Visual memories are useful, but a tangible notation is better. And as many have said before, photos aren't as valuable. Reviewing my sketchbooks jogs my memory and sometimes sends me down interesting pathways toward unexpected paintings.
This is a page from a recent sketchbook. I was musing about various streets here in Des Moines, including Salisbury House, a local mansion turned museum (upper right), the county courthouse (lower right) and other subjects. These sketches are useful for a lot of reasons--practice, memory, later compositions. They may be a useful end in themselves--perhaps the guy in the ball cap will find his way into a painting.
Here's another page from the same book, still thinking about street life and potential full-scale cityscapes. Sketches on both pages were made from a combination of photos and on the spot observation. The sketchbook pages are 9x12, incidentally. All of the images are considerably different from the actual milieu but based on the actual streets and buildings.
 Previous Sketchbook Posts:
Pages from a Sketchbook
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